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2012 WSOP Best Bets: Russia
Every year we like to think our vast global poker expertise allows us to predict precisely which players are set to light the WSOP on fire.
Every year, of course, we miss wildy. Who can predict donkaments, really? But that doesn’t stop us from trying.
In keeping with our annual tradition, we asked our international editors to fill us in on players they think are on the cusp of WSOP glory.
By Artur Kurvits
How many Russian players can win in Las Vegas? Who's strong enough to get a bracelet?
Russian players have dominated the action online over the last couple of years and several notable players - Max Lykov, Vitaly Lunkin - already have WSOP bracelets to their names.
Here's a short overview of the Russian (or Russian-speaking) players we're putting our money on:
Andrey Pateychuk (23 years old)
Pateychuk was without a doubt the best Russian player last year with a win at WPT Prague ($599,720) and EPT San Remo ($937,530)
On top of that, as you may remember from ESPN, he also finished in 15th-place in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker for $478,174.
That's a good year for anyone. And pushed Pateychuk's career live earnings over $2 million.
Even though he's young, you'd be a fool to make any allowances. Pateychuk is a tempered fighter from the toughest battles of online and offline poker.
And although this year Andrey has yet to show great results, we are all well aware that at WSOP he can turn that around in just a few weeks.
Pateychuk is the main and most powerful weapon of the Russian Federation this summer in Las Vegas.
Vadim Kursevich (25 years old)
Another young player from Pateychuk's generation, Kursevich isn't actually from Russia but from Belarus.
The most prominent and respected achievement of his career definitely came this year with a main-event win at EPT Deauville for $1,150,756 but he's shown before he has the ability to go deep.
Kursevich finished in the top three at EPT Berlin last year for $426,961 and he also followed up his EPT Deauville win with a 25th-place finish ($46,209) at the EPT Grand Final.
Prior to his high-profile scores Kursevich mostly boasted some good results on the smaller Russian Poker Tour, but make no mistake: he's a talented player ready to breakout on the international scene.
If he plays a heavy schedule at the WSOP, this could be the year the world learns his name.
Vladimir Shchemelev (39 years old)
Leave the young talent behind temporarily and moving to the more experienced professionals, if you follow the WSOP you've likely heard the name of Shchemelev before.
His biggest success came in 2010 when he finished second in the $50,000 Players Championship 8-Game for $963,375 which earned him some level of fame within the poker world.
In fact, Shchemelev has been playing poker since the early 2000s both offline and online where he's known by the nicknames NEKOTYAN and Gvozdika55.
As NEKOTYAN, Shchmelev made a lot of noise in the high-stakes games on Full Tilt Poker.
At the 2011 WSOP Shchemelev had several large cashes including 10th place in the $50k buy-in again to push his career live earnings to $1,459,228.
Look for him to build on that number this year.
Andrey Zaichenko (34 years old)
Another representative of the poker old school known in the poker community as "Zaya," Zaichenko has more recently been known online as "kroko-dill."
Zaichenko started playing many years ago when poker had just started in ex-Soviet countries. In 2006 he moved to the Internet and began to show his skills.
Now Andrey is best known as an online player with several big scores in the WCOOP and SCOOP on PokerStars.
Playing as "Zaya" in 2008 and 2011, the total prize money Zaichenko earned in those two years alone exceeded $680,000.
Zaichenko's best WSOP result is a 3rd-place finish in the $10,000 HORSE in 2011 for $247.799.
With total live tournament earnings of over $1 million, Zaichenko is a major threat in any event he enters.
Dmitry Vitkind (30 years old)
Last but not least we have Dmitry Vitkind.
A strong tournament player of the old school, Vitkind's path resembles that of many famous poker professionals today.
He started playing poker in casinos, then went online and chose his specialization in MTTs.
In 2010 Vitkind finished fourth at EPT Tallinn ($159.050) for his biggest career score to go with several smaller cashes and a side-event win in a $1k event in 2011 at EPT Deauville for $89,012.
Despite his relatively modest number of "big" wins, his list of medium- and small-tournament wins is long and his career live tournament earnings add up to an impressive $888,376.
As with all of the above players, Vitkind can win in any event and if the cards go his way, likely will.