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Antoan Katsarov: €10 Qualifier to €122,750 Battle of Malta Champ
Stories like Antoan Katsarov’s are a big reason for the general public’s fascination with poker.
Last November the Bulgarian qualified online and turned €10 into €122,750 at the 2014 Battle of Malta.
Pokerzeit.com's Lars Liedtke met up with him again six months later, at the place of his biggest success, to find out what’s happened since.
PZ: Hello Antoan, thank you very much for taking the time. Can you introduce yourself to the audience and tell us when and where you first came into contact with poker?
AK: I started playing poker four years ago while studying dentistry. At that time I was not sure if this is what I want to do with my life.
Then I discovered online poker. My first money I made in freerolls and after that I grinded my way up from NL2 before I decided to become a professional poker player.
PZ: Since Dimitar Danchev won the PCA in 2013 Bulgarians have become more and more a force in live tournaments. What do you think is the reason for the success? Do you exchange knowledge with each other? Can you describe the poker scene in Bulgaria?
AK: There are a couple of groups with 5 or 6 good players respectively, who exchange knowledge.
Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in Europe and in my opinion that’s why poker is quickly growing there as it gives people the chance to make a living.
With $1,000 you can live two to three months there.
PZ: You live in the capital, Sofia. Do you like living there? What makes up the charm of this city for you? Do you have casinos or poker rooms there where you can play live?
AK: In general Sofia is a great city for poker players as it is very cheap and Bulgaria has one of the fastest Internet connections in the world.
On the other hand crime is high, because the country is poor, and the rake on PokerStars is high since it became the first legal poker room last August.
In addition to that the market is getting more and more regulated. Online poker is legal now but there are much more restrictions than a year ago.
PZ: How did you hear about the Battle of Malta? And why did you decide to play the tournament?
AK: When I played the satellite I didn’t even know what exactly the Battle of Malta was.
I play poker professionally but don’t really care much about the poker scene.
PZ: You prevailed over 1,447 players and turned your buy-in of €550 into an unbelievable €122,750 at BOM 2014, which was the biggest poker tournament in Maltese history. What’s happened since then? Did this win change your life?
AK: In fact it was much less as I qualified through a €10 satellite.
Since the win my life hasn’t changed that much. The biggest difference is that I consider myself a much better player now than I was back then.
At that time I was mostly playing mid-stakes and I learned a lot through playing high-stakes MTTs online afterward as those games are really tough.
I got some coaching and started to talk more with other players. In addition some of my friends are really good online players and they helped me become a better player.
PZ: The heads-up at the Battle of Malta was heavily discussed as you weren’t able to play it out and finish the tournament because of regulations in Malta. You had to make a deal in the end. What do you think about this way to end the tournament and did it affect heads-up play a lot?
AK: I was not happy at all because I played mainly Heads-Up Hyper Turbos at that time.
Heads-Up is my best game and I wanted to play to the end, as I was pretty sure that I would win.
PZ: You have your own coaching site and you also analyze hands for PokerStrategy Bulgaria. How did you become a poker coach? Do you also give private poker coaching or take coaching from other famous players? Does it help your own game when you coach less experienced players?
AK: I started from the bottom and invested a lot of time in the last few years to work on my game.
I analyzed around 4,000 hands for PokerStrategy. Regarding Sit & Gos I learned the most from “Unam,“ a Heads-Up Sit & Go coach from the German community.
When it comes to MTTs I recommend the public coaching of “bah22.”
Collin Moshman also helped me a lot. He became a good friend of mine. At PokerStrategy it is very common to exchange strategies.
Furthermore I have my own coaching site called “YourPokerSchool” where I have around 35 private students.
Analyzing their hands also helped me a lot and gave me a good unders
tanding of situations and ranges.
PZ: Can you compare the Battle of Malta to EPT Malta? What are the similarities and differences?
AK: The best tournament players in the world are playing in the EPT Main Events.
It is basically a REG-fest and the buy-in is above my bankroll, so I only play the satellites and wouldn’t buy-in directly as I don’t see myself at the same level of players like Vanessa Selbst.
The average player in an EPT Main Event is much better than at the Battle of Malta. BOM is more comparable to the IPT Main Event.
In those two tournaments the average skill level is almost the same. There were good players at the Battle of Malta, but the number of them is much less than in an EPT and the value therefore is much higher.
PZ: What are your plans and goals for the future? Will you defend your title at the Battle of Malta 2015?
AK: My plan is to play more live tournaments and select them wisely. So I will travel next to the UKIPT Nottingham and then maybe to the Estrellas Poker Tour.
In November I will defend my title at the Battle of Malta. I am the reigning champion, so it is a question of honor.