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Leon Tsoukernik: “I Came to Vegas to Play All the Big Tournaments”
Leon Tsoukernik is a legit tycoon in the poker industry.
He’s the mastermind behind the wildly successful King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic.
In the last few years King’s Casino has become arguably the premier place to play poker in Europe and it recently secured the rights to host the World Series of Poker Europe for the next four years.
Tsoukernik is also a damn good poker player. Last year he took down the last-ever EPT Super High Roller for €741k, beating Charlie Carrel heads-up no less.
He definitely blurs the line between businessman and poker pro and that’s why he’s a perfect fit for the Super High Roller Bowl. Tsoukernik has been dominating Day 2 of the SHRB and leaving some of the best pros in his dust.
We caught up with Tsoukernik to get his thoughts on King’s Casino, his background as an antiques dealer and whether he plays poker for the money or the recognition.
PokerListings: You’re crushing it right now. How are you feeling?
Leon Tsoukernik: It’s great. I think it’s a fantastic tournament with fantastic people. I’m doing very good so I’m very happy.
PL: Why did you decide to play this one?
LT: I came to Vegas to play all the big tournaments and this certainly qualifies as one of them.
PL: I get the feeling you feel comfortable out there…
LT: I am comfortable. Yes. I like to play against very strong players. I wouldn’t expect that someone would pay $300,000 to play and be a bad player.
PL: Obviously you run King’s Casino in Rozvadov. Do you like playing or managing the casino better?
LT: Definitely running the business. I like poker as well but in business I’m the only pro in the whole field. The rest of them are just playing poker and enjoying themselves — maybe sometimes winning — but in reality it’s the people running the casinos who are the pros.
PL: Can you talk about King’s Casino a little? It seems to be growing at an exponential rate.
LT: King’s Casino has 160 poker tables. It’s a big casino. We run all the international series including WSOP Europe and about 1,000 other events every year.
You have non-stop tournaments and cash games. There’s a lot of action.
PL: What makes it so special compared to other venues?
PL: What else?
LT: Nothing else. Just me. [Laughs] It’s a very comfortable place to play poker. People like it. They follow the action.
PL: What inspired you to start King’s Casino in the first place?
LT: I always played the game. I played all over the world. Then I decided to just build my own casino.
PL: How did you get introduced to poker in the first place?
LT: I’ve played poker since I was like 18 years old or something. I’ve been playing a very long time. I like the mental aspect of the game. You can also run bad or good. I like it a lot.
PL: You used to deal in antiques. How does business compare to what you currently do?
LT: The work in antiques is different because there is a lot of traveling to see a lot of buyers or sellers.
It’s completely different. You’re also visiting a lot of museums, which is now hard for me to find time to do. I miss seeing all the galleries and exhibitions.
PL: How did you learn to play high rollers like this? Did you have coaching?
LT: I definitely had a great coach in Johannes Strassmann. He was a fantastic player… it’s too bad he died.
These days I have a fair amount of experience playing high rollers. Not necessarily the high-roller tournament but plenty of high-roller cash games.
Martin Kabrhel has been coaching me in this tournament. He’s also a great player but unfortunately didn’t get a seat in this one.
PL: What happens if you win this thing? Does your casino get a new expansion?
LT: Um, no. [Laughs] I’m not playing this for the money. I’m playing this for pride. To me there’s much more value in the accomplishment rather than the $6m itself.
PL: What’s your schedule look like for the rest of the summer? Are you playing the WSOP?
LT: I’m just playing the $111k buy-in One Drop event.