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Maxim Lykov Leaving Russia, Still Flying Russian Flag
Poker pro Max Lykov is the fifth-most successful live tournament player from Russia but a changing political climate in his home country is forcing him to find a new home.
Lykov started playing poker while attending university in Moscow and now, almost a decade later, he's leaving the city to live in Latvia where his wife is from.
A Team PokerStars Pro with a WSOP bracelet, an EPT title and over $3 million in live tournament earnings, Lykov plans to live in Latvia's capital city Riga before eventually moving to a more central European location like Berlin or Amsterdam.
Lykov recently spoke to PokerListings.ru reporter Artur Kurvits in Prague.
PokerListings.com: How do you describe this year for yourself?
Max Lykov: I've been busy with all the stuff to get ready to move to a new country. We've had some problems with documents and visas. Now I’m in the final stage, soon we'll move to Riga. I will stay there for some time and then will move towards the center of Europe.
As far as poker goes it went well enough. In the beginning I worked hard to improve my game and the spring brought me results, both online and live poker - won a couple of titles.
Next was Las Vegas. I spent a lot of time there and played mostly WSOP but with no big results. It was disappointing. Since then I've focused mainly on online poker and played a few EPT mains, about once every two months.
From now on I want to play only tournaments with more expensive buy-ins.
Is your move abroad about escape, emigration, or something else?
All of those. It's unrealistic to live in Moscow now, such a crowded city. The middle class is in a bad mood especially after the latest steps taken by the authorities. It looks like they only try to aggravate the situation.
As a result of this, my wife and I decided to relocate. We have already experienced living in Thailand for six months, and in Europe a little. Accordingly, we will not have problems adapting to a new place.
Are you planning to get new citizenship?
I do not know yet. We did repatriation as my wife Anya is from Latvia. Then we'll see. Ideally, we want to live in central Europe in a more economically secure and safer country.
Is it a one-way ticket?
Definitely, no way back to Moscow. Of course, some family circumstances can change things, but the plan right now is serious. I don’t see any positive in Moscow now, and even in the next 10 or 20 years. Same with Russia as a country.
And it's not about poker, but more in general. I'm a typical middle-class person and I see that in all areas things are getting worse. Maybe some people like this, but I’m tired of Moscow. The city is very uncomfortable.
Will you still play poker under the Russian flag?
This may be dependent on my future legal situation but I prefer playing under the Russian flag of course.
But these days no matter what you say, everyone already knows which country you're from. So even if I'm living in Germany, I'll always be a player from Russia.
Eugene Katchalov recently told us that live tournaments much more interesting. Do you agree with him?
Sure, it's cool to play live poker, everything is real – players, conversation, chips and higher buy-ins. Here I agree with him.
But you still play more online tournaments?
Yes but I rarely play now, more on Sundays. I try to adjust myself to the online series like FTOPS or WCOOP. Now I have a lot of things besides poker related to moving abroad.
What is your favorite tournament in online poker?
The more expensive the better, but I like to play with rebuys from $100 tournaments. Good structure when after the add-on you have a deep stack.
Also ones like the Sunday 500, but probably Sunday Supersonic is still my favorite - I want to win it.
Do you now have time for computer games, from which you came to poker?
Trying to play in Dota2 and download some new ones.
What about other card games that have become popular now, for example Open Face Chinese?
No. I played OFC, but I just don’t like it. Lost a little bit, then won, lost again and I was bored. Not hooked.
How has the ban on poker in Russia changed things?
In fact now we have more poker clubs than before the ban. And all of them are illegal now.
Ideally we should responsibly make gambling areas. They were created 4 years ago in the stupid places and immediately abandoned.
So it is easier to leave the country?
Moving is not only because of these things, but simply because it's better for my family. I want to live where things will be better for me and my children.
What are your plans for next year?
Relocate. Leave Moscow and finally find a place where it will be good, maybe Berlin or Amsterdam, and to develop myself.
In poker - all the same, I'll play like this year. I found a balance now, so I will grind moderately. I'll also play on EPT series but without the rush.
Thanks and good luck!