Mikhail Shalamov: They’re Going After Whole Internet, Not Just Poker

mikahil shalamov
Mikhail Shalamov

It was the dinner break of Day 1B of the EPT Barcelona main event and Russian Team PokerStars pro Mikhail "Innerpsy" Shalamov only had 20 BB left.

It seemed like a good time to speak to him before it might be too late.

(As it turned out it would have been too late only a few hands after the break.)

As luck would have it though we caught him just in time to learn how to live on poker rakeback despite Russian censorship and make a living playing no higher than $.50/$1.

PokerListings: The Russian government recently blocked several online poker sites. What’s going on?

Mikhail Shalamov: That’s actually a hot topic right now in Russia because the government also blocked Wikipedia.


PL: The whole Wikipedia?

MS: Yes. At first it was just one article about drugs but then they took down the whole website. It’s getting a bit ridiculous how they handle the internet situation.

They’re blocking so many sites that you start asking yourself if you’re living in a free country. But there are always ways to get around it.

Still, it’s obviously bad for poker because players who just log in to play, for example, the Sunday tournaments might not be able to figure out how to use VPNs and so on.

PL: Apparently the censorship is not just about poker.

MS: No. They’re going after the whole internet. Everything connected with drugs or gambling to start with. They try to keep people from visiting lots of websites.

PL: Don’t they know that people will find their way if they want to?

MS: I guess they know but they don’t care. If they can keep 70% of the people away who don’t know how it works they’re probably happy with this number. I’m really not sure what’s going on in their minds.

PL: So where are we heading in Russia?

MS: Actually, I’ve heard that they want to legalize poker in Russia. But then they said the same one year ago and nothing changed, so maybe it doesn’t mean much.

Coming soon?

PL: Wasn’t Sochi supposed to be the new center of gambling?

MS: There were plans but I don’t really know if it is a gambling zone now. I don’t think there are any tournaments.

It would be a good place to go, though, because the scenery with mountains and water is very nice and they have the infrastructure from the Olympics.

But again, the things they say they want to do and the things they do are not necessarily the same things.

PL: Let’s talk about online poker. Is it true that you’re playing so much you can live off the rake even if you don’t make any profit?

MA: That is correct for any player who is Supernova Elite, because making Supernova Elite gives you about $110k in bonuses per year. So it’s obviously worth it grinding enough hands to get to that status. But I’ve recently actually made profit, just so you know.

ZOOM Poker
Four tables of Zoom should do it.

PL: I didn’t mean it like that.

MS: laughs

PL: Can you explain the math? What do you have to do to live on the rake?

MS: Of course it depends how much you want to make. But let’s say as a general minimum, if you want to play $0.50/$1 and you put in some effort, you’re going to be fine with rakeback and poker bonuses.

But if you move up the stakes you can actually do really well. If you play $2/$5 for about a million hands a year, which isn’t much if you play four tables of Zoom poker, not even a thousand hours, you will hit Supernova Elite and get you $100k bonuses.

That’s $100 per hour. It’s not really much easier if you go higher because the rake is capped. So there's no big difference between playing $2/$5 and $10/$20.

PL: And the lowest level to live on is $0.50/$1?

MS: The lowest level is the one you can achieve Supernova on. Supernova is the level you should have to make a living off rakeback, but again it’s not that hard on even lower limits than that. I don’t have the exact math as I haven’t been playing this low for a while.

PL. And what would that mean in terms of tables and hours?

MS: You will need around 300,000 hands to achieve Supernova, which really isn’t that much volume. It’ll take you around three months if you grind four tables of Zoom.

Camp Nou or poker, either or.

PL: That would correspond to how many regular tables?

MS: Probably around 14, but it doesn’t matter as the number of hands you play per minute would be the same. It’s actually simpler to grind the four Zoom tables because it’s easier to keep track.

PL: On Saturday where would you rather be – here in the poker room or at Camp Nou stadium?

MS: I actually have tickets for the Saturday game but I’d rather still be in the main event. Still, the stadium seems to be spectacular and watching a home game of Barcelona is pretty much a must.

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