Take a bit of advice: always beware the Russian mathematician.
Although we're pretty sure he's not likely to win the Fields Medal any time soon, Ivan Demidov is about to take the second-largest chip stack into the 2008 World Series of Poker final table on Nov. 9.
Demidov is a student of mathematics at Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia. Until the 2008 WSOP he was pretty much a nobody on the world poker scene.
Even though he'd done quite well online and even cashed in $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em at the 2008 WSOP, most people wouldn't have pegged him as poker's next big gun.
However, just to prove that he's no fluke, the 27-year-old Russian backed up his final-table appearance at the most hyped event in WSOP history by also making it to the final table of the second-ever World Series of Poker Europe Main Event in London.
It is safe to say that the former StarCraft player's efforts are defying even his own odds.
After wading through 6,843 players in the 2008 WSOP Main Event, Demidov said he planned to up the amount of live poker he plays, but more as a way to prepare for November's final table than anything else.
"Well, I'm going to be playing a lot of big events, definitely a lot on the EPT. I really don't expect to have a whole lot of success though," said Demidov. "These big tournaments are so difficult and you have to get so lucky to do really well. It doesn't matter how well you play. The variance is very hard to deal with."
We're pretty sure he's got the variance well covered. Demidov eventually finished third in the WSOPE, winning £334,850 ($664,781).
"It was a hard table," said Demidov. "It is a little different than the table I am going to play in November in Las Vegas. Lots of known pros like Juanda. I got lucky right at the start [of the final table], flopped a good hand and Juanda tried to bluff at me and I became the chip leader."
Demidov's run didn't last, but it was one heck of an effort. In the hand that busted him, John Juanda got his revenge. He raised from the small blind holding pocket bullets.
Demidov called from the big blind with Q♦ T♦. With 8♠ 5♦ 3♦ on the flop Demidov raised $170,000 behind Juanda's slow play. Juanda made the call and J♣ appeared on the turn. Juanda checked again and Demidov came big with $450,000, prompting Juanda to push all-in.
Another non-diamond jack sent Demidov packing, albeit with a large dose of confidence and live-play credibility to bring with him into Nov. 9.
Demidov is guaranteed $900k at the Nov. 9 final table even if he busts in the first hand. Additionally, he's likely to become one 2008's most notable poker faces, which will likely result in even more cash. He's had some time to get used to the spotlight but it's not an environment he's entirely comfortable in.
"I don't think I am ready for the spotlight," said Demidov. "I am not that kind of a person. I don't like a lot of attention. I just like to be with my friends."
Demidov will face Peter Eastgate, Kelly Kim, Scott Montgomery, Craig Marquis, Dennis Phillips, David "Chino" Rheem, Ylon Schwartz and Darus Suharto at the Nov. 9 final table. Of those players, he's particularly concerned about Eastgate and Rheem.
"I think Peter Eastgate is giving me the most trouble," said Demidov. "Chino is the crazy guy. If gets lucky and gets some cards he will be tough to play against also."
Rheem is one of the only players who would have referred to himself as a dedicated poker pro before the 2008 Main Event. He has more than $700k in live tournament earnings, including four previous cashes at the WSOP.
In order to improve his play and get a leg up on players like Rheem, Demidov has the benefit of consulting with top Russian pros, including his friend Stanislav Alekhin, who finished second in the WSOPE, and Alex Kravchenko, who finished fourth in last year's WSOP Main Event.
Kravchenko's was the best-ever finish for the growing contingent of Russian poker players at the WSOP Main Event. That record may not last long with the way Demidov is playing.
Also, there are huge numbers of people getting involved in the game in that country, which bodes well for the future of the sport there.
"[Poker] is booming here right now and it's not underground by any means," Demidov told Bluff Media. "Poker is now an official sport in Russia. There is a sport poker federation now. That's why I am only paying 13% tax on winnings, and not 27%. It's considered an income tax and not tax on winnings."
That could still work out to be about $1 million for the newly minted Russian star if he finishes on top of the 2008 WSOP Main Event final table.
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