In a tournament first, online poker room Mansion Poker personnel managed the floor of the Korona Casino in Moscow at the Russian Poker Championships last month.
Following some intensive poker training, the staff worked the room and organized more than 400 Russian card players, all vying for nearly $1 million in prize money throughout the 11-day event.
This year's competitors, however, were introduced to some new tournament rules. Not only did they face the possibility of winning bigger money, players were also subject to stiffer regulations.
Player Valery Ilikian landed two championship titles during the event - the No-Limit Hold'em Re-buy on day three and the No-Limit Hold'em Freezeout on day five - despite being "red carded" by tournament directors for his conduct.
While competing, players were penalized for bad behavior at the table by being "red carded" or "yellow carded," a novel idea instituted by Mansion Poker for the first time at the Russian event.
Instead of receiving verbal warnings, players were subjected to soccer-style penalties. Ilikian was the only player to earn a red card, which saw his blinds go undefended during a 20-minute time out from the game.
But the tournament's big winners were Vladimir Poleschuk and Russian poker legend Alexander Kuzim, a prolific online player. On the 10th day of the event, Poleschuck beat out 130 competitors to land the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em championship title and pocket $38,535. Kuzim took first place in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event on the final day of play, earning $56,000 in the process.
Prize money at this year's event almost doubled from 2005.