Russians descend on EPT Kyiv

Alex Kravchenko
Alexander Kravchenko: Has skills, will travel.

The PokerStars.com European Poker Tour's sixth season kicked off in Kyiv, Ukraine Tuesday, a little more than 750 kilometers from where PokerStars had originally planned.

The EPT season was set to start in Moscow, Russia this month before the Russian Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism passed an order July 20 removing poker's status as a sport in Russia.

Four designated gambling zones were established on Russia soil July 1, effectively closing more than 500 casinos and slot machine halls in the capital.

Poker had been on a list of official sports in Russia drafted back in 2007 and as a result, cardrooms were allowed to continue operating.

Several casinos then jumped on board running under the guise they were poker-only establishments, forcing the Russian government to act and Ivan Demidov made the final table of the World Series Poker Main Event in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Demidov also made the final table of the WSOP Europe Main Event along with fellow Russian Stanislav Alekhin, while Alexander Kostritsin won the 2008 Aussie Millions.

Catching the wave from the boom, PokerStars launched the Russian Poker Tour in 2008 with stops in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Vitaly Lunkin
Vitaly Lunkin: Russian poker's lates Czar.

2008 WSOP bracelet winner Vitaly Lunkin won the RPT Main Event in Moscow this past May besting a field of 207.

He went on to win the 2009 WSOP $40k 40th anniversary event and final table both the $10k Pot-Limit Omaha World Championship and the $50k H.O.R.S.E. this summer.

Now it appears the Russian poker boom has been stalled, on home soil at least.

"I have been traveling a lot for last two years, playing everywhere in poker tournaments," Kravchenko said. "Now I just think I will travel even more."

A total of 93 players survived Day 1a in Kyiv and a field of approximately 170 is expected for Day 1b Wednesday.

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