Just 22 years old Kovalchuk has absolutely crushed the live circuit since his first cash in February of 2011.
Since then he’s won over $2.1 million including two Italian Poker Tour titles, a third-place finish in the Partouche Poker Tour main event and now a second World Series of Poker victory.
“I believed in myself that I could it,” Kovalchuk said of his second WSOP bracelet. “When I came to Las Vegas for the first time last year the tournament I won was the biggest live tournament I ever played.”
“It took me a few months to believe that it was real, that I had won, but when I came back this year I knew the taste of victory,” said Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk beat out a field of 393 to win Event 42, $2,500 Omaha/Stud Hi-Lo, winning $228,014.
Despite very limited experience in Omaha and Stud Hi-Lo Kovalchuk overcame a tough final table, defeating German George Danzer heads-up.
It was Danzer’s second close call with WSOP glory, having finished third in the $10k Deuce to Seven Single Draw Championship in 2010.
Also at the final table was experienced split-game pro Mark Gregorich, who finished third, and WSOP commentator Norman Chad who finished sixth.
Five-time WSOP bracelet winner Jeff Lisandro finished 10th for $16,325.
“Poker is like a national sport in Ukraine."
Here are the full final table results.
1. Oleksii Kovalchuk - $228,014
2. George Danzer - $140,825
3. Mark Gregorich - $90,829
4. Daniel Ratigan - $65,812
5. Yuval Bronstein - $48,387
6. Norman Chad - $36,093
7. Wing Wong - $27,313
8. Tim Burt - $20,966
Poker Blowing Up in Ukraine
Over the last few years Ukranian poker players have become better represented on the biggest stages around the world.
In 2011 Anton Makievskyi finished 8th in the WSOP Main Event for over $1 million.
Ukranian-American member of Team PokerStars Pro Eugene Katchalov has been one of the most dominant players on the circuit over the last few years.
And while Kovalchuk is the only Ukranian player to win two WSOP bracelets, he was very nearly not the only Ukranian to win an event this year.
Artem Metalidi finished second in the $3k Six-Max No-Limit Hold’em event, earning over $350,000.
According to Kovalchuk, this is a trend we’ll be seeing more of.
“Poker is like a national sport in Ukraine,” he said.
“Casino gambling like Blackjack and Roulette is illegal in Ukraine but playing poker against other people is a sport,” Kovalchuk explained.
For all the action from the WSOP in Las Vegas click through to our 2012 World Series of Poker Live Coverage section, brought to you by 888poker.com.