While the majority of the poker world has headed West to Las Vegas for the mecca of all things poker, a small poker sun is rising in the East with the first-ever WPT National Kazakhstan.
Intrepid PokerListings reporter Dirk Oetzmann has swum away from the tide and jumped through layers of bureaucratic hoops to bring you tales of poker's Wild East.
Check out Part 1 of his expedition to Kazahstan here.
By Dirk Oetzmann
So we’re on our poker expedition and reached the Cash Ville Casino, where the first WPT National Kazakhstan will play out.
So far on Day 1a there were 57 players who paid the $1,650 buy-in but most of the stories happened off the tables today.
They say Russians love larger-than-life things for two reasons:
First it's a way to fight the Western technical edge. And second because history repeats itself in bad ways, too -- and can make you lose everything you have overnight.
Just Like Monaco or Las Vegas ... Almost
The five-star Rixos Hotel and the Cash Ville Casino in the North of Kazakhstan, not far from the Russian border, is an example of this.
It is surrounded by woods, a lake and a spectacular mountain range but no city. On the inside it is pure luxury.
We checked the rooms, the Spa (no, we haven’t used it – yet), the restaurants ... everything in this resort is on par with top spots in Monaco or Las Vegas.
Yet developing country clichés are always present. How else can you explain why, two years after the hotel opened, you can’t drive up to the front entrance because of construction?
Why would you renovate the entrance right now when an international event on the World Poker Tour is taking place inside?
No Shuffle Up and Deals Here
As expected the majority of the players are Russian. The Siberian metropolitan area of Omsk is only 250 miles away and Russia has a large number of successful online players.
As there are only two casinos in all of Kazakhstan -- and none left in all of Russia -- the Cash Ville Casino might have a great future in front of it.
Accordingly the organizers do everything they can to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Opening speeches and ceremonial “shuffle up and deals” are not needed here, but the majority of players have smiles on their faces.
There are almost as many locals here as Russians and they seem to have no problem keeping up with their neighbors from the North.
Yesterday the final table of the $500 Cash Ville Cup played out and with EPT and WPT title winner Andrey Pateychuk and PCA finalist Dmitry Stelmak, there were two highly established players fighting for the title.
The title, though, went to a local player named Ernat Tumanshiev.
As Long as Russians Can't Play at Home ...
As mentioned on Day 1a of the main event 57 players have now registered, which is small but in accordance with the expectations of the organizer.
The plan is to get 80 more players on Day 1B and 30 late registrations on Day 1C. That would be enough to reach the $250,000 guaranteed prize pool.
Maria Lavrentyeva, responsible for the PR and usually working in Moscow, thinks it's fairly easy to guess the number of players correctly.
“I know that the majority of players here have recently been in Cyprus. They are the core of an event like this.
"Add some online qualifiers and local players to it.”
Evgeny Pavlov, former employee at PokerStars and now representative for Party Poker, sees the bigger picture: As long as the vast player pool in Russia cannot play in their home country, the neighbors have to come up with ideas how to satisfy them.
PartyPoker is thinking of adding additional events in Montegro, Belarus, and Georgia.
“it’s not perfect yet, but the security precautions and the organization as such are on the same level as other major tournaments.
"We are hopeful to attract Western European and American players very soon. Some of our locations are absolutely gorgeous.”
Does the WSOP Have Cinemascope Karaoke?
This is the third "large" tournament series held at Cash Ville.
The first two took place successfully in November and March, respectively, and that is impressive on its own considering the difficult weather conditions in this area.
“Of course, now we are fighting against none other than the WSOP," says Pavlov.
But does the WSOP have a cinemascope Karaoke bar with Andrey Pateychuk as one of the star singers?
At last check, it doesn't. We'll check this out tonight and tell you more tomorrow.
More from WPT Kazakhstan: