Team PokerStars Pro Eugene Katchalov has undergone many tranformations in his life.
He emigrated from Ukraine to the United States when he was 10 years old, went from day trader to earning millions playing poker and recently lost 63 pounds.
Katchalov has earned almost $7.5 million playing live tournaments, including a WSOP bracelet and a WPT title.
PokerListings.ru editor Artur Kurvits caught Katchalov at the recent EPT Prague main event and talked about the pro's Ukrainian heritage, recent weight loss success and exactly what it's like traveling the world as a professional poker player.
Interview with Eugene Katchalov
PokerListings.com: Poker pros have a lot of work to do besides playing poker these days!
Eugene Katchalov: Hmm ... (laughs). There are certainly some uncomfortable situations.
Let's just say since I became a poker star I've had to give a lot of interviews during tournaments like the EPT here in Prague. It's not a problem, but definitely adds more work to playing poker.
How do you define yourself now: Ukrainian with an American passport or an American with Ukrainian origins or something else?
That's a hard question to answer. Ukraine is my homeland, I love it, but New York is still my home now, where most of my family lives. So both places are important for me.
Yes, I lived in Ukraine for only the first ten years and then moved to the US, but I come back here with my parents almost every year. That was before poker and nothing has changed now.
What about future plans?
I now have a rhythm of life that I never spend a lot of time in one place.
I'm constantly traveling around the world, playing poker everywhere, and I don't really have a permanent residence. So the future is full of uncertainty in that sense.
Do you prefer to play more live or online and why?
Now I like playing more live poker. For me the most important results are in live tournaments and I just like this type of poker.
Online poker is like more for practice. It is a place where I can experiment with different strategies and see what works.
What poker tools do you use when you play online?
I don’t have any of them.
Do you spend time analyzing hands after each session?
I try to save the hand histories for spots that were interesting to me even if I didn't participate in the hands.
And after the session I try to pull something useful out of them.
Women in poker has been a popular topic in the media lately. What are your thoughts on why women are underrepresented in poker?
I was actually just talking about this. Probably it's historical. Poker started as a sport for men, and now most women don’t feel entirely comfortable sitting at the table when they know almost all of the players will be male.
It's changing but it's going to take a lot longer until men and women are equally represented.
Could there be a genetic reason men seem to prefer poker compared to women?
It's pretty hard to say. There are a lot of good female players in poker and the number could be much higher. It depends more on them.
Which female players have made an impression on you?
Vanessa Selbst makes the greatest impression at the table in my opinion.
Congratulations on getting in such great shape. How hard was it compared to getting great at poker?
I would not directly compare it, but probably making the self-improvement was much more complicated.
All my life I tried to get in shape, but it never happened until I met my coach (Lincon Rodrigues, a former MMA fighter).
He gave me the necessary motivation and showed me that I can do it. And only now, when I have changed so seriously, I realized how good I feel.
My mood is better. I'm more positive in life, and now there is no turning back.
Are you following the situation in Ukraine now? What are your thoughts on what's happening?
I try to be informed about what's happening in Ukraine and strongly support the people on the Maidan (Independence square where are supporters of trade union between EU and Ukraine).
But for me is the most important thing to come to a resolution without blood on streets. I hope that all will end peacefully and the government will understand the voice of the majority.
Immediately thereafter, Eugene Katchalov ran (literally) into the tournament are, where the second day of the EPT Prague Main event had just started.