Moscow’s Konstantin Puchkov holds the world record for most cashes at one WSOP and is a regular on the European Poker Tour, but what he does outside of poker may surprise you.
Puchkov is an active driver in horse races in Russia and actually owns horses named “Freeroll,” "Full House" and another named “Full Tilt Poker."
PokerListings Germany's Christian Henkel caught up with the 62-year-old Puchkov at EPT Barcelona to talk about horses, the former Soviet Union, how he got involved with poker and an interesting fact about his WSOP record.
PL: Konstantin, there is a famous rumor that you are a horse breeder from Siberia and you give your horses poker names. True?
KP: Yes. But I am neither Siberian nor do I professionally breed horses. The truth is: I live in Moscow and I am a passionate driver in trotting races.
I’ve done that since I was 20 years old. I’m only an amateur but I race in the highest category in Russia and I’ve won big in six traditional races.
PL: And what about breeding and poker names for your horses?
KP: After the end of the Soviet Union I bought a mare. And this mare got five foals over the years.
My mare was called Fisalina, so the names of all foals begin with an “F." Because of my second passion, poker, I gave them poker terms as names.
One is called “Flush Royal," others “Freeroll” and “Full House." The most successful one is “Full Tilt Poker."
I was hoping to race with the Full Tilt Logo on my driver's shirt. But then the company went broke. The poor horse was very unpopular for months. [laughs]
PL: If poker is a hobby and horse racing too, what is your profession?
KP: I used to be a mathematician and I worked in the Soviet Union as a director of finances.
Now I am a chief accountant for a small publishing company that sells books and advertisement campaigns. I get a decent salary and one percent of the annual profits.
PL: Enough to play all these expensive poker tournaments over the year?
KP: No. I never handled large sums like in poker in my professional life. But I played chess and backgammon, and earned a descent bankroll over the years.
Now I budget $150,000 for the WSOP and €20,000 for five EPTs in one year.
It still works. But I lost big sums in cash games in Moscow.
So here in Barcelona, for example, I played the main event only with 50% of my own money. The rest comes from a befriended backer.
PL: Your first step into poker?
KP: As said, I used to be a chess player and I had reached the status of a “master." And I used to travel to Monte Carlo every year for the Backgammon championship.
In 1998, a friend introduced me to poker. It was the beginning of a long friendship [laughs].
PL: Two years ago you broke the world record for the most cashes during one WSOP. Was it your intention?
KP: Yes. I announced that to friends before I played the first tournament. And it happened.
PL: This is now one of the reasons why you are nominated for the PokerListings “Living Legends” Award. Does that make you proud?
KP: Yes, I read it on the Russian site and I was quite surprised about it. Russians don’t win that many prizes in the poker world.
But I would really appreciate winning the award and would love to come to beautiful Malta.