Poker in Russia

History of Poker in Russia

Russia is a relatively new arrival to the poker community, but the largest country in the world is quickly establishing itself as a global poker power in both live and online poker. Virtually every year in recent memory it seems that a new Russian star has emerged at the World Series of Poker, on the European Poker Tour, or on the World Poker Tour.

Poker didn’t land in Russia until the early part of the 21st century thanks to the Soviet grip on the nation for the better part of 50 years, where anything American was looked upon as taboo; this was followed by a period of unrest as the Soviet Union splintered into a number of countries, leaving Russia to establish a new democratic government.

Once the political unrest settled down, American pop culture stormed through the region, bringing with it a new card game known as poker, and the rest is as they say… history.

Famous Russian Poker Players

The sheer number of top poker players coming out of Russia is actually quite amazing when you consider the relatively short amount of time they have been playing the game. But with a contingent of players like Maxim Lykov, Ivan Demidov, Alexander Kostritsyn, Alexander Kravchenko, Kirill Gerasimov, Dmitry Gromov, Vladimir Schemelev, and Vladimir Geshkenbein, the Russians have as strong a group of top poker players as any other nation. Not to mention a huge pool of young poker talent.

Leading the charge of young Russian Pros is the PKR Poker pro Vladimir “Beyne” Geshkenbein, who may not be one of the best-known Russian players at the moment, but is definitely a player to keep an eye on. Geshkenbein has won an EPT title, bested Johnny Chan heads-up to win the APPT Macau High-Roller title and finished just outside the top 100 in the 2011 WSOP Main Event – all at the age of 22!

Here is a look at some of the most well known poker players from Russia and their career accomplishments:

[sws_grey_box box_size=”510″]Ivan Demidov poker Ivan Demidov

  • $6.7 million in career tournament earnings
  • Runner-up in the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event
  • 3rd place in the 2008 WSOP Europe Main Event
  • Russian All-time leader in tournament earnings
  • Team PokerStars Pro


[sws_grey_box box_size=”510″]Max Lykov poker Max Lykov

  • Over $2.5 million in career tournament earnings
  • 2009 EPT Kiev Main Event Champion
  • 2011 World Series of Poker bracelet winner
  • Six career six-figure scores
  • Team PokerStars Pro


[sws_grey_box box_size=”510″]Vladimir Shchemelev poker Vladimir Shchemelev

  • 2010 WSOP Player of the Year contender
  • Approaching $1.5 million in career tournament earnings
  • 9 WSOP Cashes
  • Four final tables at the 2010 WSOP


[sws_grey_box box_size=”510″]Alexander Kostritsyn poker Alexander Kostritsyn

  • Nearly $3 million in career tournament earnings
  • Top online poker player
  • 2008 Aussie Millions Champion
  • 2011 PCA High-Roller Champion


[sws_grey_box box_size=”510″]Alexander Kravchenko poker Alexander Kravchenko

  • $3.6 million in career tournament earnings
  • 2007 WSOP Bracelet winner
  • 16 WSOP cashes to date
  • Team PokerStars Pro


Online Poker in Russia

At the current time Russia has not passed legislation for or against online poker.

Because of this, the largest country in the world joins numerous other nations around the globe where online poker is in a sort of legal limbo. While there is nothing stopping Russians from playing online poker, the country has disallowed online poker operators from offering games to Russian citizens –which is the proverbial Catch-22 since these poker sites are located in foreign countries and therefore outside the reach of the Russian Government.

One of the driving forces behind the surge in popularity of online poker was Russia removing poker from its list of “Sports” which has made it illegal to offer live poker games within the country. While tournament poker continues to be offered, the loss of cash-games forced most card-rooms to close.

Here is a look at the Top 3 online poker sites in Russia, and a few of the main reasons they are top choices in the country:

[sws_blue_box box_size=”560″]pokerstars PokerStars

  • World’s largest online poker room
  • Team PokerStars Russia: Max Lykov, Ivan Demidov, Alexander Kravchenko, and Vadim Markushevski
  • THE most respected poker site around the globe

pkr poker PKR Poker

  • Team PKR Poker Pro Vladimir Geshkenbein
  • One of the most heavily trafficked independent poker rooms
  • 3-D software considered the gold standard in online poker

everestpoker Everest Poker

  • One of the top-rated European Poker rooms
  • €1,000 Euro deposit bonus for Russian players


Where to play poker in Russia

As I mentioned above, Russia’s decision to remove poker from its list of “sports” and place it squarely in the gambling column forced most card-rooms in the country to shut-down. While players can still find tournaments played in Russia, these are likely to be held in a hotel convention center.

Poker laws in Russia

Even though the country has effectively banned live poker from casinos and card-rooms, Russian citizens have little to worry about if they are playing in private poker games, as long as no single person or business is profiting from the game. This could entail anything from a house fee or rake, to a bar selling drinks or food to the players.

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