St Petersburg's Pavel Shirshikov ended Russia's five-year wait for a champion by taking down the first ever PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event. The 30-year-old professional poker player has emerged victorious in the 387-runner field to bank a whopping RUB 29,100,000 (approx. $514,895) along with the prestigious trophy here in the Sochi Casino and Resort, Krasnaya Polyana.
Shirshikov becomes the fourth Russian winner of a flagship tournament held at a major PokerStars sponsored tour, joining European Poker Tour (EPT) champions Maxim Lykov (EPT 6 Kiev), Vladimir Geshkenbein (EPT 7 Snowfest) and Andrey Pateychuk (EPT 8 Sanremo).
"I'm very happy to become the first Russian to win a poker tournament organized by PokerStars in my country," Shirshikov said in the moments of victory.
His remarkable performance was amplified by his dominance during the later stage of the debut PokerStars Championship in Russia, vaulting to the chip lead at the end of Day 3 and keeping it through Day 4. He then then entered the final day second in chips but eventually left all his rivals behind.
While Shirshikov felt he had a chance to win the Championship, his friends expressed even bigger confidence in his abilities:
"My friends were believing in me more than I was believing in myself," Shirshikov said. "I had a very nervous day."
Congratulations followed right after Shirshikov finally remained the last man standing: "I 've already received a text message from my mother. She wants a Mercedes," he said.
The decorated champion is mainly a cash game player, who picked up poker 11 years ago during his military service. He turned pro after his duty in the army was done. Shirshikov's bread and butter had been the online cash games until last year when he transitioned into live poker. He had been involved in a lot of mixed games, grinding as "OMGinmarsat8" on PokerStars. Shirshikov plays tournaments very rarely and his résumé had boasted only two small cashes before he arrived at PokerStars Championship Sochi. Winning the title here marks Shirshikov's best result so far, with the previous top-prize worth $41,000 coming seven years ago in the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up.
Unlike Troyanovskiy, Iran's Seyed Ghavam may be an amateur poker player, but the 35-year-old owner of a sportsbook showed a relentless effort in the PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event, too. Ghavan, who hails from Tehran, finished every day within the top ten to make his flawless performance memorable. Ghavam's ride came to a conclusion when he moved all-in with a second pair only to see Shirshikov's two pair in the showdown. Ghavam made it to the podium, finishing in third place worth RUB 13,335,000 (approx. $235,949).
Dmitry Vitkind has been one of the familiar Russian faces we've regularly watched playing on the live poker circuit, in Europe and beyond. Vitkind has been around for more than a decade. He has nine EPT Main Event cashes to his name and added his first notch from PokerStars Championship here in Sochi. It's a precious addition to the 35-year-old's résumé as the Moscovian outlasted all but three opponents, exiting in fourth place to reach a career-best RUB 10,785,000 (approx. $190,830) payday. Vitkind couldn't escape his fate as he crashed with queens into Shirshikov's kings in his final encounter.
PokerStars Championship Sochi 2017 Main Event final table results:
1st - Pavel Shirshikov, Russia, RUB 29,100,000 (approx. $514,895)
2nd - Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Russia, PokerStars qualifier, RUB 18,450,000 (approx. $326,454)
3rd - Seyed Ghavam, Iran, RUB 13,335,000 (approx. $235,949)
4th - Dmitry Vitkind, Russia, RUB 10,785,000 (approx. $190,830)
5th - Lavrentiy Ni, Kazakhstan, RUB 8,535,000 (approx. $151,018)
6th - Timur Bubnov, Russia, PokerStars qualifier, RUB 6,570,000 (approx. $116,250)
7th - Daniyar Aubakirov, Kazakhstan, RUB 4,890,000 (approx. $86,524)
8th - Nadar Kakhmazov, Russia, RUB 3,540,000 (approx. $62,637)