The PokerStars.com Russian Poker Tour (RPT) began small when it launched in 2009. Two stops were announced, presumably to ensure that the reputed growth of poker in Russia would translate into players at tournament tables.
It did. The first stop in St. Petersburg in January was clearly a success when 201 players paid the $5K buy-in to participate in the RPT main event. Ultimately, it was a relative unknown by the name of Oleg Suntsov who became that tournament’s champion and won approximately $300K, but it would be months before tournament organizers would see if that success would carry over to the second event in Moscow in the middle of May.
Again, it did. The $7,000 buy-in was put up by a total of 206 players, making for a phenomenal prize pool for the competitors and a first prize of 14,323,000 rubles first prize, which equals approximately $445,000. Included in that field were famous Russian Team PokerStars Pros Ivan Demidov and Alex Kravchenko, and other members of the team like Katja Thater, Vanessa Rousso, and Chad Brown decided to play in the event as well. At the end of the first day of play, there were 122 remaining, and the chip leader was Sergey Rybachenko with 76,000 chips.
During the second day of action, pros like Brown and Thater were sent to the rail to join Rousso who left on Day 1. Oleg Suntsov was also eliminated as the field thinned to only 36 players.
The third day of play took nine hours to find the last nine players for final table action, and taking their leave were competitors like Kirill Gerasimov and initial chipleader Rybachenko. Alexey Maslov served as the bubble player for the tournament, leaving in 28th place. Ultimately, the final nine were determined, and they were set to return on the following day with these chip counts and seating assignments:
Seat 1: Sergey Artamonov 375,500
Seat 2: Dmitry Vitkind 115,500
Seat 3: Evgeny Onishuk 347,000
Seat 4: Vyacheslav Goryachev 310,500
Seat 5: Ivan Demidov 425,000
Seat 6: Alex Kravchenko 173,500
Seat 7: Oleg Shamardin 805,000
Seat 8: Alexander Khaustov 288,000
Seat 9: Vitaly Lunkin 255,000
All nine of the finalists were Russian natives, which meant that the second RPT title would remain in the hands of Russians. Shamardin came in with a substantial chip lead over the rest of the players, and action began with that in mind.
Demidov came out swinging and took out Onishuk in ninth place when the latter’s 7-6 went all-in after a 9-7-4 flop, only to find that Demidov had pocket kings. The 4 on the turn gave Demidov two pair, which held up when the 6 on the river gave Onishuk the lesser two pair. Evgeny Onishuk exited in ninth place with 895,000 rubles.
Kravchenko was looking for a spot to move and did it with 7-4, though his all-in bluff didn’t work when Lunkin woke up with pocket jacks and called. The board blanked and left Alex Kravchenko with 1,342,000 rubles for the eighth place finish.
Vitkind tried an all-in move with A-7, but it was Lunkin again with the call, this time holding A-9. The board was 10-5-6-9-3, and Dmitry Vitkind was gone in seventh place with 1,790,000 rubles.
Ivan Demidov was next to be at risk, after having been short-stacked through a loss of chips to Khoustov. He put the last of his chips all-in with A-7, but Artamonov called with pocket nines. When no ace came to save him, Demidov had to accept a sixth place finish and the 2,238,000 rubles that went with it.
Artamonov wasn’t able to keep the momentum going, and after quite some time with no eliminations, he faced Lunkin. Artamonov had pocket tens, but Lunkin had A-J and caught one of his cards to win the hand and leave Sergey Artamonov out in fifth place with 2,685,000 rubles.
Lunkin then proceeded to knock out Oleg Shamardin, whose A-5 was no match for the pocket queens of Lunkin. Shamardin accepted 3,133,000 for the fourth place finish.
There didn’t seem to be any stopping Lunkin, who then proceeded to eliminate Khaustov. The latter had A-6, but Lunkin had pocket nines, which held up to give Alexander Khaustov 4,028,000 rubles for third place.
Finally, heads-up action began with Lunkin and his 2,790,000 chips versus Goryachev’s 310K. It took only moments for Goryachev to push all-in with . Lunkin called with pocket tens, and the board ran out . Vyacheslav Goryachev was given 7,877,000 for the second place finish and grand effort.
But it was Vitaly Lunkin who was consistent throughout final table action and took his momentum all the way to victory. The RPT Moscow champion was awarded a trophy and 14,323,000 rubles, which equals roughly $445,000.
(Thanks to the PokerStars blog for live updates.)