MEET THE LATEST WSOP CHAMPION – VIACHESLAV ZHUKOV
The 2012 World Series of Poker $3,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split World Champion is Viacheslav Zhukov from Stary Oskol, Russia.
Zhukov was also born in Stary Oskol, which is located about 400 miles south of Moscow on the Oskol River.
Zhukov is a 23-year-old professional poker player. His name is spelled differently in some poker records – most notably as VYACHESLAV ZHUKOV.
In addition to his native Russian, Zhukov speaks English well. He is close to fluency.
The newest poker champion shares a name with Georgy Zhukov, who is the most decorated military commander in Russian history. Zhukov commanded the Red Army during World War II and was largely responsible for commanding forces that successfully defended Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad. Zhukov graduated from Moscow Mining University. He holds a degree in geology.
Zhukov is single.
Zhukov started playing poker about six years ago.
Last year was the first time Zhukov attended the WSOP. So, he has gold bracelet victories in each of his two trips to Las Vegas.
Zhukov is one of many Russian poker players who are becoming a formidable force in WSOP tournaments. Skill games have always been entwined deeply in Russian culture, which has been manifested in dominating competitions such as chess for centuries.
Following his victory last year, Zhukov suggested that many young Russians are now turning to poker rather than chess (or are adding poker to their repertoire of skills). This is largely motivated by the lucrative prize structures of major tournaments, such as the WSOP.
Zhukov collected a $330,277 for first place. He was also awarded his second WSOP gold bracelet.
Zhukov is one of only six players from Russia in history to win a WSOP gold bracelet.
Zhukov is to be regarded as a poker pro, since he has been playing full-time for about two years.
Note: Zhukov will be classified as a professional poker player in WSOP records, since he plays poker full-time.
INTERVIEW WITH THE WINNER
Question: This is becoming a yearly thing now, with you -- isn’t it? Two years and two gold bracelets.
Zhukov: Yeah, yeah. I hope there will be more in future.
Question: Let’s talk about Omaha High-Low Split. Is this a game that you specialize in?
Zhukov: Well, yes -- but I play all the games well. I play limit games mostly. And I played a lot of them through the Internet. Last year was my first year to the WSOP. And I just feel lucky to win a bracelet. This year the series was going terrible. My only hope was two tournaments -- the Main Event and this tournament. But in this tournament, I made it to Day Two, then to Day Three. And then, I have experience to finish the tournament like a winner. Well, I did my best. Everything got my way well. And my opponents were extremely tough actually. And my only hope was that they were going to do some mistakes. And well, I think I got lucky mistakes. And I’m very excited.
Question: Your victories are not easy. You were tested both times.
Zhukov: Well, yeah. Tough fields in that tournament, because it was a championship for $10,000, and this tournament was tough…with Scotty Nguyen and other guys.
Question: There were six former gold bracelet winners.
Zhukov: Yeah, yeah – a lot of good guys. I just tried to play my best, you know? Not doing mistakes. Well, I took time to make my decision. It went well. And I just haven’t done any mistakes.
Question: So, which of the two wins more satisfying?
Zhukov: Well, both of them because I had a terrible year last year, and then I won the bracelet. And this year was terrible too, and I won a bracelet again. They are both exciting, you know?
Question: Can you talk about Omaha High-Low Split as a skill game?
Zhukov: Well, I think that’s obviously a skill game because a lot of the decisions you make on the flop, turn -- not pre-flop -- that’s the main difference between No-Limit Hold’em and this games because you can go all-in pre-flop, you know. And you have 80 percent. Just…you couldn’t win. But here, you can read the board and do good thinking. I think the Limit version is better actually instead of Pot-Limit because a lot of decisions we did…You know, tournament Limit Omaha High-Low is a little difficult because you have like 30 big blinds here. You have to raise, and when someone goes all-in, you pretty much have to call because you’re pot-committed, and you can’t fold. But Limit games, you always go to the flop, and you make good decisions. Well, that’s the main difference.
Question: Can you talk a little about your heads-up match?
Zhukov: Well, actually, not heads-up, but when we were four people, we were very tough opponents. Already that time, I could see that it’s going to last a little longer than I expected earlier. And opponents were tough. And no one going to give you, you know, chips for free. And you know, guys were tough, really. And I just tried to play my best and wait for them to make a mistake.
Question: You’re one of only six Russians to have a gold bracelet. And you’re one of only two players to have two.
Who’s going to be the first Russian to hit three wins? Zhukov: Three? Well, my chance is big. Well, actually, when we count the bracelets in Russia, we also count on Ukraine because it’s a very friendly nation to us. And one guy, Oleksii Kovalchuk, took his second bracelet this year too and last year won first. And well, we both have chances. A lot of guys play good. Konstantin Puchkov just broke the record. And he has one. Yeah, he has chances as well. Everyone has a good chance!