Ivan Demidov, the 27-year-old from Moscow, Russia, poured himself into his first World Series of Poker this summer, playing almost every event over the seven-week series. By the time the Main Event was set to start, however, Demidov had only managed one cash, an 11th-place finish in Event #44, $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em with Rebuys, earning $39,854. But Demidov peaked at just the right time, becoming one of the November Nine, set to compete for the coveted WSOP bracelet and the top prize of over $9 million. This is a pretty impressive achievement for someone who has only been playing poker seriously for two years.
The self-described "semi-professional" poker player was studying mathematics in college when he first discovered poker and since then, most of his poker experience has come online. He has said that the transition from online to live poker was actually very hard for him, possibly because of the slower pace of live games, or due to their often tedious length. To prepare himself for November, Demidov planned on playing in a few tournaments, including the Zavidovo Open in his native Russia, the WSOPE, and the EPT. [Editor's note: As this piece goes to press, Ivan Demidov has reached the final three tables in the WSOPE Main Event.] In addition, Demidov planned to work with a number of Russian pros, including his friend Alexander Kostritsyn.
Besides his two cashes at the WSOP this year, Demidov had only two prior cashes in live tournament play. He finished in fifth place at the 2006 Pot-Limit Omaha event at the Russian Poker Championships, which were held in his hometown. The next year he traveled to Las Vegas for the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, where he placed third in a $1,000 NLHE tournament, earning $21,710. He seemed on his way to a first WSOP cash during the $2,000 Omaha Hi/Low Split after leading the field on Day 1, but Demidov busted just out of the money.
Demidov's journey through this year's WSOP Main Event did not start out with a big first day, but he made steady progress from his second day on. He finished Day 1b with just 37,000 in chips and then more than quadrupled up on Day 2a, to 172,500. He ended Day 3 with 573,000 in chips and increased his stack again, to 974,000, on Day 4. One of Demidov's biggest takedowns was on Day 5 when he eliminated noted pro Hoyt Corkins, when his pocket aces held up over Corkins' queens. By the end of the day, he was up to 2.185 million, putting him in the top third in chips among the last 79 players. On Day 6 he eliminated Terry Lade, Adam Levy, Greg Byard, lost a big hand to Cristian Dragomir, then took a bite out of Tiffany Michelle, for an overall double-up to nearly five million in chips.
Demidov began Day 7 11th in chips out of the remaining 27 players, sitting with 4,965,000, and started out cautiously, staying out of most hands. His best move was getting lucky when it counted, besting Chino Rheem's flopped set on an all-heart board with his own down card to improve to a better flush. Late in the day he took an eight-million chip pot off of Craig Marquis when his pocket tens hit a set, and Marquis could only manage top pair, top kicker with his A-Q.
Demidov goes into the November finale second in chips with 24.4 million. He has admitted in interviews following Day 7 that he did not play his best and felt he was playing too careful, too tight. He said he didn't gamble enough nor play the aggressive game he prefers until late in that final day. Two of the hobbies he lists, skiing and scuba diving, are typically associated with the more adventurous and risk-taking among us. Perhaps that's the Demidov we'll see at come November.
As he heads to the final table, Demidov has the chance of besting Alexander Kravchenko's fourth-place finish in last year's Main Event, the best to date by a Russian. But the record that this relative newcomer with only two years tournament play under his belt would likely most cherish would be becoming Russia's first Main Event winner. Udachi, Ivan!
Here's Ivan on site at the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event with PN's own Gloria Balding: