888poker is bridging the gap between live poker and that played on the virtual felt. First, 888poker, one of the world leaders in online poker, signed a partnership agreement with Aspers London for Season 2 of the 888Local series, and then announced it will once again return as general partner for the World Series of Poker.
Now, the online site has formed a strategic partnership with the Russian Poker Tour (RPT), which hosts tournaments in different cities across Eastern Europe due to legislation prohibiting them from operating in their home country. Established in 2009, the RPT has awarded more than $30 million to poker players from all over Europe and Russia. In addition to great poker, the RPT is known for offering a special entertainment program for its guests, such as parties in exclusive nightclubs.
As general sponsor of the RPT, 888poker will qualify hundreds of players for different RPT events via online satellites. Satellites are already running for the RPT's first stop, which will take place April 2-11 inside Minsk's spectacular concert hall "Cotton."
The stop will host dozens of events, including a special $1,500 Rolex Cup that will award the winner a luxury Swiss watch, as well as the cornerstone RPT $990 Main Event, which is known as "RPT300" and set to be the largest tournament of the series by guaranteeing the winner a minimum $50,000 first-place prize.
That tournament will start players with 30,000 in chips and begin with 45-minute levels before upping them to one hour. The kind structure allows players the maximum opportunity to demonstrate their skills while competing to etch their name in the RPT history books.
Where else can I spend my time in such a big company of friends and like-minded people?
Among those to already do so are the RPT's first-ever champ, Russia's Oleg Suntsov (2009 RPT St. Petersburg for $297,651); Moldova's Fedor Zapsha (2011 RPT Odessa for $120,000); Italy's Paolo Palmieri (2013 RPT Kiev €1,550 Main Event for €53,300); Ukraine's Roman Pavlyuk (2013 RPT Grand Final €2,000 Main Event for €101,000); and Russia's Dimitry Stelmak (2015 RPT Cyprus €1,500 Main Event for €63,000).
Most recently, Serbia's Marko Mikovic topped a field of 152, which included defeating Aleksandr Popov in heads-up play, to win the RPT Grand Festival Main Event in Montenegro, good for $33,000.
"Where else can I spend my time in such a big company of friends and like-minded people?" Russian poker pro Vladimir Troyanovskiy, who currently sits fifth on Russia's all-time money list, has said of the RPT.
Likewise, Russian superstar Anatoly Filatov, who is the manager of the GPL team the Moscow Wolverines, cut his chops on the RPT.
"My first RPT was in Kiev around five years ago," Filatov told PokerNews. "It was my second live event series. Everything was new, I was excited and a bit nervous and couldn`t wait for the beginning of the event. I remember that I played several tournaments, met a lot of players that I have known only via online or forum, had a couple of bad beats in the heads-up event. I didn’t cash in the tournaments, but had an unforgettable experience. Normally, during each series there is an entertainment program. You don’t only play poker, you can also combine business with pleasure. Since those early years, a lot of new things changed. The RPT grew in a large structure, and has spread into different countries such as Ukraine, Montenegro and others."
While pros do frequent the RPT, data suggests that 20 percent of most fields are comprised of beginners playing in their first major tournament, while close to 80 percent are working players who don't make their living playing poker.
888poker, the fastest growing online poker room in the world with more than 10 million registered members, has actually hosted satellites for RPT since 2010, but the new agreements brings the partnership relations of the two brands to a whole new level. Satellites are happening now, and the RPT predicts 150-200 players will qualify via this route. Will it be you? If you're interested in getting in on the action at 888poker, click here to get started today!
Here's a look at the entire RPT Minsk schedule: