Partypoker has released the full schedule for the partypoker MILLIONS Russia in September, with an ambitious $9 million in total guaranteed prize pools that partypoker says is the largest in the history of the Russian Commonwealth.
More than half of the guaranteed money—$5 million—will be distributed in the main event, which kicks off with its first Day 1 online on August 27 and its first live Day 1 in Sochi on September 9. One million is earmarked for the eventual main event champion.
Also on the schedule is $1,000,000 Grand Final of the Eurasian Poker Tour, a long-running tour that recently signed up partypoker as a five-year sponsor. It will be the second stop for the EAPT in Sochi this year, following on from a smaller Pokerdom-sponsored event hosted in January.
Party is looking to parlay the LIVE tournament success it achieved in March with its inaugural partypoker Million Sochi which easily exceeded its $1 million guarantee. But this time, both the guaranteed prize pool and the entry fee have gone up five-fold, making the upcoming partypoker MILLIONS Russia a highly ambitious venture.
The $5,300 main event buy-in is comparable to that of the PokerStars Championship Main Event that took place at the end of May in Sochi. However, by most measures, PokerStars Championship Sochi underwhelmed: The main event attracted only 387 entrants, leaving the operator approximately $500,000 short of its $2.6 million main event guarantee.
Higher buy-ins can make it tough to draw big fields, and some speculate that the Championship event butting up against the start of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas is partially to blame.
Regardless of the reason for the poor turnout, Edgar Stuchly, PokerStars’ Director of Live Events, and Vadim Soloveychik, Director of Brand Marketing, are now no longer with Amaya, while John Duthie, founder of PokerStars’ highly successful European Poker Tour, was hired by partypoker as President of partypoker LIVE in February.
Recent attention to live poker tournaments is an indication of the importance of the Russian market to online poker operators.
Offering live poker has been prohibited under Russian law since 2009, and historically online poker companies have hosted their live events in the region in neighboring countries.
However, a change in Russian law prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi created a special gambling zone that poker operators have been keen on serving. The first live poker events were hosted soon after the doors to the Sochi Casino and Resort were opened in January of this year.
Further seizing on the opportunity, operators have been quick to sign up brand ambassadors with a connection to Russia. In February, PokerStars announced a sponsorship deal with Russian high-stakes professional Igor Kurganov. The move came at a time when PokerStars was thought to be shedding high-stakes players from its PokerStars Team Pro roster in favor of brand ambassadors popular for their live streaming.
Party followed with the signing of popular Russian poker pro Anatoly Filatov in March to coincide with its inaugural partypoker Million Sochi.
While it is still very early with regards to online poker operators establishing a presence in Russia with their live tournaments, another successful outing by partypoker in September will certainly increase pressure on Amaya to up its game the next time out.
Partypoker MILLIONS Russia runs from September 3 – 14.
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