In the ever so diverse world of gambling, there is a field very different from the rest of the games, with special rules and principles and a completely different pull on the public. That is poker, the only game which isn’t played against the house, the game which allows organizing exciting competitions, with professional poker players and fans, with trophies and a fascinating history. And we have took it upon ourselves to allocate a special column in which we shall periodically discuss the most important current events in Romanian poker.


We inaugurate this series of informative articles with a scan of the most important events in which you might consider participating in the following period.


Beyond the permanent schedule of the poker clubs in the country’s important cities, the attention of this game’s fans is drawn to the Romanian seaside, Mamaia to be more exact, where, very soon, two large festivals shall take place covering together the entire spectrum of preferences of all poker players: The “888Live Mamaia” and “Caelia Beach Vip Player Tournament”. Here is a short description of both, in chronological order.


888Live Mamaia


This is a festival within the 888Live series which is held throughout the year in various locations across the country, as a result of an alliance between the on-line giant 888poker and PokerFest Romania, and the phase in Mamaia, held between 18 and 24 July, is special for several reasons.


First of all, the guaranteed prizes are tempting for anyone. A total of at least EUR 230,000 is allocated for the prize funds. The main tournament – Main Event – shall cost EUR 550 and has EUR 100,000 guaranteed. Between the 22 tournaments of the series, we observe the High Roller of EUR 1,100 with EUR 30,000 guaranteed, the Opening Event with EUR 20,000 in prizes with a buy-in of only EUR 170, and other tournaments in different formats and buy-ins, so that any pocket may have access to the tables.


Secondly, a great plus for the event is its location. The festival shall take place only several meters away from the sea’s waves, in the 4 star Bavaria Blu hotel, in a generous hall, whose terrace offers a perfect season view.


Last, but not least, the advantage of the alliance between the Romanian PokerFest operator and the on-line poker room 888poker is in favor of small-budget players: starting with May 24th, an intense qualifications campaign is taking place on-line with satellites starting from only 10 cents and a final super-satellite, which plays every two days, as a result of which the EUR 550 ticket may be achieved with only a $55 buy-in.


Caelia Beach Vip Player Tournament


This is a complete premiere event, as it is a tournament destined to promote poker among influent persons, an exclusive meeting, with limited seats. The tournament shall take place between 16 and 19 July in the most luxurious tourist complex in the country, Caelia Beach Bar & Lounge, the favorite meeting and relaxation place of the most select names in show-biz, sports, business and mass-media.


With an entry fee of EUR 1,100, the tournament is limited to 100 players and shall reunite in-house celebrities and elite poker players around the poker tables. The organizer is PokerFest Romania, and we find out from CEO Sorin Constantinescu that: “The purpose of this exclusive event is to introduce poker to influencers, to show them that socializing is at its highest around a poker table, that relations, friendships and even business and collaborations can arise around a poker table.”


If you decide to participate, after finding out more from the organizer’s web-page, we advise that you pre-apply, as 12 hours after the official announcement was made, 10% of the available seats were already covered.


In the future number of our magazine, we will provide details about the following events in the Romanian Calendar of the 2018 season of live-poker.


Toby Lewis, a hope that may be the stuff of legend

The Englishman Toby Lewis was born in Hampshire, England 29 years ago and is especially know for winning the EPT Vilamoura Main Event in Portugal when he became the biggest benefactor of a field record of 384 players and won $ 599,984.

Toby Lewis, young and mysterious

Not much is known about the Toby Lewis’s teenage and education, but it is known that he is part of the new generation of British professional poker players and by 2011 he had not played much outside Europe.

Lewis started by playing a lot of poker at Grosvenor Victoria Casino in London. His first win was in 2009 at Ladbrokes Easter Rendezvous with a £200 buy-in for £4,700. Then, a month later, he won another tournament in Nottingham where he played in the Dusk Till Dawn £1,000,000 Grand Slam tournament. His victory here secured him an additional £5,088 in bankroll. Then, in June 2009, he finished second in Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Main Event taking home another £12,700. This was only the beginning.

Casino Vilamoura, a place Toby would remember for the rest of his life

2010 is a very good year for Toby who roams all across Europe while improving his game. He is going to Monte Carlo, Venice or Riga, always winning more than buying in. By the end of August he leaves for Portugal to make a dream tournament winning a number of great players on his way to the title: Sam Trickett, Rob Hollink, Martin Jacobson and the former Manchester United footballer Teddy Sheringham. The tournament took place at Casino Vilamoura in the town of the same name on the southern Portugal coast. This was the tournament with the largest prize pool in the history of the country.

Good results

After this outstanding success, he went to a £1,000 side-event, the EPT London 2010 preliminary event and won £67,400. In 2011, he finished 14 tournaments in money and takes his first trip to America to attend the 42nd edition of WSOP. His first experience here, in the company of the great world players, was to finish 11th the 10,000$ Pot Limit Hold’em Championship winning $40,890.

Leaping forward to 2013, we will explain to you why this year was so successful to him. He attends the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo where, at event 21, he finishes 5th in the High Roller Eight Handed and wins $304,735. If you come to think that there were 121 buy-in payers of which 37 sought rebuys and paid $33,500 each, then this result is even more praiseworthy.

2014 and 2015 were good, but not extraordinary, so we will stop at the year 2016, specifically at that year’s PCA.

Over 900 people attended this mega tournament and paid $5,300 each hoping for a result that would make them famous. and here is Lewis playing at the final table and managing, extraordinarily, to win the 4th spot that confirms his outstanding skills and craftsmanship. Only Michael Watson, Anthony Gregg and Phillip McAllister bested him, while beneath him were world-class players such as Fedor Holz, Jason Mercier, Jason Koon, Jonathan Jaffe or Davidi Kitai.

Wow! What was that?

2018 is for this Brit (at least so far) an exceptional period. He attended Aussie Millions, the famous Australian championship that ended on 4 February with a resounding victory for this Brit. 800 participants had their hopes on winning the grand prize, but only one man was left standing in the end: Toby Lewis. The prize, huge: $1,156,205.

By the end of February he left for LA where he played in the famous WPT LA Poker Classic and finished second in a field of almost 500 players. Dennis Bleiden beats him heads-up to win and takes the million right under his nose, but his performances over the last month have been sensational. So, as a runner-up, he takes home $ 600.000 and supplements his winnings from the live championships over his career so far up to $4,983,725.

Most definitely, Toby Lewis turned from a breakthrough player into an established one. Whether or not we will be still talking about him as a famous player 10 years or as a legend in 20 it is up to him. Time settles everything and time will tell whether or not Toby can make history.

The most important figures in Toby Lewis’s career:

  • 9th in the top of the best all-time British players
  • $4,983,725 won in the live tournament over the course of his career
  • 1 EPT title
  • 3 WPT final tables
  • 17 buy-ins

Justin Bonomo wins new title at EPT Monte Carlo

With this victory, the American player succeeds to rank 6th in the top of the professional poker players with the biggest earnings of all times in which Daniel Negreanu occupies the first position. The earnings obtained by Justin from the live tournaments amount to USD 26.5 million.

An extraordinary year

The victory in the EPT Monte Carlo High Roller with a 25.000$ buy-in is a small success next to the one obtained by Bonomo this year. The American has earned over USD 8 million since the beginning of 2018. I believe this is the best season start of all times ever for a professional poker player. In almost every tournament, he participates or plays at the final table. This is just amazing!

At High Roller at the PokerStars Caribbean (PCA) Adventure 2018 he won almost USD 1.1 million finishing second, he won Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, then became the winner of Us Poker Open din Las Vegas on 1 February, at the Super High Roller Bowl in Macau, China in March, he won USD 4.82 million, and a few days before his current triumph, he finished 5th at the EUR 100,000 Super High Roller won by Sam Greenwood.

The film of the victory at the EPT Monte Carlo 2018 High Roller

Justin Bonomo at EPT Monte Carlo

This tournament took place over the course of a single day and gathered only 34 players at the start, of which 16 made a rebuy. Funny thing, Bonomo met with Steve O`Dwyer, whom he beat at the heads-up, at the final table of the EUR 50,000 High Roller that had taken place earlier and which O`Dwyer had won. Bonomo would not give up until he won himself an EPT title this year.

Let us see what happened until then. The Prize-pool for the one-day 24 event amounted to over 1.2 million. The players grew fond of the antes big blind system and the 30 second shot clock to act. These two innovations in the regulations of the poker tournaments have become customary not only to the high roller tournaments, but to other tournaments, as well. Sylvain Loosli was the first chip leader of the tournament; then, when it came down to two game tables, it was Bryn Kenney’s turn. Before dinner, Justin Bonomo had become the leader of the 10 players left in the game.

Erik Seidel, who finished 3rd, played a good game after the lunch break and paved Justin’s way to the title by eliminating 2 players. Seidel even had a good tournament like he always does: carefully, step by step and trying to make the most of the cards dealt to him while trying not to take great risks. Erik finished 3rd, laying a new brick at the (undeclared) goal of topping Negreanu in the top of the best players in the world.


At the heads-up, Bonomo had twice as many chips as O`Dwyer, which proved to be decisive in the end. He played smart and attacked successively, with all-ins in an attempt to put pressure on his countryman. At one point, Steve bounced back and managed to double a hand where he needed only a trey, which came to him.

In the final hand, Bonomo three-bet jammed with pocket nines, while O`Dwyer called off with ace-jack. Nothing happens at the table and the winner takes it all. This time, his name is Justin Bonomo. This is an extraordinary period for him, but things do not look bad for Steve O`Dwyer, either – EUR 1 million won in Monte Carlo in a matter of days, with all the money entries at the high rollers…

Here is the final table payout:

Player Country Prize
1 Justin Bonomo USA € 378,000
2 Steve O’Dwyer USA € 273,200
3 Erik Seidel USA € 174,100
4 Timothy Adams Canada € 132,100
5 Bryn Kenney USA € 102,000
6 Igor Kurganov Russia € 78,100
7 Nicola Grieco Italy € 63,000

David “Chino” Rheem, a good player… too bad he isn’t perfect

This player drew my attention with his results from the WPT, alongside Anthony Zonno, Gus Hansen and Carlos Mortensen, the only players with 3 WPT titles in their careers. Besides the numerous winnings obtained in his career within live tournaments, Chino is know in the poker community as one of the players with a lot of skill.

20 years of career with ups and downs

The American poker player originating from Asia will soon turn 38. Who is David “Chino” Rheem? Well, he is a controversial character. Between drug possession accusations, issues with casino gambling games and rumors, which were more or less confirmed, with regards to unpaid debts to different people, David is a good poker player. Do not be fooled by his stack size (sometimes small) during poker tournaments, he has an outstanding ability to turn things around. His colleagues and the public really appreciate his ability, intelligence and aggressiveness during the game. “Chino” first played poker on an Indian reservation in Hollywood, Florida. His youth was troubled, with bad moments, especially the 4 months spent in prison for theft and marijuana possession, however, his love for poker has remained intact over the last 20 years. One of the most important lessons learned by “Chino” is the importance of money management for a professional poker player throughout his career. It is amazing to see the moments after he wins an important tournament, when a lot of people “line up” to receive the money he owed them, including through on-line messages.

And still, poker…

In one of the interviews given after winning the last WPT title a few years ago, Rheem said that he wished to be remembered as a good poker player, NOT the best, a sufficiently good one as to be praised and to be given an adequate place on the global hierarchy at a certain time.

He learned his game in the weekly tournaments held at the Bellagio in Vegas, winning pretty good amounts with a minimum investment in 2005-2006-2007. He even participated at the WSOPs in that period and was close to winning his first bracelet in the summer of 2006 when only Allen Cunningham (out of a field of 752 players) stopped him on his way to glory. However, the $327,981 win was good to lay another brick in his bankroll.

The year 2008 brought “Chino” notable results: the final table and seventh place in the World Championship No Limit Hold’em tournament with a $10,000 buy-in and the largest cash prize of his career – $1,772,650 and the first WPT title obtained at Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic. His first WTP title came after a though fight with a lot of top American players and was an unexpected result, as if unannounced, his appearances that year being very rare at live tournaments.

In 2010, we spot him on the old continent, to be more specific at UKPIT 1, within the 7th season of the EPT, when 69 players put £10,000 on the table at High Roller Turbo. The third place obtained here was a performance, especially because only the first 6 were paid for their performance as well.

The year 2011 remains for David Rheem the one of the first great event of the Epic Poker League series (now defunct), when he won exactly $1,000,000! If you think about the fact that he beat players such as Erik Seidel, Jason Mercier, Eugene Katchalov or Sam Trickett, to name only a few of the 137 players who have paid the $20,000 participation fee.

After a “quiet” 2012, the spring of 2013 comes with the second WPT title, this time won at the WPT World Championship, tournament held at the Bellagio. This title is more meritorious as he once again succeeded in passing top players, such as: Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren or Rocco Palumbo. And that’s how another $1,150,000 added to the almost $9,000,000 won throughout his career until now.

Between 2015-2017, he wins at 23 live poker tournaments, which can represent a performance, especially if we keep in mind that his las great success takes place at the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown where he beats over 350 players in his successful attempt to obtain the third WPT title of his career.

Despite his problems, David “Chino” Rheem is an asset for poker. And yes, he is a guy with numerous resources, his talent is obvious, and the fact that we still see him at the poker table makes us believe that he wants to prove of lot of things in this field.

“Chino” Rheem’s figures:

  • He won $2,617,440 at the WSOP tournaments until 2017, where he won 30 times and played at 6 final tables
  • A little over $4,000,000 won during the WPT tournaments, where he has 3 titles, 4 final tables and 8 wins
  • $8,846,747 won until now from live poker tournament

Sochi EPT 2018, Arseniy Karmatskiy won at home

Following the failure of PokerStars Championship, The Stars Group understood that players wanted the former European Poker Tour (EPT) to come back. The first stop of the EPT reload was in Sochi, the city revived by the former Winter Olympics four years ago. After 6 days of competition and 860 defeated players who paid a $ 3,322 buy-in, Arseniy Karmatskiy won the Main Event. This was the biggest prize won by the Russian in live tournaments during his career so far and brought his total live tournament earnings to $ 786,447. In addition, he has won over $ 2 million in online tournaments.

Brief description of the tournament

The Sochi EPT took place during March 23-29, 2018 and had a guaranteed prize of $ 2,600,000. The host of the event was the Sochi Casino. Among the things that players could enjoy over the days spent here were skiing, a “Karaoke Battle” night and, of course, the opportunity to socialize and meet other professional players.

Day 1A

This competition day started with 254 registered players, including those who wanted a re-entry (players were only allowed one re-entry). After 10 levels of 60 minutes each were played, a remainder of 103 players would return to the game table on Day 2.

Vitaliy Gusak was the first to finish this first competition day with a stack of 206,300 chips. The next were Aleksandr Merzhvinskiy with 195,900 chips and Roman Zhuravlev with 191,400. Last year’s winner, Pavel Shirshikov, was out on the first day of the tournament.

Days 1B and 1C

395 optimistic players started this day, but only 189 players survived by the end of the day. Ezequiel Waigel from Argentina finished the day as the chip leader. The player gathered a stack of 266,400 chips.  Day 1C of the Main Event was played on the same day and had a turbo structure. 124 players played this fast round with 10 levels of 30 minutes each. More than half left the scene (60). Vanush Mnatsakanyan from Russia finished first with 199,000 chips.

Day 2

This competition day started with a total of 359 players thirsty for victory. The organizers allowed direct entry to Day 2 and to other players too, except that they could only do it at the beginning of the day. This feature increased the total number of players registered for this tournament to 861 players.

Under these circumstances, the total prize pool was $ 2,896,010. 127 players who crossed the bubble line received at least $ 5,360 for their efforts. Sergey Pichugin finished first this day after a playing hand with a huge pot: 600,000 chips and 3 players that went all-in during the same hand. The organizers decided to stop the tournament when there were 136 players left, because many of them were short stacked and could no longer play at the table to minimize their losses. This is often the case in live tournaments when the tournament approaches the day of minimum insurance payments.

Two Romanian players, Cătălin Ionescu and Cosmin Pancu, got to Day 3.

Day 3

The first concern of the tournament was that 8 of the players were eliminated in order to set the provisional payouts list.

This day of the poker tournament was “life or death”, with only 40 players remaining in the competition. Ivan Volodko managed to be the chip leader at the end of this day with 1,650,000 chips.

The following players were also among the leaders:

Mikhail Galitskiy – 1,423,000
Sergey Kerzhakov – 1,419,000
Arseniy Karmatskiy – 1,285,000
Artur Martirosyan – 1,197,000
Aleksey Savenkov – 1,036,000
Sihao Zhang – 1,001,000
The stack average reached 590,990.

Day 4

This day had 5 levels and the goal was to reach 16 remaining players. Day 4 began with a moment of silence for the victims of the mall fire in the Kemerovo Siberian city, where 64 people died, including 41 children.

Although the players had their minds elsewhere and were disturbed by this tragic event, the tournament continued. The surprise was Mikhail Plakkhin, who was basically at his second in-the-money of his career. He was now the chip leader of the tournament and finished this first day with just over 3 million chips. Sihao Zhang from Luxembourg was second and Andrey Kaigorotsev was third.

Day 5

This day had one goal: to set the final table of 6 of the last day of the tournament. Of the 16 players present on this day before the last, only 3 were not Russian, but for the most part the hosts were in the lead at the two tables of 8. Sihao Zhang had a bad day and managed to get out first, after he had started with the second largest stack. One by one, players were eliminated until Aresniy Karmatskiy reached the position to tackle the final goal: winning the tournament. Karmatskiy, although having started the tournament with an average stack, eliminated 2 players and managed to accumulate a huge stack of nearly 8 million chips.

The Final Table

The organizers organized a table of 7 players in the end because at level 28 there were times when small stacks would not “die” and then EPT considered it best to start the final table of the event with 7 people.

However, the inevitable happened and Andrey Kaygorodsev, who started with the lowest stack of chips, was eliminated after 1 hour and 15 minutes, his chips reaching the future winner of the tournament. One by one, Sergey Kerzhakov, Mikhail Kovalyuk, Vahe Martirosyan and Ernest Shakaryan were all eliminated after almost 7 hours of playing.

We have now reached the heads-up where the best 2 players faced a 4-to-1 ratio of stacks in favour of Karmatskiy, with Viktor Shegai having 4.5 million chips and Arseniy Karmatskiy with 19,150,000 chips.

A few moments after Shegai raised his stack to 7 million chips, it all ended at level 33 with an ante of 25,000, SB of 125,000 and BB of 250,000. Karmatskiy had Q-10, his opponent had J-8, the flop revealed 7-10-6, the turn revealed 7, the river revealed 6, and Karmatskiy became the champion of this edition of the Sochi EPT.

The final table ranking and the players’ earnings were:

Place Player Earnings ($)
1 Arseniy Karmatskiy 464,100
2 Viktor Shegai 281,520
3 Ernest Shakarian 198,696
4 Vahe Martiroysyan 149,022
5 Mikhail Kovalyuk 117,696
6 Sergey Kerzhakov 88,230
7 Andrey Kaygorodsev 62,019

Joseph Cheong, lacking consistency or luck?

These days it was trendy to talk about South Korea because of the Winter Olympics which they exceptionally organized, and we did so in the sports and betting articles which we have published, however I want to bring into the lime-light a famous South Korean poker player. Of course, he is now an American citizen, having emigrated to the US with his family when he was 6 years old. The character we are going to discuss in this edition is Joseph Cheong.

There’s a first for everything

Joseph Cheong has several note-worthy results, and among them I would mention the $3,200,000 won on-line and the $4,130,000 won when he got 3rd place at WSOP 2010.

His interest for poker started to take form during his 4 years spent at California University in San Diego. He graduated with a major in Psychology and minors in Arts, Mathematics and Economy.

However, our player was set on not ever working for an employer. His interest for poker was great, and now that he had finished his studies, he would concentrate on what he loved most: poker.

What is interesting about this player is the fact that exactly before having “struck gold” with the 4 million at WSOP in the summer of 2010, he had won about $300,000 from on-line poker. He started with the Sit&Gos of $5 and continued to built a bankroll moving up to MTTs (Multi-Table Tournament) of $26 and then those with a rebuy of $30.

His great on-line success was at the 9th series of the FTOPs when he won in a $30 rebuy tournament, winning over $55,000, allowing him to play in more and much greater tournaments.

Money, Money, Money…but where is the reputation?

What is strange about this player, and what intrigues me at the same time, is his lack of major results. As in we have nothing when it comes to tournaments won in major circuits, such as WSOP, WPT and EPT. Exactly how did Joseph Cheong succeed to achieve 38th place (currently) in the top of the best professionals in the field? He only has 4 final tables at WSOPs and 1 final table at WPT in his career until now. What is the stake? Money or glory? Joseph can’t really complain about money right now, but what does he intend to do with his player ego? A 3rd place at WSOP can’t be his card for long… We’ll see what time will do in this respect.

The most important results

Unfortunately, for this player there can be no talk about “the most important successes”, as is the case of the other players’ whose careers we have analyzed, because we were unable to find a more important achievement than the one we previously mentioned.

However, the 2nd place he obtained in October 2010 at High Roller Turbo – EPT 7 – UKIPT, where he paid £10,000 + 300 only to turn them into £162,280, did catch our attention.

On May 31st, 2012, he finished second at the No Limit Hold’em – Mixed Max (Event #6) tournament of $5,000, at the 43rd WSOP edition, where he finished on 2nd place. He won $300,000. He was “almost” the best player out of the 409 players.

In April 2013 he succeeds at finishing first in a tournament, and this happened far away, in Asia, in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It was a tournament with only 18 players in the game, and with a pretty steep buy-in, of about $130,000. This success became the second greatest one of his career until now, but I don’t think it can compare with the titles earned by other players in Europe or the United States.

The following month of the same year, the played a Super High Roller at the Bellagio of $100,000, again finishing 2nd out of 21 players. He did get back his entire investment, and then some (earning 6 times the amount paid as buy-in), but that’s all, the glory of it all belonged to another person.

We mention a final worthy result in Europe – 6th place at the €10,000 + 300 No Limit Hold’em – High Roller 8 Handed (Event #49) tournament held with the occasion of a EPT – 13 – ESPT – 7 in Barcelona. All in all, results way under the capacity of his talent.

It’s also worth mentioning that, at the same time, he registered wins of over $3.2 million on-line, out of which $2.1 million only on the PokerStars platform.

As a conclusion, I can only hope that we will hear about Joseph Cheong again and that 2nd or 3rd place shall be given to someone else, or at least he’ll try to play in fewer tournaments, but win first place more often. Maybe he wasn’t lucky enough in key moments or he lacked concentration. I don’t know, all in all, I wish he were more consistent.

David Baazov, the genius behind the Amaya. How did he succeed the impossible

If you remember, a few months ago, we wrote an article about Mark Scheinberg, the former Poker Stars boss. You are certainly aware of the fact that Scheinberg received 4 billion dollars from selling the famous poker site. Today we will, however, find out the story of the one that made Scheinberg rich and I warn you, this is himself very young and very smart; if not, he wouldn’t have been capable to buy a company worth several times less than his with other people’s money…

In 2014, Baazov was known as the “king of on-line gambling” after the Amaya, a small company in Montreal, Canada purchased Poker Stars. I have to mention the fact that in 2012 or 2013 during one of our magazine’s visits to London for the ICE, we visited the Amaya stand without knowing who they are or who they were to become…

Who is David Baazov?

Doing my research for this article, I have found out many things about Baazov and I’m am sure that I have only found out very little from the public information available about him. I’ll try to focus on the beginning of his business career and the incredible story behind his company’s buying the Rational Group (company which held the Poker Stars brand).

David was born in Israel to a Georgian family and was raised alongside his other 5 siblings as a modern, Jewish, Orthodox family, his father working in construction. At the age of 1, his family moved to Montreal, Canada. He loved math, but didn’t have much interest in school and at he droops out of school at the age of 16. His parents did not agree with his dropping out and so David left home. For several weeks, he slept at friends or in parks, and finally succeeded in renting an apartment with his brother’s help. In time, his relationship with his family improved. He started selling discount coupons for chemical cleaning and clothing shops by mail. Then he started selling hardware, especially computers. For some time, things went really bad, until he managed to obtain a computer sell/re-sell contract with the Montreal public library worth 20 million dollars over 5 years. After having lost a valuable contract, he suddenly sold the company.

In 2005 he entered the software business, particularly casino software and created an electronic poker table, allowing people to play poker without a human dealer. He named this company Amaya. The company registered 6 million dollars in income and as to obtain more money for his future projects, he listed the company on the Toronto Venture Exchange market where one of his shares sold for less than 1 dollar. By selling a minority share pack to the public, he made 5 million dollars which he used to make various cheap acquisitions such as Chartwell Technology and Cryptologic, companies producing software for casino games for on-line operators. He also bought Ongame, an on-line poker software producer. Nobody understood what he was doing or what plans he had for the future, however, the first blow was to take place in 2012.

That is the year he bought Cadillac Jack, a slot machine producer, for 177 million dollars. Now, Baazov had cash-flows of approximatively 36 million dollars per year, which made him highly “liquid”. The evolution of the Amaya shares increased significantly, doubling their value from 3.50 dollars in November 2012 to over 7 dollars at the end of 2013.

However, he did not wish to stop here, he had another target in sight and it was a truly great “prey”: Rational Group (owner of the Poker Stars brand).

How does (sometimes) the little fish swallow the big fish…

Think about the fact that Amaya, at that moment in time, was worth at most 150 million dollars with shares under 7 dollars/share and wanted to buy a giant company – the world leader in on-line poker which had over 1.13 billion in income at that time and about 400 million dollars in profit annually. nobody thought this transaction could ever actually take place, there lacking many millions of dollars.. and besides, Poker Stars had legal issues with the American tax authorities.

Apparently, nothing and no one can stand in the path of Baazov’s ambition to seal the deal. With patience and abnegation, he started to put his plan into action step by step. The first thing he did was to contact the Scheinberg family (Isai – the father and Mark – the son). They were surprised at first and altogether not confident in David Baazov’s proposal. They ignored him for some time. However, they did not wish to rule out any proposals. Poker Stars was in the shadows during that time, in order to make money, they had to enter the American market, but here, only 3 states allowed on-line gambling: New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. Cash-ins from on-line poker were too small, about 10 million dollars per month.. California seemed blocked and is to this day “at the point of building a sufficiently complex legislation for on-line gambling”, so in one word, a dead end.

And then, the idea of the Scheinberg family making an exit seemed plausible enough.

What did Baazov do? In short, he bought Poker Stars with other people’s money! Brilliant! With an extraordinary ability to persuade and a lot of perseverance, David Baazov gathered 4.1 billion dollars to buy Rational Group (which in the meanwhile bought Fulltilt Poker, its lifetime rival).

Until the end of the summer, he convinced the Blackstone Group (a large financial investment fund headquartered in New York) to pay 1 billion dollars and to buy Amaya shares, while other investors, including BlackRock, one of the greatest hedge fund companies in the world, managing values of over 5.7 trillion dollars! also bought a great deal of shares. For the rest of the amount of 2.9 million, Baazov and Blackstone went to the banks – including Deutsche Bank and Barclays.

Baazov did not only convince them through persuasion, but through numbers as well. The most important numbers from Rational Group or from the audit made by the other large investors found that at that time there were 89 million clients of which 5 million players rolled constantly every month, and 60% of income earned by Poker Stars was due to players registered between 2001-2010, which said a lot about the confidence in the brand.

Done! The deal was sealed! Mark Scheinberg became a very rich man, richer than Steve Wynn (at that time). And think about the fact that no real estate assets were being sold, only digital information and the promise that those 89 million clients of the Poker Stars and Fulltilt Poker sites could become consumers of other things as well, such as on-line casino games or what have you.

In that moment, the prices of Amaya shares sky-rocketed (they were worth 2600% more than at the time of its listing on the exchange), and the only 12.5% of Amaya shares held by Baazov were now worth 800 million dollars!

A true lesson on how to become very rich on other people’s money!


In the meantime, Baazov is the former CEO of Amaya, having sold the larger part of his shares to third parties. However, various issues have arose with the Canadian justice as a result of the Autorité des Marches Financiers (AMF) (Financial Supervisory Authority) in Canada sued David Baazov and some of his associates in March 2016, on grounds of their being implicated in a series of share transactions related to Amaya, including the acquisition of the Rational Group company in 2014. It was actually this month (e.n. – January 2018) when the judge on the case, Salvatore Mascia, rejected Baazov’s request to suspend accusations against the former Amaya CEO.

Thomas Marchese, a young man who made a future through poker

It’s possible that you might not have heard about Tom Marchese too often, however he appeared on the global poker scene 10 years ago like a high speed train. He was born in New Jersey, and now lives in Las Vegas, where he spends most of his time playing poker in the city’s casinos; besides two travels to Europe, once in Canada and a few times in the Caribbean, the American participated to tournaments only on USA soil. He was named player of the year by Card Player in his year of debut.

The Debut

He has loved playing poker since high school, when he played amicable hands with his friends for $5. In 2006, when he was in college, he played on-line under the username “kingofcards”. He first played on-line after a few of his friends lent him $50, which he rapidly turned into $300 and then into $30,000 playing Limit Texas Holdem with buy-ins which started from 0.50/$1 to $30/$60 in just a few months. After a while, he started to play No Limit Texas Holdem starting with a small blind/big blind of $2/$4 and then raising to 25/$50.

In 2007 he started playing heads-up tournaments and hands with few players (the so-called short-handed games) and started to create an important player reputation in the virtual field. after finishing his studies, he moved with a groups of friends to Vegas, occasion on which they exchange ideas, discuss strategy and play a lot of on-line.

The people from Highstakes Data Base discovered him in the winter of 2010 playing high stakes poker on PokerStars, and since then, they have registered 48,792 hands played by Marchese, resulting in $124,249. Poker hands played on Omaha.

The Successes

Tom Marchese

He steps out for the first time live in 2009 without any notable results, and in the next 2 years, he gains about $2,500,000 from tournaments. A very interesting fact to know about his career is that even though he played at many final tables, he hasn’t yet won a WSOP bracelet or a WPT title.

We won’t go over all of his achievements, but we will try to underline what is most important for our readers. In January 2010 he played in Atlantic City at the Borgata Winter Open, finishing in 3rd place in the Main Event with a buy-in of $3,300, earning no less than $190,027.

In February he played in Vegas again, the $5,000 tournament called NAPT Deep Stack Extravaganza at the Venetian, rounding up his accounts by gaining $827,648. The year 2011 isn’t such a winner for Marchese, even though he has earnings, however, 2012 debuts with a great victory: he wins the Super High roller tournament at the WPT World Championship in Las Vegas where he “hits” a little over $1,300,000 and passes a field of 34 players. Well, after this success, he wins another 4 tournament until the end of the year: 2 Festa Al Lago tournaments held in October and another two WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic tournaments, held at the start of winter. In 2013, he plays 6 important tournaments, without any significant results.

2014 is his most prolific year, winning $4,472,478. Therefore, in June 2014, he plays the Super High Roller held at the Casino Bellagio in Las Vegas, tournament with a $100,000 buy-in, where Dan Smith (1st place) and Jason Mercier (2nd place) are the only ones ahead of him in the top. Then, at the beginning of autumn, he plays the Aria $100,000 Super High Roller 2 tournament and wins it, winning a prize of $1,306,800. Marchese’s third hit during this fine year is placing 2nd in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic tournament, in the tournament with 55 $100,000 buy-ins No Limit Hold’em WPT Alpha8.

Next year, he plays 15 tournaments with buy-ins between $1,500 and $500,000 where he earns 3 more victories and 6 other presences at final tables, and gaining various prizes in money from the rest.

2016 is another important year for him. He continues to play at the highest level in the high-roller tournaments and plays the WSOP tournaments where he doesn’t succeed in winning much, maybe 14 place in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event Championship (Event #68) should be mentioned.

Last year he once again increases his bankroll in a constant manner, adding another $793,162 to his gathered riches, earned in the played tournaments. In total, up to now, Thomas has won $16,698,175 from poker! A huge amount. and all of it until the age of 30.

A young millionaire who made a future through poker.

The Future

He contemplates his future daily, and until now, he has succeeded in wisely investing his poker earned money, considering and acknowledging that at some point in time, he will have to retire.

PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) 2018 Maria Lampropulos, what a victory!

PCA 2018 took place between 6-14 January, 9 days full of best quality poker, and the host of the famous tournament was as always Atlantis Resort and Casino in Nassau (Bahamas).

The Main-Event started on January 8th and ended on January 14th, had a $10,300 buy-in with 582 registrations which created a prize-pool of $5,645,400.

Maria Lampropulos is the first woman to win this prestigious tournament in its 14 years! The 36 year old Argentinian succeeded in making another first, bringing this title for the first time in South America. Her performance is even more praise-worthy as she defeated a very good on-line player in the heads-up: Shawn Buchanan, know in the on-line virtual world of poker as “buck21”. He has won everything there is to win on-line, including 6 COOP titles.

Day 1A

This first day of the tournament brought together 178 player to the tables and only 101 of those players moved on in the tournament. The chip leader on this first day was Brazilian Affif Prado. A good player who got to the PCA thanks to winning the title of Brazilian Player of the Year 2017. Amongst the day’s “survivors” are Barry Greenstein (62,700), Ryan Riess (38,300), Lucas Greenwood (88,700), Mike Leah (58,500), Kevin Martin (39,900) and last year’s winner, Christian Harder (18,300).

Day 1 B

It was a rather more dynamic day, 393 players filling the poker tables in Atlantis Resort and Casino. the Norwegian Jean Ateba finished this competition day as chip-leader with 155,000 chips, followed by Mike Vela (153,000) and Timur Toktabayev (141,500).

However, this day also had losers, and amongst them we have “heavy-weights” such as Justin Bonomo, Rainer Kempe or Daniel Negreanu.

Day 2

341 players started the day, and only 101 remained in the end. Oleg Titov from Russia finished this day placing first, having a stack of 493,000 chips. Amongst those moving forward in the tournament is also Maria Konnikova, a 33 year old Russian born in Moscow to Jewish parents who immigrated to the United states in 1988 when the USSR deiced to allow Jewish people found between the Soviet Union’s borders to immigrate. In the mean time, Konnikova gained her American citizenship and finished her studies in psychology and creative writing at Harvard University, and then got her PhD in psychology at Colombia University (New York). She is a writer, her first book being a best seller – Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, translated in 17 languages. Her second book, “The confidence game”, was also a great success. She is currently working on a book dedicated to poker and for some time now, she has started to constantly participate at important tournaments. Her trainer is Erik Seidel. Konnikova even gained an image of victory winning over $80,000 in the National Championship tournament in Bahamas, with a buy-in of $1,650.

Other worthy winners of the day are Adrian Mateos (358,000), David Peters (327,000), Maria Lampropulos (299,500), Koray Aldemir (256,000), Liv Boeree (96,000), Ivan Luca (77,000) and Kevin MacPhee (38,500).

All players remaining in the tournament shall return tomorrow with level 14 which has a SB 1,500/BB 3,000 with a 500 ante.

Day 3

The stand-outs of the day are the Swiss Karl Stark with 1,148,000 chips and David Peters with 1,117,000. They finished the day in the top. Today is pay-day for most of the 101 players, specifically for 87 of them, the other 14 will be going home empty-handed…

Day 4

The 43 players playing at the green tables, confident in their chances, have felt on their own skin what it is like to compete against the best. The inching closer of the grand prizes is making its presence felt in each of their games. Some of them are more aggressive, others more fearful, however, they all have the same thought in mind: to be in the last 16. The American David Pieters finishes first on this day with 3,105,000 chips, and second, surprise!, Maria Lampropulos with 2,313,000 chips.

Day 5

Even if the last level of the days started out with 11BB, Adrian Mateos finishes the day en fanfare, with 5,675,000 chips, being credited with the first shot at winning the tournament, given the size of the stack.

Here are the last 4 eliminated before the final table: Michael Farrow – 10th place ($75,640), Patryk Poterek – 9th place ($92,020), Adalfer Morales Gamarra – 8th place ($116,860) and Oleg Titov – 7th ($169,920).

The Final Table

So, the 6 finalists of the 2018 PCA Main Event are Adrian Mateos (5,675,000 chips), Shawn Buchanan (3,755,000), Maria Lampropulos (3,505,000), Koray Aldemir (2,350,000), Daniel Coupal (1,275,000) and Christian Rudolph (905,000). The days started with Level 28 – Small Blind 40,000 / Big Blind 80,000 (10,000 ante). The German Rudolph didn’t hold out long in the short-stack and folded to his adversaries’ attacks. Maria Lampropulos defeated poor Rudolph with a set of sevens, and he has to make do with the $229,760 associated to the 6th place, however, the Argentinian moves to chip-leader position.

The immediate next level, 29, with 50,000 / 100,000 Blinds (10,000 ante) the next victim falls – the Canadian Daniel Coupal. Shawn Buchanan serves him a set of Kings and becomes chip leader with 7.53 million chips. Next on the list, the Spaniard Mateos. He confronts the Canadian Buchanan in an interested hand which he has 8♦5♦, and the Spaniard A♣K♥, the flop is 6♦Q♣K♦, the turn gives a 4♦, and the river is an irrelevant 9♥, because Buchanan already has color. The latter strengthens his leader position at the Final Table with a crushing stack: 11.3 million chips.

At the beginning of Level 30, we have the following chip count: Shawn Buchanan (8,345,000 chips), Koray Aldemir (6,460,000) and Maria Lampropulos (2,650,000).

We are at level 33. The last 3 finalists went a real roller coaster during the last 3 levels, winning or losing chips and positions on the chips top. Koray Aldemir tries to stay in the game and throws 3.5 million chips on the table, being very confident in his hand K♥7♥. Shawn Buchanan counterattacks with A♣8♣. The following cards turn on the table 8♥3♣9♠8♦K♣ and the German’s fate is sealed, the Canadian’s eights have done the trick.

We are at the final act. The protagonists Shawn Buchanan and Maria Lampropulos are face to face competing for the title, money and glory. One of the two will leave this table $1.1 million richer.

The Canadian has a 2.5 times greater advantage in chips against the Argentinian. However, in only 30 minutes, Maria doubled twice, turning the scales in her favor. Buchanan is stunned and can’t recover. After another 10 minutes, Maria gives the final hit. Here is the final hand of the tournament.

Buchanan plays K♥5♠ from the button. Lampropulos goes all-in with T♣7♣ and awaits her opponent’s decision. The Canadian agrees to go all in and the flop gives 9♣5♦T♠, and Maria makes a pair of tens, and Shawn a pair of 5s, the turn is a 2♥ which changes nothing, and the last card on the table is 9♥. Maria Lampropulos wins the tournament!

Congratulations for a consistent and wise game. She is the first woman to win the PCA!