At this stage in last year’s tournament Vadzim Kursevich wasn’t a well known player. Yes, we at the PokerStars Blog were aware of him thanks to his third-place finish at EPT Berlin for €300,000, but most people wouldn’t have known him, and fewer still outside of the growing Belarusian poker community. In the early stages of EPT8 Deauville he wouldn’t have registered on our poker radar. This year he’s the reigning champion.
Kursevich last year beat Paul Guichard heads-up to take the EPT Deauville title and the €875,000 prize (Guichard, coincidentally is sat at the next table along). The king of Deauville looks a man apart at his table right now. Casey Kastle sits next to him but seems to be nursing around half of his 30,000 starting stack, half slunk in his chair looking somewhat preoccupied with an iPad. Kursevich on the other hand doesn’t seem to have room for any distraction: his gaze is unrelenting with a granite visage that makes him look strangely reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix in the feature film Gladiator (even more so if you fused him with Kevin Iacofano who’s at the next table along).
Kursevch is currently up to nearly twice his starting stack with a little more than 50,000 (although Barrierre’s 5,000 and 500 chips are a little close in colour and he’s got those stacked on top of each other). He’s certainly no one-hit wonder: he followed up his Deauville score with a third-place WSOP cash for $158,530 last summer and clocks up plenty of online miles under the name ‘VadziMoney’. Kursevich doesn’t dominate tables through banter or needling aggression, he does simply through his play, as demonstrated by this sequence of play at last year’s final table.
Back in the now
We’re currently a long way from those blinds right now. Kursevich opened from middle position to 600. Fold from Kastle. Fold, fold, fold, fold. The pot was pushed towards Kursevich. The next hand a similar pattern emerged; Fold from Kastle and fold, fold, fold, fold… and then a call as Anton Kraus defended his big blind. Kraus quickly checked the 7♦A♣8♦ flop and Kursevich c-bet 800. Quick call.
The 6♦ hit the turn and Kraus tapped the table again. Kursevich, still refusing to show any expression, excitement or consternation, stared at the board. He bet 1,700. Kraus passed. Kursevich raked in the pot. Still no facial movement.
While these stages don’t make or break your tournament, like those big over-pair versus combo-draw flips that can take place later when the blinds and antes become more punishing, these early stages are where you build your foundations. It seems to be an area Kursevich excels at, slowly grinding his opponents into the felt. Expect the Belarusian to be above the average chip stack come the end of play.
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Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.