Our reporter Gaelle Jaudon met Russia’s GPI Number 1 Anatoly Filatov for a conversation on his recent results and the current state of the Russian poker scene.
Somuchpoker: To know a bit more about you: you have around $5 million in live earnings, more than $2 million online, you’re a partypoker pro, 2019 was a particularly good year for you as you became the number one GPI player in Russia, and finished in third place in the WSOPE Super High Roller for $1 million. How did you evolve from normal buy-ins into a high and then a super-high roller?
Anatoly Filatov: Actually, I did just play them a few times. In 2014 I played my first high roller in Macau with a $25K and a $50K, and I cashed the first one that I played, so that was a big relief. In 2018 we had the big series in Sochi, and on my birthday I busted twice on the $50K high roller; it wasn’t a really good day! I came back to play high rollers this year and it worked pretty well as I managed to reach the final table of the $100K Diamond Super High Roller at the WSOPE. At first, I was a bit disappointed to finish third, but I still ran really good, and it was a great result, so let’s see how it goes next time. I’ll probably play at the partypoker Super High Roller Series in Sochi next March.
SMP: Yes, that was my next question, because Rob Young is organizing the MILLIONS Super High Roller Series in Sochi in March, in partnership with Triton Poker and PokerGo. So, I wanted to know if you are planning to participate in the $25K or even the $250K?
Anatoly Filatov: Maybe the $25K, but it still depends on a few things. If I don’t go, I’ll stay in my hometown, Moscow, and play online, so either way, I’ll be busy. I’m very excited about this series. We expect to have a lot of the regular players from the Triton Series who always travel for those events, but me, I’m not sure yet.
SMP: Is there a tournament you dream to play in?
Oh yeah, many. Like a $10 million dollar buy-in! I would like to play every big tournament, to get to the top level. Usually the players get staked a lot, so it will depend on that too. I play most of the expensive tournaments, except for the One Drops or buy-ins like that, but in the next few years, who knows.
SMP: How would you describe the Russian poker community today? Is it growing a lot, are the players travelling more and more on the circuit?
Anatoly Filatov: Actually, I think there is more money in live tournaments now, than online. It is really tough to play for higher stakes online, and that’s because many more players are going to live events. But it’s still not a big group of players. A lot of Russian players just go to Sochi, for example, and play small and middle buy-ins. At the WPT Russia there were so many people I hadn’t seen for years, and since Sochi started doing tournaments, they have come back to play live. It was really nice to see old familiar faces coming back. But for example, last year I travelled to all the MILLIONS Stops, and a small group of Russian guys did the same, so it’s growing a little bit.
SMP: I was really surprised to find out that in all Russia there is only one casino, in Sochi. Isn’t it a bit difficult to expand the game because of that?
Anatoly Filatov: No, actually, that’s not totally true. There are some local gambling places, but they are really small. For example, there is one in Siberia, but it’s in the middle of nowhere; it’s like a three-hour flight from Moscow, and then a one-hour drive in a forest. I went there for a tournament, and one day, because of the heavy snow, all the power went off; we were in the dark, playing with candles for some time! But Sochi is the biggest casino and it’s where all the main tournaments are.
SMP: And are there a lot of underground cash games and tournaments in Moscow?
Anatoly Filatov: Oh, for sure, but I don’t participate in those. In my opinion it’s not safe enough, you can easily be cheated or have money stolen, so I rather stick to playing online when I’m in Moscow.
SMP: What is the tax situation currently in Russia for poker players? It’s becoming a big issue in some countries.
Anatoly Filatov: It’s still a grey area. There is no legislation about revenue from poker, so we really don’t know how this will evolve. It’s not like in France or Spain, for example, where some players have had issues with the government and had their money taken from their account. I hope that won’t happen here. Actually, there are some restrictions, because we can’t access poker websites, they are blocked, and you also can’t make a deposit using a credit card, so you need to use a VPN. But, because Sochi opened and we expect more and more players, maybe the situation will change and they will legalize it. It’s always a complicated situation but the market here is really big.
SMP: How would you describe the average type of play in Russia, for example, a $1K event versus poker events in the US or Europe?
Anatoly Filatov: I think they play a different style. Amateur players in Russia like to get more crazy and they bluff a lot. In the US, I think it’s more the other way, but I like it; it’s always fun. We also have a lot of Armenian players in Sochi and they love to gamble, so there is always a lot of action at the tables. People like to talk and have fun and I always enjoy the atmosphere.
SMP: I’ve read that your poker tip is “never quit and stay positive.” Is it still the same today? Do you have any other advice?
Anatoly Filatov: Oh yeah, it’s important to always stay positive, because, with poker, it’s too difficult otherwise, especially when you start losing and have a bad run. This can really get you down. I mean, it’s the same in life; you expect something and it doesn’t happen, or it’s nothing like what you had in mind. So, you really have to work on your mindset to stay positive, no matter what. This is the most important advice, if you want to stay in poker.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon