Partypoker and PokerStars continue to battle for the Russian poker market

Rivalry between Partypoker and PokerStars is not exactly something new. As the world’s leading online poker giants, last year both brands took their battle on land to Russia, a country with a thriving online poker market despite the government’s restrictions on online gaming.

Sochi Casino
Sochi Casino – Photo

Live events return to Russian soil in 2017

When it comes to the first at the scene, hats off go to PokerStars. Back in 2008, PokerStars birthed a tour aptly called the Russian Poker Tour. The first event was held in St. Petersburg followed by one in Moscow. The tour still runs today but interestingly, the last time it was actually held on Russian soil was in 2009. That was the year President Vladimir Putin put the hatchet down restricting all land based gambling to 4 isolated regions.

Joining that list in 2016 was Sochi, the city that hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014. In the government’s efforts to bring tourism back to the area, Sochi Casino and Resort was built in the newly designated Krasnaya Polyana gambling zone. The facility opened last year with partypoker and PokerStars both hosting event(s).

A new live poker hub: Sochi

At the then newly erected Sochi Casino and Resort in Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, both poker outfits engaged in a “I can do better than that” warfare with partypoker privileged in becoming the first brand to host a live event in the city. PokerStars responded by upping the ante, offering a much higher Main Event guarantee that took place two months after.

While things didn’t really pan out for PokerStars, missing the numbers and having to fork out a big overlay, partypoker exceeded their mark then went on to host an even bigger event later in the year, the partypoker MILLIONS Russia with 999 entries for the Main Event. Contributing to that massive attendance were some online starting days.

This week, partypoker secured a stronger foothold announcing a four-year deal to become the primary partner of Sochi Casino. The announcement revealed eight events so far with the World Series of Poker coming to Russia in May.

WSOP and more at Sochi Casino in 2018

For 2018, poker in Sochi Casino is filled to the brim. The games begin with PokerStars hosting the EPT Sochi on March 20-29. The Main Event has a RUB 150,000,000 guarantee (~US$2.6M) and will likely attract big numbers with the PokerStars Players Championship Platinum Pass on the table.

The rest of the year will see partypoker take command of the scene. partypoker LIVE’s official kickoff event will be WSOP-C Russia. This will be the first time the world’s most prestigious festival, the World Series of Poker, will be held in Russia. The WSOP-C Russia takes place on May 13-29 with prize pool guarantees of US$5,000,000.

Two months later, the second edition of the partypoker MILLIONS Russia US$10,000,000 guaranteed takes place. The festival is slated for August 4-12. In October, partypoker hosts the Eurasia Poker Tour and Russian Poker Championships with US$5,000,000 guarantee. In between these events, seasonal festivals will continue to run, all these hosted by partypoker but branded with the casino name.

Then in mid-February 2019, the first partypoker MILLIONS Snowfest US$5,000,000 guaranteed will be staged. According to the announcement, partypoker LIVE will host at least 8 events per year at Sochi Casino.

Real interest for poker operators is the online market

With all these live events about to take flight, this spells jackpot for both brands, most especially for partypoker. With online being the real cash cow, these live events are simply legal marketing means to penetrate the large online Russian market and push their online products. As it stands, online poker laws fall in the “grey area” unlike land-based laws which are very “cut and dry”. This “grey area’ gives these top brands a sense of confidence to stick around and players the drive to find ways to connect.

Despite online gambling sites including online poker being blocked in the country, both partypoker and PokerStars continue to offer online poker to Russian players and both continue to have a large clientele of Russian online players.

Live Poker in Russia: Key Events

EPT Sochi by PokerStars 

  • EPT NL Hold’em National – Unlimited Re-Entries: March 20-23 – RUB 66,000 (approx. $1,142)
  • EPT NL Hold’em Main Event – Single Entry Per Starting Day: March 23-29 – RUB 192,000 (approx. $3,322) – RUB 150,000,000 guaranteed (approx. $2,600,000)
  • EPT NL Hold’em High Roller – Single Re-Entry: March 27-29 – RUB 617,000 (approx. $10,674)
  • EPT NL Hold’em Cup – Unlimited Re-Entries: March 27-29 – RUB 19,000 (approx. $329)

partypoker LIVE at Casino Sochi – 2018-2019

Date Destination
18th– 23rd April 2018 Sochi Poker Festival Spring
13th– 29th May 2018 WSOP-C Russia: $5,000,000 guaranteed
2nd– 13th July 2018 Sochi Poker Festival Summer
4th– 12th  August 2018 MILLIONS Russia: $10,000,000 guaranteed
19th– 29th October 2018 EAPT & Russian Poker Championships: $5,000,000 guaranteed
21st– 26th November 2018 Sochi Poker Festival Autumn
January 2019 Sochi Poker Festival Winter
3rd-13th February 2019 MILLIONS Snowfest: $5,000,000 guaranteed

Article By Triccia David


Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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