Currency: Russian Ruble (RUB)
Timezone: UTC+2 – UTC+12
Gambling was faced with government suppression many times in Russia.
During the Communist regime, it was regarded as an “idle, bourgeois pastime” that was at odds with the Stakhanovite ideal of a Socialist worker. As a result, in 1928, gambling was banned in the Soviet Union.
Games of luck were completely restricted until the 1980’s. Then, slot machines and poker started spreading thanks to much more lenient enforcement. In 1989, the ban was completely lifted and the first casino opened in Moscow.
However, in the 21st Century, the authorities struck down again. The government viewed the spread of casinos, especially slot machines, as a major problem. What made matters worse was that it was discovered that many of the casino owners had ties to the Russian mafia.
In response, they banned gambling completely in the country except for 4 designated areas. The plan of the Kremlin was to develop Las Vegas-style gambling cities in Russia. They invested heavily in those projects. One of them, Azov City was abandoned and got replaced by Sochi, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Overall, it can be said that despite government efforts to suppress it, the Russian people love gambling. This holds true for poker as well.
Famous Russian Poker Players
Timofey Kuznetsov, better known as his online moniker Trueteller, is one of the best online cash game players in the world. He’s won millions of dollars on high stakes cash games on PokerStars. He also regularly plays the Triton high roller series’ events.
Anatoly Filatov has cashed for over $3.6 million in live tournaments during his career. In 2018, he won the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Main Event for $944,230 on his “home turf” in Sochi, Russia. He’s also a member of Team partypoker.
Igor Kurganov leads the Russian all time money list with $17.58 million in career earnings. The biggest chunk of that sum came from 2014, when he finished 3rd in the €100K EPT Super High Roller in Monte Carlo and won $1,559,373. He’s the boyfriend of famous British poker player Liv Boeree. The couple formed a duo in the $10,000 Tag Team championship at the 2017 WSOP and won the event.
– Playing Live Poker in Russia –
Live Poker Legislation in Russia
As we wrote in our intro, since 2009, gambling is illegal in Russia with the exception of four designated gambling zones. These zones are the Altai, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, and Primorsky regions.
As for regulators, it’s a complicated issue. The regional authorities in those four regions issue the licences – they give permits to private companies too, not just state-run casinos. Oversight is done by the Federal Tax Service. The overall gambling policy, such as liquidating or creating gambling zones, is under the purview of the Ministry of Finance.
Live Poker Venues in Russia
The Sochi Casino and Resort hosted the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Russia events that we talked about under Anatoly Filatov. They’re also a venue to WSOP Circuit tournaments, as well as the Sochi Poker Festival.
They have 3 recurring weekly tournaments on their year-round schedule. The NLHE Bounty is on Mondays, and there’s two more Hold’em tourneys on Thursdays and Sundays. The stakes are hard to make out on their website, since the buy-ins are not displayed in Rubles, rather in so-called “casino units”. One casino unit is 70 Rubles ($1.11) according to their online helpdesk. That means that the bounty tournament’s buy-in is RUB770, while the two other events are RUB350 and RUB700.
Their NLHE cash tables run at 1/3 stakes in casino units, so essentially it’s a $1/$3 game.
All the way across the country, on the Western part of Siberia, is the Altai Palace Casino. They have cash game tables running 24/7. They also have 3-4 tournaments on their schedule, some of them are listed as “freerolls”.
The biggest casino in the Primorsky gambling zone is the Tigre de Cristal Resort & Casino in Artem; while the biggest casino in the Kaliningrad gambling zone is Casino SOBRANIE in Kulikovo.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Russia –
Sochi Casino and Resort
Altai Palace Casino
Tigre de Cristal Resort & Casino
Tigre de Cristal Resort & Casino
Tigre de Cristal Resort & Casino is located a short 21km drive from Vladivostock International Airport, Siberia.
Online Poker Legislation in Russia
The state of online poker in the Russian Federation is not promising.
In 2006, a bill was passed that prohibited online gambling. Since poker wasn’t mentioned specifically in the bill, some hopeful people argued that it should be exempt since it’s a game of skill. Also, the general population kept playing on online poker sites.
In 2012, however, the government ordered internet service providers to block all gambling sites, including online poker rooms. The case went all the way up to the Russian Supreme Court and the Kremlin won.
So, to this day, online poker rooms are blacklisted in Russia. Players still can find ways to circumvent that, but it’s a huge deterrent. At least people are never prosecuted for playing some online poker.