Poker Tours Not Scheduling Events in Russia After Invasion of Ukraine; PokerStars Shelves EPT Sochi

Poker operators and tours aren't running or scheduling events in Russia after the country invaded Ukraine last week.

The events playing out in Ukraine have brought international sanctions and concern as Russian military forces continue shelling Ukrainian cities. While poker may seem trivial in such a situation, the war has affected the prospects of Russian poker.

The country has not only been a hotbed for online poker, but the ski resort town of Sochi has also hosted numerous live poker series.

With the invasion of Ukraine still underway, PokerScout reached out to operators about their stance on the country. Many tours are avoiding the country as of now in light of recent events.

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PokerStars cancels EPT Sochi stop

Online poker began growing in Russia, as well as in Ukraine, during the poker boom of the 2000s. And in recent years,  Sochi has become a popular spot for major poker tournaments.

The city is the largest resort city in Russia and situated on the river of the same name along the Black Sea in southern Russia. 

PokerStars announced in September that the upcoming European Poker Tour event in Sochi would return from March 18-27. Those plans have now changed in light of recent events.

“PokerStars can confirm that EPT Sochi has been canceled,” the company noted in a statement to PokerScout. “An event will not be held in Sochi until such time that it is safe for staff and players, and appropriate to do so.”

The company says qualifiers for the event can email [email protected] with any queries.

A look at other tours and operators

PokerStars isn’t the only company to comment on their plans for Russia. The World Poker Tour has also run events in Sochi in the past as well.

The WPTDeepStacks Sochi ran in August with 413 entries and a $576,815 prize pool. Maksim Skripkin came out on top for $114,187.

The WPT now has no immediate plans in the country. That includes the Main Tour and the recently-rebranded DeepStacks, now known as WPT Prime.

“While the World Poker Tour has held events in Sochi in the past, our 20th anniversary season does not include any stops there,” WPT Vice President of Global Tour Management Angelica Hael said.

Partypoker has also run events in Sochi in the past. The company offered no comment on the issue this week, but has no live events scheduled in Russia, according  to the partypoker Live schedule.

The company announced earlier this year that it had completely exited the Russian market, citing legal concerns.

GGPoker had no comment on the issue as well. The operator has no plans for live events at the moment, so Russia wasn’t a consideration. 888poker and Unibet also have no events scheduled in Russia.

Players watch situation with concern

Like many around the world, poker players have been watching events unfold in Ukraine. The country’s winningest player, Eugene Katchalov, Tweeted his efforts to get out of the country last week.

At age 2, Katchalov moved to the United States and is an American citizen but moved back five years ago. He’s now been updating others via Twitter about the situation on the ground.

Many players responded and commented that they were happy to see his family was now safe.

Despite the invasion and his own situation, Katchalov placed blame not on the Russian people but on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Hate the war, loathe Putin, but don’t hate Russian people or culture!” he noted.

The country’s efforts at fighting off Russian forces have impressed many, including Daniel Negreanu.

As of Tuesday, the situation remains critical for Ukrainians. Russian forces continued bombing residential areas and military facilities alike, according to media reports. More than 1 million people have already fled the country.