Vadzim Haiduk from Belarus, was one of the biggest winners this week at the EPT Open Sochi — not necessarily because of the prize pool in the tournament he topped, but rather because of its special bonus. Haiduk won Chris Moneymaker’s special “Road to the PSPC” event, which came with the additional bonus of a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship in Barcelona next August.

He started playing poker thanks to the influence of Moneymaker, and now Haiduk has the chance to emulate one of his earliest poker heroes. We caught up with Haiduk after his brilliant triumph in Sochi.


Congratulations, Vadzim! How did you feel when you won?
I will be honest: at first I felt nothing. Before the event, I just wanted to play and to earn money. It’s not a good idea to make plans for what you’ll do if you win. I hadn’t thought about winning the Platinum Pass when I started playing. It was a great bonus.

Now you actually have won, though. So what do you expect for Barcelona?
If you start dreaming about victory, in most cases you will be disappointed. I will just try to play as well as I can. If it works out, it will be great, if it doesn’t work out, I won’t be sad. I do not plan to prepare especially.

Who will you take as your guest to Barcelona?
A beautiful girl.

What’s your experience in poker?
I was first introduced to poker about 10 years ago. Poker was just developing in Belarus about then. At that time, my cousin became interested in poker before joining the army, and I often watched the games he played and became interested in poker as a kind of intellectual sport rather than a game of chance. I began to watch various educational videos from famous poker players, and read Dan Harrington’s book. I also watched a video with Chris Moneymaker, in which he talked about block bets and all sorts of interesting moves. Gradually, my learning process took me to the point that poker has become my main occupation in life. While I was at university, I already knew that the subject I was studying there suited me less than poker. We had a great Club House club in Minsk, it was there that I honed my skills and gained experience in the game.

Haiduk reckons his grandmother would be the best player at the PSPC

Could you imagine that after learning from Chris’s lessons, you would win his tournament and meet him in person?
I couldn’t imagine that. It’s great. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play at the same table as him. That would have been such an interesting experience. But Chris and I took pictures together today. I did not expect that something like this would happen in my life.

What are your prior poker achievements?
I play cheap tournaments online with buy-ins up to $20. I have taken first place in three of them, but the prize money isn’t too big: about $3,000-$5,000. I’ve made some cashes in tournaments in Minsk, and I came 24th in the Main Event here in Sochi and 36th in the Deepstack. But this event is my main victory. I generally like playing cash more than tournaments.

Why?
I find cash games more comfortable and calm. I prefer the structure and dynamics.

What about away from poker? What are you most proud of?
My granny. She’s cool. My grandmother is the top-most grandmother in the world. If she played poker, she would tear up tables.

Tell me a little about life and about yourself.
I am 26 years old, and I work as a sommelier in the restaurant business. I love to travel, whenever possible. I live in Anapa – it’s great there. I have traveled all over Russia and am most impressed by the beauty of nature in Jurmala. For my hobby, I collect premium alcoholic drinks.

What are the stars of your collection?
I have a 30-year-old Macallan Sherry Oak aged in sherry barrels. I have a 40-year-old Highland Park, a lot of whiskies that have been discontinued: Laphroaig (18 years old), Glendronach (15 years old), interesting ports, bottles of Dom Perignon of the 93s, Cristal of the 92nd, a lot of different cognacs 70- 80s and so on.

How did such an interesting hobby begin?
I worked as a sommelier, and I liked my work. I worked in various restaurants, helped restaurateurs improve the level of establishments. Then I went through a bad patch and I had no money, no work, nothing. I was lucky to get into an interesting community of whisky lovers, where people were interested in acquiring rare varieties of whisky at reasonable prices. This is where I turned out to be useful, because I have connections. Now I continue to look for exclusives both for my collection and for good people.

Haiduk and friends celebrate his Sochi triumph

Note: An earlier version of this article used an incorrect spelling of Vadzim Haiduk’s name.

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