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Ukraine-born professional poker player Eugene Katchalov was missing in action at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) this year. Holding the top rank on the Ukraine All Time Money List, the 37-year-old former gold bracelet winner has raked in total live earnings of $9,222,323 and has 37 cashes in the tournament series. So, what has he been up to?
On May 8, Katchalov tweeted a link to a short blog, titled ‘Poker and Esports in my life’, that he had posted on LinkedIn, discussing his poker career and decision to transition to eSports.
I wrote a short blog about my Poker career and what I’m up to today. Thanks for checking it out! https://t.co/iL5aEmLaST
— Eugene Katchalov (@EugeneKatchalov) May 8, 2018
In his blog, he talks about his childhood obsession with poker, “When I was younger, I spent most of my time obsessing about all aspects of poker. The more I learned, the better I got. The better I got, the more I realized how much more there is to learn. It was a never-ending challenge that I really enjoyed.”
He mentions the highs and lows of the game and how it impacted him.
“It was in many ways a real rollercoaster. As I got better and my results continued to improve, my confidence soared. After a huge 2011, things started to seem almost too easy. I was player of the year in Cardplayer, #1 in GPI rankings and overall at the top of my game. This, of course, didn’t last. Confidence quickly began to turn into overconfidence and as my luck ran out, I started to blame everything and everyone except myself. After a few years of little results, I realized that unless I changed something, my situation would only get worse.”
This decision to re-evaluate his life is what brought him to eSports. His first interaction with the video gaming competition organizer was in 2012 in Seoul, Korea at an event for the combat-based video game ‘StarCraft’. The experience enamoured him to the video gaming platform. He felt that the youngsters who were participating in the events were undergoing the same stages he went through when he first discovered poker.
“I was hooked. I started to follow lots of teams, players and streamers playing multiple different games. I began to notice that many of these kids were going through many of the same stages I went through in poker. While I was certainly too old to compete myself, I really enjoyed following the scene.”
It was around this time that he became good friends with his fellow Italian poker player Luca Pagano. The friends recognized the potential that eSports had and decided to become business partners. They launched QLASH concentrating mainly on the free-to-play online collectible card video game Hearthstone.
“Hearthstone was the most logical choice for us as it was the game we found to have multiple similarities to poker. We signed a team and began to travel to tournaments with them all the while making multiple connections and learning along the way. While most of the people in the Esports industry didn’t know who we were, they looked at poker in many ways as just another genre of games and so welcomed us as experienced and knowledgeable gamers rather than outsiders to the scene.”
Following the start of QLASH, Katchalov hasn’t had much time to devote to his poker career. But the effort and hard work that Katchalov and Pagano have put into the project is evidenced by the fact that after a year they have ‘over 30 players under contract and 25 employees’. It has also gained quiet a bit of popularity on social media as well.
Nevertheless, Katchalov has not completely disappeared from the WSOP scene. He tweeted about waiting in queue to buy-in for the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em MAIN EVENT – World Championship confirming his participation.
— Eugene Katchalov (@EugeneKatchalov) July 4, 2018
And thereafter updated on his Twitter handle that he had made it to Day 2 and hinting at the possibility of making a deep run.
Played day 1C of the #wsop2018 Main event today. Finished day 1 with 85k from starting 50k. Second largest field ever! ðŸ˜…might as well go deep…
— Eugene Katchalov (@EugeneKatchalov) July 5, 2018