Vladimir Geshkenbein

December 2012 cover

03 December 2012

EPT winner and celebrated maniac, PKR.com’s Vladimir Geshkenbein tells us about the games in Macau and why he likes to get under people’s skin.

Vlad, tell us about your background in poker.

I was born in Moscow but I came to Switzerland when I was five. I first played with my friends – little $5 SnGs – just for fun, and saw I that I could have an edge and that I could beat the game. I started playing online, spinning up SnGs two at a time. It took me 18 months to get to the really serious limits, but it was worth it.

When did you decide to go pro?

It happened gradually, but there was a time when I’d studied enough and I’d just got better at poker and it seemed like a good idea to see how far I could take it. That’s when I decided to move to Malta, to do it in a more professional way. I got an apartment with some poker friends and devoted all my time to it.

Why Malta?

I didn’t want to stay at home and play poker all day – and I don’t think my parents wanted that either – so I wouldn’t have felt comfortable. Secondly, it’s cheaper, it has sun, sea – everything. It’s the perfect place for a poker player.

You’ve just got back from Macau. How long were you out there for?

About 20 days. My first trip to Macau was back in 2009 and I got quite lucky there. That’s where it all kind of started.

I don’t play in the big game. There’s a huge gap between the “normal” big game and the “big” big game. It’s like ten times the blinds, so that game doesn’t really suit me. Maybe one day, but today it’s just too high. So I was playing all the tournaments and the normal cash games.

What kind of stakes are you playing?

Usually it’s 100HKD/200HKD; sometimes 300HKD/600HKD. Roughly divide it by ten to get pounds or euro.

What’s the standard of play like?

The standard of play has actually surprised me quite a lot. It went up really, really quickly. Three years ago it was ridiculous. We were talking about it all the time and people were moving there to make loads of money, but nowadays the games have got really tough. Obviously during the Series (Asia Championship of Poker), a lot of fish came and the games were better, but at the moment there’s not as much money to make, maybe five times less than there used to be. Lots of European professionals went there to live and to exploit it and the locals have got much better.

You’re known for your wild LAG style. Does that suit the games out there?

Actually, it does, because the regular Chinese players are very tight – much more so than Europeans, so it makes it much more profitable to play crazy and loose. They don’t know how to handle it. They’re not used to it. They just keep folding all the time, so I can kind of run over them.

What are the most common mistakes you see people making at the cash tables?

I think people overestimate their implied odds a lot and call three-bets way too light. You keep three-betting them and they keep calling, but that puts them at a big disadvantage because you can keep applying pressure on them. Pressure is key in poker because you’re not hitting hands that often. If they just keep playing passively back at you, it’s not going to work for them. People think that if they’re sitting deep they can call with any two cards and maybe hit a flop, but it’s unprofitable to play passively.

Tell us about the psychological aspect of your game. You like to put people on tilt...

I do, yes. Sometimes it happens when I don’t even want to put people on tilt. I guess some people get tilted when I talk bullshit to them, but I just do that for fun. But it’s good for me because it means they try to get in pots with me and they want to outplay me. I try to create a crazy image and get paid off as soon as I hit big hands.

How did you get involved with PKR?

I first had contact with PKR about three or four years ago when I started playing their high stakes cash games. I was crushing quite a bit and I saw they had their “Team Pro”. I wanted to be involved but realised I’d have to play more live tournaments. So I went to the UK, Monte Carlo, Macau, playing the circuit. Luckily, on that trip I won a big tournament [the APPT High Roller in Macau] and apparently I managed to entertain everybody as well, so they put me in this televised Heads Up Grand Slam and I did quite well there too [he won it!] and they decided to sponsor me. It’s a great site to play for. We’re a small team and they really take good care of us.

Seems like you’re enjoying the poker lifestyle...

I love the lifestyle, travelling the world. I’m just afraid that it won’t last forever. I’ve only been back in Switzerland for five hours and I’m already feeling bored.

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