2014 WSOP

2008 WSOP Main Event Runner-Up Ivan Demidov Never Got Paid

In 2008, World Series of Poker fans were treated to something different: the November Nine. Well, “treated” might be stretching it, as many poker fans still don’t like the idea of pausing the WSOP Main Event and then breaking back the members of the final table in November, but it has worked out just fine, especially when it comes to the television broadcast, so it’s not going anywhere. That year, Peter Eastgate won the Main Event and Ivan Demidov helped launch the poker boom in Russia by finishing as the runner-up.

Demidov won $5.8 million in that tournament an amount that can lay one hell of foundation for the rest of a person’s life. One problem, though. He hasn’t seen any of the money.

In an article about Demidov’s post-2008 career published Friday on Allinmag.com, the near-WSOP champ revealed that his second place finish was not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that it seemed. “That second place has changed my life completely, but not because of the money I won, as I haven’t received any,” he said. “That’s a long and dark story, but basically my backer did not pay me and I ended up not getting any prize money.”

Ivan Demidov Image credit: Pokerstars.com

Ivan Demidov
Image credit: Pokerstars.com

That is the extent of the story that he was willing to offer up. He did add, though, that his living a happy life right now, saying, “I was contracted by PokerStars and was able to open a popular website in Russia, all that thanks to my second-place finish. That gave me the bankroll and freedom to play what I want and to do what I want. And that’s what I always dreamed of.”

Demidov has mentioned the struggle with his backer before, but again with little to no detail and most people probably assumed it had all been worked out. To know that it is now seven years later and he still hasn’t reaped the direct financial rewards of his performance is surprising.

On August 1st, 2009, PokerPlayer magazine published an interview with Demidov when he was just a year removed from his WSOP final table in which he offered up a bit more information, though still nothing to explain why exactly his backer wasn’t cooperating. When he was making a name for himself online in 2007, an anonymous (to us, not Demidov) Russian high stakes player offered to sponsor Demidov and a few others. The deep-pocketed benefactor would pay for “everything,” presumably meaning buy-ins and travel expenses, but Demidov would have to fork over 80 percent of his winnings. “It’s probably worse than average but in Russia you either take this deal or have no deal at all. I always dreamed of going to Las Vegas to play in those big events so I said yes straight away.”

And straight away, Demidov lost $150,000 of his backer’s money in a fruitless trip to compete in live tournaments in Vegas (it was not specified in the article, but the assumption here is those tournaments were at the 2007 WSOP). Demidov took a break for a few months and when he got back to playing, he just assumed his deal with the backer was over because of how poorly he fared. Not so fast, my friend. The backer called Demidov, verified that he still had his visa, and told him to get ready for the 2008 WSOP.

For most of the Series, Demidov again wasn’t too successful, cashing for just $40,000 (but how much did he lose?), but coming in second in the Main Event has a way of turning things around.

In that 2009 interview, Demidov mentioned the issue with his backer, saying, “I’m not broke but it’s not like I’m set for life. I have problems with my backer and a lot of people owe me money so actually things aren’t that great. I trusted people too much and I’m paying for it now.”

But, as mentioned before, that is as much as he has said about it. The details remain a mystery.

The odd thing about this is not that a staker and his horse had a bad business relationship. That happens all the time. But, to this writer, the weird thing is that even with some sort of disagreement or deception, that Ivan Demidov hasn’t seen a single penny from his 2008 WSOP. If I am wrong here, please correct me, as I have no personal experience with staking, but it seems to me that Demidov would have had to be the person to actually accept the check for his winnings at the Rio cashier. He would have had to have provided proper identification and, as Russia is a U.S. tax treaty country (I am assuming it was in 2008, since it is today), he would have had to provide his Individual Tax Identification Number. I would assume that nobody else could have just walked up to the cashier and said, “Hi, I’m Ivan Demidov. I’m here for my $5.8 million,” then just run off without giving Demidov his cut.

The only thing I can imagine (again, I could be WAY off on this) is that Demidov agreed to hand over all of his winnings to his backer, who was then supposed to dole out Demidov’s 20 percent. The guy didn’t, for whatever reason, and Demidov was SOL. It sounds like a dumb plan, so I would not be surprised in the slightest if I’m wrong, but regardless, it is quite unfortunate how it turned out and that is still not resolved.

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