Maksim Sekretarev Wins WPT Russia at Just 19 Years Old

  • Sekretarev was the chip leader entering final table play
  • The 19-year-old eliminated every opponent at the final table
  • Lukas Borglund is the youngest WPT champ, winning 2011 WPT Barcelona at 18
  • WPT Russia is on the short list of major live poker tournaments during the pandemic
A-9 suited on a pile of chips
Maksim Sekretarev became one of the youngest major live tournament champions in poker history Sunday, winning the WPT Russia Main Event at the age of 19. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Easy game

At just 19 years old, Maksim Sekretarev has won the World Poker Tour (WPT) Russia Main Event, becoming one of the youngest champs in the history of the Tour. Now the youngest to win the three-year-old WPT Russia, Sekretarev cashed for ₽11,996,600 ($160,694).

Sekretarev began the six-handed final table as the chip leader, holding 3.340 million chips. His closest competitor had 2.905 million and nobody else had more than 1.190 million. He had very little trouble for much of the final table, aside from a short time where he was the smallest stack when there were three players remaining.

knocked out all five opponents at the final table

Overall, however, it was a dominant Day 4 performance by Sekretarev, who knocked out all five opponents at the final table.

Entering heads-up play against Andrey Volkov, Sekretarev held an imposing 7.800 million to 2.200 million chip lead. Oftentimes, the person trailing makes a run, sometimes even taking over the pole position for a stretch, but this was not one of these times. On just the fourth hand, Volkov got his final 2.500 million chips in with T-8 suited and was looked up by Sekretarev, who had K-Q. The board completely missed both players, allowing the K-Q to hold and giving Sekretarev his first recorded tournament victory.

Volkov was in good spirits afterward, thrilled to make it so far after being down to his last few chips the previous day. Talking WPT.com, he said: “Before the final six, I would have been happy to just ladder up to fourth place, so finishing second is an amazing result.”

Small class of teen champs

Sekretarev doesn’t just rank among the youngest WPT champions of all time; he is also one the greenest major live tournament victors in poker history. In this case, we are defining “major” as the World Series of Poker (WSOP), World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour (EPT), or other similar high buy-in, large field, prestigious events (there is some flexibility within the classification).

The youngest WPT winner is Lukas Berglund, who won WPT Barcelona in 2011 at age 18 years, ten months, and six days. Online phenom Annette “Annette_15” Obrestad is the youngest to win a WSOP title, taking the bracelet in the 2007 WSOP Europe Main Event just one day shy of her 19th birthday.

But the absolute youngest player to win a major event of whom we are aware is Mike “Timex” McDonald, who captured EPT Dortmund in 2008 at 18 years, four months, and 23 days old.

Notice that all the above teenage records were set outside of the United States. In the US, the legal gambling age at most casinos is 21, so it would be impossible to best these marks. The youngest winner of the traditional WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas is Joe Cada, who was crowned champ a week before his 22nd birthday. Some tribal casinos allow people 18 and up to gamble.

Live poker tournaments a rarity nowadays

WPT Russia is one of just a few major live poker tournaments that has successfully run since the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns began nearly a year ago. That group includes the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker open at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, the first major event to be held in the United States in the pandemic era. While not exactly a “major,” the a WPT DeepStacks festival took place at the Venetian in Las Vegas in January and February.

Tournament organizers in Europe appear to be gearing up to bring back live poker as the year goes on. EPT Sochi looks like it is still on track to begin in a couple weeks. The “USDO 5 Special” of the DeepStacks Open Tour is taking place next week in Malta.

Martin “Franke” von Zweigbergk told VegasSlotsOnline News that The Festival in Tallinn (Estonia) that he is organizing should be ready to go in June with a significant emphasis on player safety. Still undecided is PokerStars, which has the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship on the calendar for August at Casino Barcelona.

PokerGO president Mori Eskandani also recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he is confident that PokerGO’s major live events like Poker Masters and the Super High Roller Bowl will be able to run in the second half of the year.