The third day of action at the bwin World Poker Tour (WPT) Merit Cyprus Classic has come to a close, and it’s a familiar name that dons the neon lights of the poker media around Europe tonight. Alexey Rybin has been the chip leader each day he has taken a seat, and he finished Day Three with 1,736,000 chips, nearly half a million more than his nearest rival.
Rybin has that stereotypical Russian stature about him. The one that you take away from Rocky IV after watching Ivan Drago battering Apollo Creed to a bloody pulp. I’ve lost count of the number of Apollo Creed’s that have been carted away from the tables of the Merit Crystal Cove courtesy of a one-two from this young Russian.
He looks hard as nails, and because of that I believe that he is not given enough credit when it comes to his moves at the table. People just never seem to believe he has it, and this is why his stack is so big as he heads into the business end of the competition.
Take Asaf Avci as a prime example. He’s an experienced guy who has probably been playing poker longer than I’ve been alive. He was cruising through this tournament with a stack good enough to get to the lower rungs of the final table. Then in one moment of madness, in a hand against Rybin, half a million chips vanished like a dove heading into the pocket of Dynamo the Magician. Pocket jacks suddenly good enough to play a million chip pot with blinds of 500/1000.
That time Rybin had the aces, but if you watch him that’s no surprise, because he always has it. As a live reporter I don’t get to see every single hand that a player plays, but I have only seen Rybin lose one significant pot in three days of poker, and that came in the final level of the day against Andrei Nikonov – when Rybin had a million more chips than his nearest competitor.
In an interview with Dominik Nitsche, earlier this week, he told me that he was learning cash games because all of the best players are cash game players. Rybin is a high stakes cash game player, and he is showing the people in the Merit just what can happen when you combine the two monsters. Think Phil Ivey and Sam Trickett and you are getting the picture of dominance that Rybin has over this contest at this point in the event.
When we do have a winner it is sure to be a new member of the WPT Champions Club after the last former champion, Giacomo Fundaro, was eliminated on the bubble in cruel circumstances. The Italian getting it in with pocket aces against the pocket jacks of Baris Topkaya, only to see a third knave appear on the river to eliminate the man who won WPT Mazagan last season
Natalya Nikitina may not be classed as a WPT Champions Club member, but she did win a €5,000 WPT event in Paris a few years ago. The Russian starlet has the smallest stack in the contest with 10 big blinds. If Nikitina can get the luck her play deserves then maybe she can find her way to the final table. It would be great to see the brute force of Rybin squaring off against the elegance and trickery of Nikitina heads up for the title.
Day Four is the day that we play down to a final table of six players. It promises to be a grueling shift, as the fast pace will no doubt make way for a more cautious and edgy atmosphere. Action begins at 13:00 (local time) and you can catch all of the action at WPT.com.