Igor Kurganov has had a crazy few days in Vegas – first he played and busted the 2017 Super High Roller Bowl, entered the $10,000 Tag Team event with girlfriend Liv Boeree and they each won their first bracelets. After taking winner photos and giving a couple interviews, Kurganov jumped right into the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop, which you can watch in full – live – on PokerGO.com.
Winning a bracelet has been a dream of both, years before they ever met. “Well, really even when I was not really playing poker yet, but just starting to watch it and get into it around 07’ and ’08, I already knew of bracelets,” said Kurganov. “So, I wanted one then and I started playing here every year and didn’t get one, and didn’t get one and didn’t think a bracelet would happen because of the No Limit fields being so big. So instead, I thought I should just have to get two with Liv, so it’s even better.”
“It’s just starting to sink in,” said Boeree. “I woke up today and was like, ‘Something feels good, was that a dream? No? Igor, did we win a bracelet yesterday?’ He was like, ‘Yeah!’ It’s been a dream to win a bracelet since I got into poker 11 years ago.”
“It’s always been a goal and I never really had success at the Rio – always in Europe, but never here,” she added. “To win it with him – the love of my life…You can’t even make it up. It’s just unbelievable, it really is.”
Those that have followed poker over the past couple of years have been exposed the couple’s relationship and are used to seeing them being completely silly with each other.
They wear their love for each other on their sleeves and wanted to win the event for the other, rather than themselves. “Sometimes people say that they are playing for the bracelet and not the money and I’ve never been that type,” said Kurganov. “I’ve always wanted the money over the bracelet, but with this one the ratio is just way better as you get two bracelets.”
“The money is a bit smaller than some other events but it was really fantastic to win one,” he added “Also, this bracelet will mean more to me in life than any other event. To me, it’s this bracelet, the One Drop and the Main Event.”
Boeree played on Day 1 and most of Day 2, but didn’t feel the pressure until they got deep. Kurganov tapped Boeree in a couple of times during the final table when he wanted a short break. “I definitely felt the pressure at the final table,” Boeree said. “I said to myself, ‘I’m just going to be solid’, but then I look down at ace king and I’m like, ‘Oh man, here we go.’ So I open, then defend and get check-raised on the flop on a jack-high board. Luckily he shut down on the turn and I took the pot.”
“It’s hard, when you’re playing you’ve built up that stack and understand the dynamics of the table,” she added. “It’s hard to play when you jump in and out and play in little pockets, so I felt more pressure there.”
Liv Boeree during the Tag Team event supporting Death Wish Coffee. (Photo: PokerPhotoArchive.com)
“I asked him the same thing, and he said, ‘No, to be honest I was so laser focused on the win I didn’t let it happen.’ He’s very good at mind control, not letting anything his mind,” Boeree added. “I’m sure it was hard because I knew how bad I wanted it.”
“I definitely was even hungrier and wanted it more, but as soon as we got down to heads-up and the stakes were higher, there was a $100,000 difference, but the stakes were much higher in my mind,” said Kurganov. “The thing with heads-up play is that you either win or lose, no matter the stakes. It’s a zero or one type of game and it didn’t really change my play as I was really focused and tried to play my best.”
Following the win the couple announced that they would donate half of their winnings in the event to REG – a charity they co-founded with Philipp Gruissem. With such a generous gift on the night of one of their highest accomplishments, one wonders if it felt better to win or to give?
“Well one enables the other,” Kurganov said. “I think in the end, giving certainly makes me feel better. We all have that feeling on Christmas when your relative opens the gift you gave them – you feel really good inside. Internally their smile is gratifying. So, I think this is longer lasting and the thing to do. If you look at happiness research, the thing you see that makes more people happy is giving.”
Igor and Liv shared a special moment at the Feature Table. (Photo: PokerPhotoArchive.com)
“Um, well I haven’t sent the check yet (laughs),” joked Boeree. “Doing what we’re doing with REG is by far the most satisfying thing I’ve done with my life. It’s actually the most meaningful thing I’ve done.”
“It’s just different, you know – I think one is probably a more lasting satisfaction where winning is like a high,” she added. “I want to be careful and let myself get wrapped up in it too much, because that can happen. When you feel the highest of highs and you come back down to normal, it feels comparatively low and that’s not good. I want to keep grounded.”
“Knowing you’re making a positive impact is a great thing,” she added. “But winning feels pretty damn good.”