Igor Kurganov has forged a reputation that everyone from Las Vegas to his place of birth, St. Petersburg in Russia, is aware of. With over $15 million in live tournament earnings alone, the Russian with a German background now counts Las Vegas as one of the cities in the world where he’s been most successful. But it’s become something else to him, too. We caught up with Kurganov to find out why Sin City makes one of poker’s most consistent high rollers tick.

Losing His Vegas Virginity at Age 21

“The first time I came to Vegas, it was at a time when I was definitely not a professional poker player.” Says Kurganov. “I was 21 and it must have been 2010. I qualified on PokerStars which was a surprise because I wasn’t playing buy-ins of that size at the time, I was just playing during University.”

In at the deep end, Kurganov found his first Main Event to be a challenge, but not so much at the table, rather in terms of what happened between days at the felt.

“I didn’t have the mindset of a professional at all. At the end of Day 2 of the Main Event, I had a stack, but we went out and were gambling. I got very drunk and ended up oversleeping the start of Day 3. I only had 13 big blinds and when I woke up at 1.30pm, I realized that I must be blinded out already. That’s the mindset I had back then; I was still gambling and losing money in the pits as well.”

Kurganov looks back on that first Main Event run with irony – it was the furthest he’s ever got in the iconic tournament.

“I think that was probably my deepest ever run I had in the Main Event! Overall, I was really excited to go there. I was very impressed by any pro I would play against. I only saw those people on High Stakes Poker, etc, and I was a $50 online buy-in player.”

The Boeree-Kurganov Tandem

Over the years, Kurganov, now 30, has clearly matured. He and his girlfriend, fellow PokerStars Team Pro Liv Boeree, have won a WSOP bracelet together in the tag team event. They’re very much a team whether at the felt or enjoying the pursuits Las Vegas has to offer.

“The first couple of years that I went to Vegas, I was mostly just playing live and, in the breaks, playing online. I didn’t really know another side to it. I went out to clubs with the German crew at the time. Over the years, especially since I’ve been with Liv, I’ve just started seeing and appreciating that there is another side to it. We go out to Red Rock quite frequently. And do some bouldering as well, there are two very good bouldering places, one of them is the biggest in North America.

Kurganov’s has cashed seven times on the live tournament circuit in 2018, with the PokerStars Team Pro earning a massive $1.1m in the process. He blends enough time at the felt to earn a very good lifestyle with plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

“I don’t go clubbing very much anymore, but I do stay out and enjoy the amazing restaurants that there are in Las Vegas. I look forward to coming to Vegas these days. There are a lot of friends, good food, and also proximity to other great places like Zion, Los Angeles, and San Diego.”

A Continued Love for Las Vegas

With February’s U.S. Poker Open taking place at the Aria, that’s music to Kurganov’s ears – it’s his favorite place to play poker in Las Vegas.

“Whenever timing permits, I do like to play at the Aria, and the Poker Central events quite a lot, because it’s certainly my favorite venue in Las Vegas. I like the structures, it’s well run, it’s just a real pleasure and I like the food at the ARIA as well. I love the opportunity to drop in and play a random $25k when I’m in the U.S. Food is quite a big factor and the ARIA is doing well on that front!”

Igor Kurganov is always a stellar name in any field and he’ll be one of the favorites should he play the forthcoming Super High Roller Bowl in December, with coverage of the event starting on December 17th. There’s a $14.4 million prize-pool and top prize of at least $5,000,000.

The U.S. Poker Open will return on February 13th, with ten tournaments taking place across the festival. You don’t have to miss a thing if you subscribe to PokerGO, with this year’s action all available on-demand on PokerGO too. Looking for more from Igor Kurganov? Listen to the Heads Up with Remko Podcast right here in which he tells his life story. 

Liv Boeree, Igor Kurganov, Road to Las Vegas