Peruse the Day 3 starter list and you'll notice that, although this was an international field that included 12 non-LATAM players, the non-LATAM players under-performed in the tournament. There was only one left in the field to start Day 3. His name is Vladimir Dobrovolskiy, and when I tapped him on the shoulder in between hands, he knew exactly why I wanted to talk to him.
"I'm the only one left," he said with a smile. "I'm a fish out of water."
It's a long way from Dobrovolskiy's home in Moscow to Punta del Este. The flight connections are made through Western Europe and Sao Paulo, with the whole trip typically taking about 25 to 30 hours of flight time. Add travel time to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow and 90 minutes to travel from Montevideo to Punta and it makes for a very, very long trip. You might think there other places, closer to home, that a 22-year-old would prefer to go.
"I won a satellite," Dobrovolskiy explained, when asked why he came to Punta. "My friend Andrei Tsitovich came here last year and had a good tournament."
Tsitovich was the chip leader for long stretches of Day 3 last year but just missed the final table, as it turns out. He finished in 10th place after making a 35-big blind four-bet shove pre-flop with A♦6♦. Eventual champion Alex Komaromi's had three-bet with pocket kings and snap-called. No doubt tales of his success made their way back to Dobrovolskiy in Moscow.
Despite being the only non-LATAM player left in the field, Dobrovolskiy doesn't "stick out like a sore thumb", as the saying goes. He speaks excellent English and has been quite conversant with his table, even welcoming a new player to the table that he had played with yesterday. "Hey, you're still playing?" he asked the newcomer. "Ok!" He gave a thumbs-up.
The "fish out of water" started the day with 62,500 in chips and quickly demonstrated that he's quite comfortable at the poker table. In the first 90 minutes he close to doubled his count without being all in one time. He played ace-queen and pocket kings to perfection (and out of position) while I watched him, taking down medium-sized pots each time. He's also been active from late position, keeping the pressure on the other players at his table.
Beneath Dobrovolskiy's chair are the usual accessories you see at poker tournaments: flip flops, a small bag, and a bottle of the local Patricia brand beer. He produced a netbook from the bag at one point in order to check the blind schedule on the LAPT website and to write a quick post on a Russian-language poker forum, where friends and associates are sweating his progress.
I don't know if Tsitovich is one of the people following Dobrovolskiy from Moscow, but I have to imagine that the desire to better his friend's result is one of the things keeping Dobrovolskiy focused today. Taking down this tournament, and winning the $186,000 top prize that goes with it, would give him bragging rights over a friend and would take the sting out of the long trip home to Moscow.