In August I was nominated for the Most Inspiring Player Award as part of the PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards. I have to admit that I was a little surprised. Up until April, it had been a quiet nine months for me because of my visa problems. I managed to get 4th place in the High Roller event at EPT Berlin, and I took down a side event at the EPT Grand Final, but the WSOP was very difficult for me because I made only two cashes. It was a really poor month.
The award nomination allowed me to think about who inspired me to start playing poker. It seems like a long time ago that I started playing. I guess, like everybody, it was Phil Ivey who inspired me. Five years ago he was really on top of the poker world. He was the guy who was playing a different game than everybody else. I can't think of specific players who improved my game or were my idol, but for me Phil Ivey was a great player at the start of my career.
Now my inspiration is keeping my own results, and my own reputation, at a very high level. When I won EPT Kiev in 2009, I made a name for myself. Now I'm just trying to keep myself at the same level. There aren't too many good Russian players who play high stakes. You can count on one hand, maybe two hands, the great players. The average skill is not as high in Russian as it is in Europe or the United States. When a Russian makes a really good result, it's great for all of us.
That's a big motivator for me, but I have to admit that I think it's time for me to start mixing poker with some kind of business. I'm feeling the need for a little change in my life. I want to put out another fishing line, a non-poker line. I know how much money I can win in poker. I want to put some energy into something else, a business with my friends.
I'm not sure exactly what kind of business it will be, and it will have to wait at least a few more months. Right now I'm planning to move from Russia to Europe. All I need is some government documents. While I wait for them, I'm going to spend a few more months focusing exclusively on poker. But once they arrive I'll put my plan into action.
I'll still play high-level poker and play lots of tournaments after the move. My inspiration for that will continue to come from trying to be one of the best Russian poker players, and one of the best all-around players, in the world. It's just that I'll have something else that I can focus on when I'm not playing poker.
That brings me back to the PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards. If someone sees something inspiring in me, then great! I don't want to say I don't care, because at a small level I do, but honestly I'm just trying to play poker. Every time I sit down at the table, I'm trying to play my best game. If somebody wants to award me for that, I'll gladly accept it - but I'll feel normal about it.
Maxim Lykov is a member of Team PokerStars Pro