Ilkin Garibli is confident, poised, and in control. He has plenty of chips, and has demonstrated a knowing appreciation of what it takes to succeed in a High Roller event. Which makes it even more remarkable that this is Garibli’s first live tournament.
Garibli, from Azerbaijan, nearly didn’t play this tournament. But a change of mind has proved fortuitous. Among the leaders during the event, he’s now in the final seven, and guaranteed to pick up a sizable payday and leave an impression on the entire festival.
“It’s my first time I decided to play a tournament,” said Garibli. “I normally just play cash games with friends. And as you can see it’s worked out quite well.”
The previously unknown Ilkin Garibli
Garibli was in the Bahamas on holiday with family. His friends, regulars on the tour, were also here for the PCA. They managed to persuade Garibli to stay on, despite his aversion to tournaments.
“I prefer cash games,” he said. “These (tournaments) take too long, I don’t have enough patience. But I can’t complain anymore.”
He can’t complain because he’s now guaranteed more than $221,000 for his first cash. That will at least give him a Hendon Mob page and something of a reputation. But Garibli, whose home is in Azerbaijan but who studied banking and finance in London, has his eye on only one prize.
“To be honest I’m happy I cashed, but let’s just say I’d rather win first place. The pay jumps between sixth and seventh don’t really affect me that much. So I’m going for the big money. I hope that can happen.”
Such confidence has been on display from the start. Garibli is up against some of the best players in the game, but does not seem fazed. Quite the opposite. Wearing shorts, polo shirt and cap, he looks like any other poker player. But his self-belief is something different.
“Probably because I’ve been running quite good I can’t really say that they have a huge edge on me right now,” said Garibli. “But obviously I know they’re ten times better than I am. We’ll see how it goes.”
Regardless of what happens today we can expect to see more of Garibli, who plans trips to Malta and Monaco. But first he has the closing stage of the PCA to contend with.
“I’m feeling comfortable,” he said at the last break, with a stack set to bloom to more than 4 million in the next level. “Having the chip leader on my left, three seats to my left, is a bit tough. He’s very active today. But we’ll see how that goes.”
It looks set to go on for some time yet.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.