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A few weeks ago, an iconic phrase from the online poker world popped into my head – “I wont million.” The phrase, which means “I want the million,” originated from the amazing run of the Russian microstakes regular at the final table of the 2012 WCOOP Main Event, Marat “Maratik” Sharafutdinov.
For those of you who are not familiar with his story, here’s a quick recap: Maratik was 39 at the time of his victory and had been grinding microstakes Sit&Gos for almost 4 years. His improbable run to become the WCOOP ME champion began with a 40 FPP satellite. After qualifying through five more successive satellites, Maratik eventually won a $5,200 ticket to the Main Event.

Most microstakes grinders would have probably cashed in the ticket at that point, but Maratik not only entered the event, he also reached the final table. With only six players left, Maratik was sitting with the second biggest chip stack. Up against world-class competition and in the midst of a six-way deal negotiation, Maratik, who didn’t speak much English, confidently stated, “I wont million,” and refused to agree to a deal on any other terms. As negotiations continued, he finally agreed to accept $900,000 with $100,000 left for the eventual winner. With $900K already in his pocket, Maratik swept the remaining competition and became the winner of the Main Event and an instant millionaire.

Later it came out that Maratik sold part of his action on a Russian poker forum while he was half way through the event. After he won, he paid all his backers and gave an interview to PokerStars where he seemed like a nice guy. He even had a quote from Gandhi in his Russian forum profile, after all.

At that point, many were drawing parallels with the famous Moneymaker run of 2003, which sparked the poker boom. Just like Maratik, Moneymaker was an average guy who went through several satellites on PokerStars to win his WSOP ME ticket, after which he won the whole thing. Granted, Maratik’s victory did take place online, not live, but his popularity in the Russian poker community in the days after his win was huge. However, as we all know, no regional poker boom ever took place, so what happened?

It has been almost two years since Maratik’s amazing run. I went to check out his profile on GipsyTeam, the biggest Russian poker forum, and to my surprise, I found that he’s been banned for almost a year. Apparently, he started blogging there soon after his big win so I went to check out his blog. The blog started out pretty well and turned into a sort of running AMA. And then the shit really hit the fan.

After about a week of blogging, it turned out that all of that money he won had cost him quite a few “friends” who seemed too jealous of Maratik’s success. Things then spiraled out of control even further when he started blogging drunk as his inebriation led him to say some regretful, irretrievable things.

At one point, he arrogantly stated, “I was the best player at that final table and could easily crush them any day.” That was a stupid thing to say, but hey, it’s comparable to Ryan Reiss saying he is the best player in the world after winning the WSOP ME, so it’s not that bad, right?

The next red light came when the topic of one well-known member of the Russian poker community came up. Presumably this individual was suffering from alcoholism at the time and Maratik offered the following, insensitive advice, “Everyone needs to tell him that he is a piece of shit for at least a week, and once he realizes that he is, offer him help if he wants it.”

Considering that treatment for such an affliction in Russia is scarcely available, advice like this is not completely stupid from the standpoint of an average Russian, although by now, his readers started raising questions about Maratik as a person. It didn’t help his image when, soon after offering advice to his brethren, Maratik admitted that he himself had started drinking daily after his win.

At this point, Maratik could have easily turned things around, but he just continued drinking and saying stupid and increasingly outrageous things. A few times he posted sober, apologizing for the things he had said earlier. That’s right, he apologized a few times…only to top off each apology by coming back the same evening drunk and repeating the same offensive things all over again.

Seemed like the moment when most readers finally turned on him for good was when someone posted some insults aimed at Maratik because of the things he had said previously and he, obviously drunk, responded to the reader by threatening to “cut out his whole family.” Trying to cover up his threat, he later deleted the post and claimed that he never wrote anything like that.

After seeing that, I realized that I was reading another story of a major meltdown, but this time it wasn‘t the tale of a lottery winner with poor money management skills. Instead, it was the woesome account of a buffudled poker player, a WCOOP ME winner at that, who didn‘t know when to keep his mouth shut.

Over the next month, Maratik’s blog mostly consisted of him posting drunk stupidities and random rants. A considerable number of his readers, who were then mostly just trolling, started outwardly insulting him in order to provoke him. Others tried to help and give him advice, but he didn’t seem to care. In fact, at one point, he started blogging about random stuff that had nothing to do with poker as if nothing had ever happened, ignoring any questions that were asked about the things he had written in the past. Of course, by this time the only questions people had for him focused on the content in his prior blog posts.

With alcoholism obviously starting to affect him more and more, his posts grew even more bizarre. By the start of his third month as a popular blogger, he thrashed another Russian pro who emigrated to the UK after a big score. Maratik claimed that the player emigrated only because he wanted to avoid taxes and didn’t respect Russia. He also labeled the individuals who criticized him as “dumb sheep” and went on to say that he only writes for “smart and creative people.” In response to numerous questions that read something like, „How stupid do you have to be to fuck up your reputation like this?“ Maratik reluctantly answered that he didn‘t care about his reputation.

In his last week of blogging, Maratik touched upon the subject of his WCOOP ME bracelet which he was supposed to receive at the PCA in January. He starting the post by writing, “I noticed that PokerStars support answered a lot quicker when I was grinding microstakes. I guess because I’m not playing much now and not bringing in any rake for them, I have to wait for a response much longer.”

He then went on to say that he would not go to the Bahamas to get his bracelet because, by his “careful projections,” the trip would cost about $5,000 and PokerStars had only offered him $1,500 for a plane ticket. He continued by concluding that since PokerStars was offering him less money than what he thought a ticket would cost, the world’s most respected online poker room would likely try to “rip him off” in some other way, too, like screwing him over with his hotel room.

So, in the end, the newly-crowned Russian poker millionaire chose not to attend the bracelet ceremony because he thought PokerStars was trying to rip him off for a few thousand dollars. At one point, though, he seemed to have found a “good deal” to get to the Bahamas through Miami, but as any true “Russian patriot” would do, he instantly rejected the idea because he didn’t want to go anywhere close to or in the US.

When the dust settled, Maratik said he wanted to sell his bracelet and hoped to get as much as $50K for it. That is, he hoped for that much until someone told him he was delusional if he thought anyone would pay more than a few hundred bucks for it. Maratik countered by saying he still wanted to sell the piece of jewelry for “at least something.”

Another example of the new champion’s non-existent humility was his rant about how another Russian poker site sent him an e-mail about doing an interview. In reality, they sent him an e-mail about doing an interview long before that time, but he declined because they didn’t offer him any money. This time, they asked him if he was willing to make a video recording of him wishing a happy new year to the Russian poker community…for free, obviously. Well, Maratik was genuinely appalled at the request, accusing the site’s representatives of being “incompetent prostitutes” simply because they dared to ask him to do the video without offering him any money. Now, that statement should be in the dictionary as an example of irony, don’t you think?

During these three months, it seemed that GypsyTeam’s moderators had handled the situation in the best way they could, sometimes going so far as banning him in the evening until the next morning so he wouldn’t post while drunk and ruin his reputation further. That didn’t stop Maratik from attacking the moderators, however, for everything from being unprofessional to making accusations that they made “tons of money” off of the viewership of his blog. Maratik also spewed tons of insults and a shared a few “theories” he had that would make any farmer who was abducted by aliens jealous.

All the while, his ship was sinking fast though and the combined personal attacks levied against them was the last straw for the moderators. The last message in Maratik’s blog was from a moderator and it explained that the former WCOOP ME champ was banned for life and his blog was permanently closed.

The ban came at the end of November, 2012, and after searching for information about what happened to Maratik next, I couldn’t find much except for a few articles published in 2013 which stated that Maratik was “looking for a job.” I figured that was the end of the story until I stumbled onto another blog of his on an obscure Russian poker website that continued running after he was banned from GipsyTeam and is still running to this day.

Seems that after he was banned by Gipsyteam his other blog also abruptly stopped for over 10 months before continuing without any indication of what had happened during that time. One could presume that Maratik was rehabbing, but later entries proved that he was still happily drinking although it seemed like he wasn’t imbibing as much as before. So, even now it remains unclear as to what exactly happened during those 10 months.

Maratik returned to blogging just in time for the 2013 WCOOP and actually tried to sell action to the Main Event which, unsurprisingly, no one bought from him. It seemed, however, that Maratik was no longer posting drunk as his posts were now clean and edited with nothing to suggest that this same person posted borderline insane things in another blog just a year ago.

On October 30, 2013, Maratik departed for Thailand where he had no intention of joining the international poker community there. Instead, he went abroad because he just wanted to get away from it all. Reading his posts from when he was living there, for a moment it seemed that he might actually get his life back together. That is, that seemed possible until he moved back to Russia.

He returned home as recently as March and the signs of the same old Maratik were instantly evident in his blog posts. In a way it’s sad because even after all that happened to him, it seemed that Maratik did have the potential to change his life for the better. Rather than that, it seems that he decided to return to what is familiar to him. If a million bucks couldn’t change that, then it seems that nothing will.

A few months ago, Maratik went on a heartfelt soul search, writing a lengthy post where he admitted that he handled the whole situation very poorly and that depression and alcoholism got the better of him which caused his whole life to spiral out of control. He further wrote that breaking his routine, moving to Thailand and living there for a while really helped him get his life back together. He also said that he does not want to live in the past and that he is now looking forward to the future.

Like many other things goals he set for himself, however, this is unlikely to happen. Seems that two years later, after traveling the world, seeing and experiencing a lot more than ever before, the only thing that changed about him is his blogging tone. All of this may have helped him get over his depression and alcoholism, but despite his changed tone and an eagerness to seem wiser, it is clear from his posts that nothing about him changed as a person. There are no more drunk posts and mind-blowing rants, though that’s hardly reflected in his readership as only a few dozen loyal followers still visit his blog which is now rarely updated. It’s more than possible that most of the people in the Russian poker community have forgotten all about him or remember him only as the “drunk who got lucky.”

On the other hand, Maratik never seemed to care about any of that. Despite the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that fell into his lap overnight, he never seemed interested or capable of taking advantage of it and, as a result, the whole situation got the better of him. As things went along, he simply fell into his regular routine and is now still the same shallow person who emerged for the first three months of posting in his old blog.
Maratik did finally visit Monte Carlo in late April and finally received his bracelet from his 2012 WCOOP ME win. Of course, along the way he was compelled to mention that Monte Carlo sucked because there was no free Wi-Fi anywhere and he had to pay 2 euros for parking.

Reading all of this, I thought about what could have been if a sane person from Russia won the same event instead of him. If there was any success story of a Russian player, which could have led to the Moneymaker boom in Russia, this was it. Instead of any of that happening, all we got was Troll McDrunky who only managed to portray the worst of what a poker player can be despite having a million dollars in his pocket.