Eugene Katchalov to return to WSOP, pledges share of winnings to Ukrainian charity

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: May 22, 2022 04:14 PDT

Semi-retired poker pro Eugene Katchalov has announced that he will return to live poker this summer by playing a full slate of events at the 2022 World Series of Poker. Katchalov, whose flight from Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion of the country in March drew wide coverage, announced his plans on Friday on social media.

"Happy to announce my return to the #WSOP this year," he wrote on Twitter. "I miss playing poker, and doing so for a great cause that I'm passionate about makes it all the more important. Big thanks to @poker_match and @PocketFives for their support with this!"

Katchalov spoke with in early March about his and his wife's harrowing flight to Hungary, which took place over two days and took them on a circuitous route from Kyiv to the Hungaran border, through numerous checkpoints, questionable fuel availability, and the fears of air attack or being waylaid and robbed amid a near-lawless situation. As it was, as a America citizen (though a long-time Ukraine resident), Katchalov was fortunate in even being able to leave Ukraine for a safer locale. Just days earlier, Ukraine forbade all of its own male citizens aged 18 to 60 from exiting the control as part of emergency measures to combat Russia's invasion.

Staking package to be offered

PocketFives will be launching a staking package for Katchalov on Wednesday. Katchalov also disclosed that he'll be playing in at least 20 events through the course of the seven-week series. Though specific events haven't been announced, it will almost certainly include the Main Event, which begins in early July. Katchalov's last recorded tournament cash came in July 2018 in that year's WSOP Main Event. Since then, Katchalov and another semi-retired European pro, Italy's Luca Pagano, have focused their efforts on building their QLASH esports startup, which has grown into one of Europe's largest in its niche.

Then there's PokerMatch, a former PokerDom network site which now operates as a Ukraine-based standalone site that accepts players from other jurisdiction. The exact nature of PokerMatch's sponsorship of Katchalov's WSOP package hasn't been detailed, but there's certainly an element of Ukrainian nationality and pride involved. Though Katchalov hasn't cashed in a live event in several years, he remains Ukraine's career tournament-winnings leader by a wide margin. The staking package offered on PocketFives will likely be in addition to PokerMatch's sponsorship.

Besides the Main Event, Katchalov's other chosen events will likely include numerous high buy-in no-limit hold'em offerings, where he specialized in his later live years. He cashed in many six-max and other NLHE variants as well, and there's also a chance he'll play in one or two seven-card stud events, another format where he excels.

Ten percent of winnings pledged to Ukrainian service charity

While Katchalov certainly hopes for a great and profitable series for both himself and his sponsors, he'll also be raising money for an unspecified Ukrainian charity as well. "[Katchalov] is donating a min of 10% of his winnings to a Ukrainian based charity," PocketFives Tweeted.

Katchalov also noted that the donation will be substantially more than the 10%, as PokerMatch will be buying some of Katchalov's available shares and donating 100 percent of the winnings from that to the designated charity fund.

While neither PocketFives nor Katchalov specified the charity in the WSOP context, Katchalov previously announced entering into a partnership with King Baudouin Foundation United States (KBFUS), which in early March, in Katchalov's words, had "quickly initiated the Humanitarian Response Fund for Ukraine." Though not technically Ukraine-based, KBFUS's efforts in offering humanitarian aid to Ukraine parallel Katachlov's own stated desire to use his public platform to support similar efforts.

Featured image source: QLASH