Published on
Update on

We have mostly been focusing on the United States and the poker action that takes place here. However, there’s more to that. Following the coverage of the Triton Series in Jeju, South Korea and Sochi, Russia, we are now fixating our eye on a different jurisdiction – Ukraine. The country has just made a significant push towards the legalization of poker.

From a Game to Sport

Ukraine has effectively recognized poker as a game of skill, and more – a sport. The game is now featured in the Register of Recognized Sports, which is part of the Ministry of Youth and Sport of Ukraine’s Document 3780. Because of the move, anti-gambling laws will no longer impede the game’s progress and expansion.

It’s not unprecedented to see poker become a sport in the country, though. Up until 2010, poker was indeed treated as a sport, but it then fell out of grace and was relegated to a status of a debauched hobby. After the downfall of poker, the legal climate became nearly unbearable. Established operators, such as the iPoker Network had to leave the market.

Companies that had hosted and run events before 2010 were now on the rocks unable to maintain their operations. The Supreme Court of Ukraine sided with the clubs in 2013 when it ruled out that poker is legal only insofar as tournaments go. This move effectively deprived Ukrainian players from their training grounds. Not only that, but poker operators began leaving the country to avoid legal embroilment with the Ukrainian government.

And it now all has to be rebuilt. This will take some time, but the country already has experience and a sufficient number of competitors who have been making a name for themselves on the international scene.

Ukrainians are Known in the World of Poker

Ukraine, though, has exported some of its best players abroad with the names of Eugene Katchalov and Yevgeny Timoshenko, Oleksii Khoroshenin, and Artem Metalidi standing tall in the world of poker. Metalidi has managed to finish eight in the latest edition of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Ukrainians had been forced to play mostly abroad or opt for off shore unregulated poker rooms, which accept and allow players from the country to keep their competitive edge well-honed. As the regulations are applied though, operators such as the iPoker Network may return after their adamant retreat and offer opportunities afresh to poker pros.

The hoping here is that all of these established professionals will be able to sort out the local rookies and show them there is a way to become astute gamers themselves. Of course, not all will be busy with mentoring, but if operators of the stature of Party Poker and PokerStars return to the country, ambassadors will be needed.

This will be an excellent opportunity for everyone involved to truly shine and turn the Ukrainian market into a vibrant place for future poker players to win big money. It will certainly be some time before we see grand events of the stature of EPT Barcelona come to Kiev, for example, but if the regulatory wrinkles don’t ever come up again, it’s very likely.