Vladimir Geshkenbein – A Scammer Or A Degenerate Genius?

Vladimir “Beyne” Geshkenbein is  not a figure you forget. He walks down the hallways like no other using very big steps as if trying to be the first to reach the poker table. His eyes gaze into the distance like he is still thinking about that last hand he just played. And if that isn’t enough to recognize him, Vladimir’s signature item is his leather jacket that he wears to almost every poker game.

Geshkenbein made his first major splash in the live tournament circuit in 2009 when he took down the APPT High Roller for $266,705 by beating none other than Johnny Chan heads-up. His next big coup came in 2011 when he took down $552,901 at EPT Snowfest – this was the first time my personal radar picked up on him. He was three handed against two of my very good friends: Kevin Vandersmissen and Koen De Visscher. It wasn’t enough that he beat my friends, he also cost me quite some money in swaps. But let’s not continue any further with that story – still causes some lingering pain.

A short time later, Vladimir was one of the big winners at the German High Roller TV series. He impressed me with great reads and a fearlessness that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. Vladimir is not a person to give up on a hand that easily which results in a rather volatile playing style. This aggressive playing style translates into a “go big or go home” tournament style for Vladimir. He can often be found either in the top chip counts or out of the tournament after Day 1′s. That is his playing style.

Unfortunately for Vladimir though, as great a player as he is, his bankroll management and his degen trips cause him a lot of trouble and result in him going broke quite often. This has recently brought him into quite some problems.

On May 30, 2013, Vladimir started a staking thread on PokerStrategy where he sold quite a bit of action to the WSOP, some of which included 40% of his WSOP Main Event. He bricked most of the summer, which for an MTT player is nothing too unusual. However, the story started getting interesting on July 8, 2013, when Vladimir posted the following in his staking thread:

“Hi, bad news, very very bad news. I messed up, big mess.”

“I dont have any money anymore. Broke. Zero. Today is the last day of the WSOP Main Event and I only have $500 to my name.”

Vladimir continues to explain how he got into the situation of only being left with $500 despite all of his backers having sent him the money to play the main, putting most of the blame on  having to pay back debts, playing super satellites and doing poorly in cash games.

“I tried everything to play the WSOP Main Event, but in the position I am right now, nobody wants to borrow me any money. I found a good friend who is willing to fully buy me into the WSOP Main Event. Unfortunately that is the only option I have.”

“I will play the WSOP Main Event, but I have to call off all the action booked. Otherwise I have no option to play the Event.”

This by itself is pretty outrageous. It gets even worse once Vladimir survives the first few days and even more so when he is seen sitting with a very healthy chip stack. His old backers are furious. The story spirals up as Geshkenbein goes really deep in the WSOP Main Event. In the end, Geshkenbein falls in 62nd for $123,597.

This brings a big discussion among his backers as well as a heated debate for the poker community. Does Geshkenbein have the right to call off the staking from a package after playing almost all tournaments of that package?

If Geshkenbein only sold action to the WSOP Main Event, I think he would have had the right to pull out as long as he hadn’t played yet. The same goes for if he had pulled out at the beginning of the WSOP, just refunding everybody’s package. This is nothing unusual in the poker world that players sell action only to later on decide not to play or suddenly have enough money to buy in themselves.

What makes this story really questionable is that buying action in a package where a lot of value lies in the Main Event really leaves a very sour taste in the investors mouth.

Furthermore if you run short on money you probably realize this mid series and since he only sold 40% of his action, he could have decided to skip some of the smaller events in order to save up for the Main Event.

One thing that definitely does speak to Geshkenbein’s advantage is the fact that he clearly states in his staking thread:

“Since it is a fairly full schedule, some tournaments are of course canceled (when day is done 2,3,4 or just have a day off). I’ll announce and of course including markup refunden.”

I just doubt that backers were ever expecting him to cancel the WSOP Main Event. If you fly to Vegas to play some serious poker, it won’t get any more serious than the WSOP Main Event.

Geshkenbein definitely did act in the gray area here, however he found a very nice compromise. On July 18 he writes:

“To apologize, I will refund the main event with double ROI.”

A nice gesture by Geshkenbein and while his move to cancel the staking is questionable, I wonder if anybody would have brought up the story if he got out on Day 1 and everybody received their refunds.

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