Mikita Badziakouski
How has Mikita Badziakouski risen into the top 10 of the All-Time Money List in just 13 years?

Ask poker fans to name a player who is in the top 10 on the All-Time Money List and the last name they’ll state would probably be Mikita Badziakouski. The Belarussian, whose first live tournament cash only came in 2010 in Kiev, sits between Fedor Holz and Dan Smith on the all-time money list in 9th place.

Above Badziakouski, legends of the game such as Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu and Justin Bonomo vie with him for supremacy. Below him, however, sit stars of the game such as Phil Ivey (11th), Steve O’Dwyer (14th) and Phil Hellmuth (21st).

Just how has such a comparatively young player as Badziakouski managed to surpass them by the age of 30 without becoming a household name?

The Origins of a Superstar

“I was due to become obsessed with the game [of poker].”

Badziakouski always had a love of card games, indeed games in general. Back as a partypoker pro, he told the site: “When I was 5 years old I started learning chess and when I got to 10 I was already spending hours playing card games.” This was a poker legend in the making. By 12, the young Belarussian had a knowledge of sportsbetting. He was fixated with it, playing the odds for four solid years. When he was 16, he discovered the game of poker.

“Since I was a kid my biggest passions were intellectual rivalry and gambling,” he continues in that interview from February 2019.  “Poker was the ideal mix of both. I was due to become obsessed with the game.”

That obsession has seen Badziakouski cashed for over $41,000,000 in live ranking tournaments, a total he reached after his latest success in Monte Carlo, where he won the €25,000-entry High Roller for just over a million dollars.

“I started to play very young and never had any other jobs. I was fortunate enough to win straight away,” says Badziakouski of his emergence in poker’s elite. “My whole adult life, I’ve been playing poker.”

It was 13 years ago that a young Badziakouski began playing mid-stakes Russian Poker Tour events in Ukraine, where his first major cashes came. He signed up to PokerStars, playing under the pseudonym ‘fish2013’. But that was only the beginning of his incredible ride to prominence. As he grew his bankroll, he began playing high roller events. He soon starting crushing them too.

A High Roller Hero

It was in 2018 that Badziakouski won the biggest prize of his poker career to date, taking down the HK2,000,000 Triton Super High Roller Series Main Event for $5,257,027 in Jeju, South Korea. That remains his biggest live tournament cash, but it is far from his only one. In the same year, he took down the €100,000 Super High Roller at the EPT in Barcelona for $1.9 million. A year later, he won the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in Montenegro playing Short Deck for $1.7million.

All this time, the Belarussian flew under the radar. If someone placed a microphone in front of him, he would speak eloquently about the game. Partypoker rightly saw fit to make him an ambassador, and he proudly wore their badge. And yet this quiet man whose adult life has been played out at the poker felt attracted little attention, seeking it even less.

Any player who gets themselves into the all-time money list’s top 10 is not only a great poker player, but a unique one. To win that much money requires years of dedication, hours upon hours most weeks absorbing new trends, strategies and directions of play. Anticipating the game of poker’s direction is akin to holding onto the eye of the hurricane in a creaking rowboat. Lose focus for a second and you can be left stranded.

Badziakouski’s focus remains incredible and is always laser-sighted on the top prize.

A Man in Form

It was in 2021 that Badziakouski won his first and only WSOP bracelet to date. Crushing a final table that included Stephen Chidwick, Daniel Negreanu and Ali Imsirovic, Badziakouski took down the $50,000-entry No Limit Hold’em High Roller for $1.46 million. Not content with that signpost win, he headed to the ARIA, taking three outright wins and a third-place finish for over $750,000. Badziakouski was becoming a bully at the higher stakes.

In 2020, he took down the partypoker MILLIONS Sochi Super High Roller Series event for $765,000. Less than a week later, he came third in the $250,000 Super High Roller Bowl in the same festival, banking another $1.6 million.

In recent years, the post-pandemic Badziakouski has become even more ruthless. In Belarussian terms, he is out on his own. Topping the all-time list for winning tournament players in Belarus, Badziakouski has more than ten times the winnings of his nearest challenger, Aliaksandr Shylko. No-one is close to achieving what he has from his homeland.

Mikita in Monte Carlo
Mikita at the felt in Monte Carlo, on his way to winning his latest high roller event (photo credit: Manuel Kovsca/PokerStars).

Making It In Monte Carlo

It was perhaps fitting that his latest epic six-figure cash was in Monte Carlo. Badziakouski’s first-ever six-figure score came in the principality. In the €25,000 buy-in High Roller, 211 players entered with hopes of winning the million-dollar top prize. By the end of Day 1, only 95 remained. The top 10 saw their names in lights. Badziakouski bagged the 11th-highest stack, just off the radar. On Day 2, he rose higher, climbing to third place on the list of the final 23 players who survived. By then, the money was reached, with 31 paid, but Badziakouski only thought of winning.

The final table of eight players was reached with Badziakouski timing his run perfectly, as he took the overall lead in the event. The latter stages of the final were almost predictable as he crushed a field that included Steve O’Dwyer and Daniel Dvoress.

Quietly accumulating chips without involving himself in the early all-ins, Badziakouski waited until five were left before eliminating Felipe Ketzer. Next, he took out O’Dwyer in fourth place. Then Enrico Camosci in third.

Suddenly, Badziakouski held a 3:1 lead on Ben Heath, the British high roller. That lead would be ground away, but with the stacks almost level, Badziakouski and Heath agreed a deal, smoothing out the edges of the payments.

Win or lose, good luck or bad, Badziakouski himself of thinking of how to get the best out of the situation. The deal was done, the cards were flipped and fortune smiled on the Belarussian too, as he took the trophy.

EPT 2023 Monte Carlo €25,000 High Roller Final Table Results:

Place Name Country Prize
1st Mikita Badziakouski Belarus $1,023,234
2nd Ben Heath United Kingdom $1,023,234
3rd Enrico Camosci Malta $521,139
4th Steve O’Dwyer U.S.A. $400,876
5th Felipe Ketzer Brazil $308,374
6th Daniel Dvoress Canada $240,853
7th Roman Samoylov Israel $200,710
8th Igor Yaroshevskyy Ukraine $167,277

“My first interaction with poker happened at the age of 16 when I watched episodes of Main Event [at the] WSOP and the idea of coming to this special event became one of my dreams.” Badziakouski said of the biggest tournament of them all. He hasn’t won the WSOP Main Event, of course.

Not yet.