Poker as a game has taken years to evolve in India and there are thousands of people responsible for making what it is in the country today. But amongst these thousands there are a elite few who occupy the powerful spots. These are the men who have set up the protocols for Indian poker and are the biggies who rule the roost of Indian poker.
Presenting the A-List of Poker in India comprising of the biggest Poker Barons, Poker Organisers and Poker Players. Their contribution to Indian poker in 2013-14 has been the biggest. OPN has after weeks of scouting narrowed down a hundred names to a dozen to present the ‘Poker Honchos of India‘.
AAKRITI BHATNAGAR, our on the move poker reporter presents the first ever Poker Power List of Indian Poker. For clarity we have divided the names in 3 categories- Poker Barons- the men who govern the business aspect of poker, Poker Organisers- These are the men who organise poker tournaments to keep the poker scene alive and the Poker Players- These are the men who actually set the Indian poker felt on fire. The names are in no particular order! Drumrolls!
Mr. Jaydev Mody (Non-Executive Chairman of the Deltin Corp)— POKER BARON
Jaydev Mody is the 58-year-old chairman of Delta Corp Ltd, one of the leading players in the gaming/gambling industry in our country. Delta Corp owns and operates two of the biggest casinos in the Goa waters and another is upcoming in Daman. Casino Deltin Royale and Casino Deltin Jaqks are the biggest stake holders in the Indian poker industry and Jaydev Mody is the man who calls the shots. He has been creating, developing and managing businesses for more than 35 years. He ‘retired’ at the age of 50 but boredom and the lure of ‘gambling’ brought him back to the professional world.
Delta Corp (derived from gaming lingo dealt-in), under his leadership got into the gaming business between 2008-10 with Casino Royale Goa and King’s Casino. But one was not enough for Mr. Mody, who now has 3 of the 5 offshore casino licenses given by the Goa Government. In the last 6 years. Delta Corp has gone from 1-ship, 10-12 table operation to 200 tables today. Not only that, besides Goa, Delta Corp has a presence in Sikkim and now Daman with 100 tables. Sri Lanka is in his sight now as the next place to set up some tables.
In his words- “I bumped into people who said a new policy will allow gaming in Goa. I love uncertainty, that’s why I owned horses even when I could not afford them. I have always been to a casino whenever overseas. I understand it well. It sounded like a great idea to put up a casino for a lark.”
Ref: Live Mint
Albert Climent – Founder of Pokerwala and Advisor at Asia Gambling Brief—- POKER ORGANISER
Albert Climent has over 12 years of experience with more than 5 years in online gaming industry in India and Europe. Climent is involved in poker network management, regulatory matters, strategic deals etc. in the world of poker. He plays dual roles. One, as the founder of Pokerwala and the other, as an advisor at Asia Gambling Brief. In his role in Pokerwala, Climent brings poker info and updates on offers. The project aims to be both fun and educational. They focus on news, tournaments and achievements of Indian players in live and online events.
The Asia Gambling Brief provide market information of relevant gaming issues in India like specific market and legal challenges, new regulations and their implications for the industry, governance and compliance issues etc. Climent was also the Chairperson and Organizer of the ICE India event held on 4-6 February 2014. The session titled“India Gaming Seminar” was a day-long event in London and discussed trends and opportunities in the gaming industry, regulation of online gambling, growth of the “skill games industry in India” (rummy and poker) and potential of the social gaming industry.
Sameer Rattonsey and Peter Abraham (India Poker Championship)—POKER ORGANISER
In March 2010, the poker scene in India saw excitement in the face of India Poker Championship. The master minds behind this popular tournament are Sameer Rattonsey and Peter Abraham. Their obsessive passion for the game induced them to instill the same love of poker in Indian players. They aimed to create a world-class poker experience for the poker enthusiasts who could exhibit their skill sets and have fun reaping huge rewards. They succeeded. This event was initially held in a quarterly basis but popularity forced it to concert into a bi-monthly event in 2011.
Sameer Rattonsey is also a poker player regular in the Asian Poker Circuit for the past few years. In April 2013, he secured the 3rd place in APT Manila, $250 NL : Head hunter Event winning $1,700. Sameer also had a wonderful 2013 in the Indian tournament scene winning the Main Event as well as the 15K Bounty Event at the GAPL in November.
Besides being a founder of IPC, Peter Abraham is also the editor of Gutshot Magazine.
In the words of Sameer – “We need some really good management for the poker rooms with an extremely professional setup. Players need more opportunities to play besides Goa and Gangtok. All pros need to accept and treat poker like a sport and respect it and the players around. If we don’t respect the game we cannot expect others to. I don’t think there are enough opportunities for players at the moment to turn into full time pros. That being said if you are seriously considering poker full time, please talk to the experienced players and take their valuable advice. The few pros we have currently have learnt it the hard way and if they have survived, then they are doing something right.”
Abhishek Goindi – POKER PLAYER
Abhishek Goindi arrived in the poker scene in 2011 when he won multiple events at the India Poker series(IPS) and India Poker Championship(IPC). He has not looked back since and his name is synonymous now with high ranked Poker players in India. He has inspired many in India to start playing poker and has exemplified that playing Poker can be a career choice.
His consistency can be seen by the fact how he has managed to finish 8 times in the money in 6 editions (i.e. a total of 24 individual tournaments) of the IPC. This is the highest number of money finishes ever for any player in the IPC. Interestingly, he is the only player to cash in every single edition of the IPC.
Goindi is making a mark in the international scene as well by finishing having a impressive 2nd place finish at the Feb 2012 MPC Red Dragon Main Event for an HKD 1,056,500 ($136,303) payday. To make it a great 2012, he also went on to win the High Roller Event of APT-Asian Series in Manila in Sept 2012 and displayed he has expertise outside NLHE when he was placed 7th in the Pot Limit Omaha Event. Till date, Goindi has won $225,112 in live tournament earnings and is now headed to the coveted Red Dragon event 2014 which is the signature event of Macau Poker Cup to add to his winnings.
Aditya Agarwal – ‘Intervention’— POKER PLAYER
The one name that is synonymous with Indian poker and best known abroad is Aditya Agarwal aka Intervention. He is the best known face in the Indian Poker circuit for the past 8 years and has traveled the International tournament circuit extensively. Known as ‘Intervention’ in poker circles, this pro- poker player has many poker glories to his name including six figure online wins at PokerStars. His poker victories have gained him substantial winnings with total live earnings of $325,474. (Source: Hendon Mob Database)
In the live tournament arena, Agarwal entered the international poker circuit in 2006 at the Borgata Summer Open in Atlanta City. With career winnings of $325,474, Agarwal has played at the WSOP ten times. His last attempt was in 2013 where where he was placed 212 in Event 62 winning $42,990. In 2012, he cashed twice in the 43rd World Series of Poker finishing 19th in Event 59 and 99th in Event 56. He won $20,499 for the former finish and $4,722 for the second finish. Agarwal is the sum total of everything that the Indian poker scene has to offer currently. He also owns a poker information/news website based in India.
Ashok Kumar Khetrapal (Pride Group) —-POKER BARON
Ashok Kumar Khetrapal is the silent man who is driving poker. He has lead the Pride Group to its current avatar. The Pride Group Started with Hotel Neo Majestic in 2007 and has gradually built its strong family of four casinos and two Five Star hotels. Hotel Neo Majestic and Hotel La Calypso are the two hotels with Casino Paradise and Casino Palms respectively. The other two casinos are Casino Pearl and Casino Pride. Casino Pride, perhaps one of the best offshore casinos in Goa is home to a lot of poker tournaments in India including the GAPL and the Pride Poker Cup. The ship has 40 tables and can take more than 500 guests at a time comfortably. Recently,The Khetarpal lead Pride Group took over the ailing Casino Carnival and it waits to be seen how the latter comes up now. This new addition to the Pride Group brings a new twist in the poker scene in Goa and India.
Anuj Gupta (Founder Director of Adda52.com)— POKER BARON
The world of online poker took a turn in India when adda52.com was launched in Jan 2012 and since has become the largest online poker site in India. This site provides world class gaming experience to Indian poker players and offers gaming interface for Texas Hold’em and Omaha Poker. The man behind this success story is IIT Delhi Alumnus, Anuj Gupta who fought all odds to bring online poker to a level India has not seen before.
Gupta, made Adda52 a pioneer of online card games in India offering real cash online gaming portals with online tournaments. Adda52 has also tied up with poker leagues like India Poker Series (IPS), India Poker Championship (IPC) and Golden Aces Poker League (GAPL). For these tie-ups Adda52.com conducted Freeroll satellites on its poker platform and sent winning players to play in actual physical tourneys in Goa and Colombo. In the past one year, Adda52.com has conducted freeroll tournaments across India from colleges in Lucknow to leagues in Goa to restaurants in Delhi. Not only has the online poker site expanded its user base but has also sealed its popularity in this realm. Under Gupta, Adda52 has forged alliances with various Poker tournaments including the Asian Poker Tour(APT).
Gupta can be credited with bringing poker to the masses. His extensive knowledge about the industry made him a key spokesperson in events like “India Gaming Seminar” organized by ICE India. In his words, ” Poker is a game of skill and Adda52 bridges the gap for Indian poker players who want to compete with their contemprories. We offer NLHE and PLO in cash and tournament formats. As the Indian appetite for other games increases, we will also increase our poker repertoire. We strive to bring the best quality of poker with certifications from iTech Labs for RNG fairplay and Verisign Norton SSL for security.”
Sangeeth Mohan– POKER PLAYER
A corporate trainer turned poker player, Sangeeth “Samohh” Mohan is a known and respected names in Indian poker world. Flamboyant and charismatic, he has charmed poker players with his excellent poker skills and achievements. He made poker history when he won APT Asian Series Goa Main Event in 2011 from a field of 158 players while bagging INR 2,346,400 in prize money. This was in addition to his Greed event title at the same tournament that saw him pocket INR 526,500 in winnings.
In Jan 2012, he went on to win the India Poker Legend January Edition 5k Double Rebuy and Add on with an earnings of cash INR 2,65,000. In the same month, he finished second in the India Poker Legend – January Edition 3k 2X Turbo Re-buy (Rake Free). Some of his remarkable international poker finishes include 10th place in APPT Macau Main Event in 2011 and winning the 2012 APT Asian Series Manila Head Hunters Event.
Samohh was also responsible for organising the recently concluded ‘THOS’ in Bangalore.
Uma Mahesh (High 5 Poker Room)
Uma Mahesh is the founder and operator of Bangalore’s largest physical poker room- High 5 Poker Room. With thrilling poker table action for No Limit Hold’em , High 5 poker room has become the hub of poker in Bangalore ever since the legality was established by the Karnataka High Court last year. Its popularity has increased many folds since 2013 and the now sees maximum poker action.
A poker tournament- THOS-The House of Spew was also organized in 2014 which was hugely attended by all the big names of Indian poker at the High 5 Poker Room. Uma Mahesh is also a credible poker player in addition to being the main force behind the operations of High 5 Poker Room.
Suresh K. Naduvath (Honorary Secretary of Indian Poker Association)—-POKER ORGANISER
Kizhakke Naduvath Suresh is a prominent criminal attorney who is an avid poker fan. His love of the game induced him to share the pleasure with others and it started off his quest to open poker rooms in Bangalore. Naduvath opened India Poker Association(IPA) which was India’s first legal poker room outside of Goa in late 2011, early 2012.
The Indian Poker Association is a not for profit organisation consisting of a group of like minded professionals keen to promote Poker and they aim to scout talent that can represent India at the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour, the two most international poker tournaments.
When police in Bangalore raided clubs and filed charges against staff and members of the club, IPA (Indian Poker Association) under Naduvath, came to the rescue. In a historic observation passed by the Karnataka High Court in Indian Poker Association v. State of Karnataka, the Court ruled that playing skill games like poker in recreational clubs is permitted and no license is required for the same on 8th October 2013.
Naduvath, now, plans to open up legal card rooms in Kolkata aided by the legal precedence set by him by winning the case and the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act of 1957
In his words – “Poker is a game of skill, just like golf, cricket, scrabble, carom, rummy, basketball or volleyball and betting or wagering in games of skill or athletic games in Karnataka is permissible.”
Source: Bangalore Mirror
Bharat Agarwalla (India Poker Series)—- POKER ORGANISER
Bharat Agarwalla is an ardent poker enthusiast who has followed the gaming industry for over 20 years. Agarwalla has used his financial acumen at the poker table final tabling the Asian Poker Tour’s inaugural India edition. He is also one of the pioneers of the Indian tournament scenario with his brand India Poker Series(IPS) conducting events since 2009. Agarwalla’s IPS had a very humble beginning as it started with a turnout of 37 participants in April 2009 in Kolkatta. However, it officially arrived when it was held in 2010 at Casino Royale in Goa. Mr. Agarwalla with his vision for poker has been responsible for IPS to become a regular tourney with events on alternate months at licensed casinos around India.The popularity of this tournament spread like wildfire.
IPS was created to promote poker in India giving poker players a unique platform and environment to play poker. It also makes attempt to produce and identify talents who could lead or represent India in international tournaments.
Madhav Gupta (Pride Poker Room)— POKER ORGANISER
Madhav ‘Maddy’ Guptais a popular name in the Indian poker industry and the driving force behind the Pride Poker Room onboard Casino Pride, Goa. Gupta is also a well known poker player who has a good showing in tourneys. He claimed INR 170000 in winnings in the GAPL Oct 2012 in the 10k and 5k SuperBounty and was placed 5th in the recent GAPL Apr 2014 5k Rebuy Addon NLHE. He also won the 50K Open Face Chinese Pineapple Poker Event in GAPL Feb 2014.
Pride Poker room actually started as the first major poker room in Goa. It is located onboard the beautiful Casino Pride on the Mandovi River boasting of being one of the largest poker rooms in Goa. It plays host to some of the largest Texas Hold’em and Omaha games that are played in India. Moreover, it also hosts tournaments like the Golden Aces Poker League and the Pride Poker Cup.
Vikramaditya Chawla (Director of Golden Aces Poker League)— POKER ORGANISER
A poker enthusiast turned entrepreneur who built a brand everyone in the Poker industry is familiar with – Golden Aces Poker League (GAPL) from the ground up. He started off 7 years ago as a poker player and in 2011 opened the Golden Aces Cards room in Bangalore.
Golden Aces poker room started with one table of low stakes with 10 players and they have grown to 7 tables with 150 active players today. Chawla also started the GAPL in May 2012 at the Pride Poker Room aboard Casino Pride and revamped the poker scene in India. He is also the first certified Poker Tournament Director from India. GAPL also boasts of being the only tournament brand to have sent a player from India to the World Series of Poker on an all-expense paid trip.
Vikramaditya Chawla has recently joined the Pride Poker Room in an individual capacity, bringing his expertise as a Poker Player and poker room Operator.