A few years back, when Mukul Pahuja left his well paying job to follow his brother Vinny Pahuja and start player poker professionally, not many noticed. He stayed in his brother’s shadow for sometime but not any more. After sailing in these murky waters for less than 5 years, Mukul has amassed $3 M in live earnings and finds a place in the Top 20 of the GPI Rankings. Even more than that probably, today he is best known as the World Poker Tour(WPT) Season XII Player of the Year(POY). He has silenced all critiques with his ‘A’ performance and an amazing run at the WPT this year. With 5 In the Money(ITM) finishes and 3 Final Tables, Pahuja has $1,447,742 in earnings from this WPT Season itself.
India holds a special corner for this Florida based poker player. He has an Indian surname and of course, Indian roots. OPN caught up with Mukul Pahuja on Twitter and had a poker discussion with him. After chasing him for weeks, our Editor RUPAL BANSAL finally managed to get some questions answered from the pro. Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with Mukul Pahuja: The WPT Season XII POY.
OPN–Q 1. Hi Mukul, thanks for chatting with OPN. For readers who don’t know much about you, please tell us how you got into playing poker? And the journey !
MP– I started playing poker around 2003-2004 like a lot of other people in the US. I started playing with my friends in home games after watching espn’s WSOP & Chris moneymaker win the main event. I was also very influenced by watching the WPT on TV. Eventually my brother left his job on Wall Street to pursue poker and had a great year in 2008 playing live tournaments. This was around the time I graduated from college and started playing more tournaments rather than cash games and sit n’ go’s online. I played part time while working full time for Bank of America from 2008-2011. I had a six-figure week in late 2009 playing poker and decided to give it a try full time after one more year at my job. My girlfriend and I decided to move down to Florida where I grinded small-medium stakes for two years before having my nice run this past year.
OPN-Q 2. What is the ‘India’ connect that you have? And how did family react to your leaving a cushioned job and getting into poker?
MP– My parents were both born in India. I was born here in the US, in New York. I still have some family in India, but most of my relatives are here in the US as well. My family was very supportive of me following my heart to play poker. Having a brother who was already successful in this business didn’t hurt though.
OPN- Q 3. Congrats on winning the WPT POY. You have achieved great heights in a short poker career so far. How would you summarise your journey?
MP- Unbelievable. Truly a dream come true.
OPN- Q 4. Some also say that your WPT Season can be termed as the best WPT run ever for any player? How do you react to that?
MP – I think that is very flattering. Points wise, it is the most points ever accumulated in a season. But I still don’t have the title. That is what is most important to me.
OPN- Q 5. What sort of preparations go from your end before a major poker tournament like WPT?
MP – I treat all the tournaments I play in the same way. Whether it’s a $300 or a $15k you have to bring your ‘A’ game in order to succeed. I try to get plenty of rest throughout the tournament . This can be difficult in the later days when making a deep run. I do plenty of research on the people I play with. Other than that, I just focus on my table, my opponent and my decisions. No outside factors.
OPN- Q 6. How often do you play live poker? Have you ever played in Asia/India?
MP- I play live poker all the time. It is my job. I have never played in Asia. I would love to one day.
OPN- Q 7. Are you aware of any Indian poker players or the Indian poker scene as such? If yes, whom do you think holds maximum potential?
MP– I am not aware of any Indian born poker players however I have become friends with many good south Asian players born here in the states. Many of them have already had plenty of success both live and online.
OPN- Q 8. For new players, if you could give three poker tips, what would they be?
MP – don’t lose your patience
– observe those players who you know are better than your VERY closely
– play as often as you can because the best teacher is experience
OPN- Q 9. What do you do when not playing poker?
MP– I like to play and watch basketball & american football. See new movies and spend time with my wife and dog.
OPN – Q 10. What is your one poker dream and why?
MP – To win a major poker title; WSOP bracelet or WPT title.
Just a wrap up of the Tremendous finishes by Mukul Pahuja at the WPT Season XII