Abhishek Goindi- After much chasing and a little bit of arm twisting, I finally have your interview. Thanks for your time and your poker insights. Before I share an exclusive interview with one of the most accomplished poker players of India, I have a short story to tell. A small tribute!
When I started my career in poker journalism, there was only one poker name I was familiar with. He was that one poker player whose picture sprawled across all poker sites the moment you searched for anything related to Poker in India. Abhishek Goindi with his serious demeanor and infectious smile could be seen associated with tournaments like the Asian Poker Tour, Macau Poker Cup and the World Series. He was doing India proud and winning some big money for himself.
I got an opportunity to meet the man himself during a Live Reporting Schedule in Goa. But with him winning the inaugural event there, Goindi just became more busy. Before I realised, he would be in and out of the poker room and I missed chatting with him those 3 days. A few months later, the news that he was quitting active poker for another assignment in sports management made poker headlines. I chose not to write about it for long. I wished it was not true. Disbelief and hope kept me shy of approaching Goindi with the all important ‘WHY’?
After a month when the news sunk in that one of the best poker players India has ever produced was now bidding farewell, I started seeking time from him. He was at the threshold of new things happening for him and was consequently very busy. After chasing him for more than a month, I finally managed to get answers to the 5 questions that irked me.
Thus unfolds, in Abhishek’s own words his story of saying goodbye to the one game he still loves. I have chosen to not edit/add anything out of his own writing. Poker Legends like him deserve to tell their story in their own way. Mere poker mortals like myself cannot do justice by doing our journalistic editing.
Q1 You are one of India’s most accomplished poker player. Have you decided it’s a final goodbye?
Ans : That’s really tough for me to say.! I have definitely put it on hold at the moment and I am exploring different avenues. I have always loved this game and will continue to love it. I might have bid a final goodbye to being a professional poker player, But I do see myself playing semi –professionally in the near future . Having said that at the moment, my energies have been diverted to the sporting Industry and I’m enjoying my stint there so far.
Q2 What made you move away from poker despite so much of success at the game?
Ans : I have been facing this question a lot. I have quite a few reasons in my head as to why I moved away from the game.Firstly when I got into this game somewhere around 2007, I had only one dream in mind which was to play the World Series. I never thought of it as a career option then ,but its something that just happened along the way. It took me a while to get there and I eventually played it in 2013.Having played the World series with little success, I had reached a point in my life wherein I had reached my goal of playing the WSOP. It was no time for me to decide what my next goal or path was going to be.!
It was a tough choice,but there were so many things along the way that happened which made me reconsider my decision of taking this path. I had burnt out playing so much poker. There were times wherein you feel like you are living in a bubble.Poker players have no clue of whats going on in the world away from the felts.That wasn’t a good feeling.All the conversations were around poker, about the kind of beats they got or the kind of hands they saw or the kind of money they are owed.After a while it just got to me. Moreover My health deteriorated because of all the traveling and the unhealthy eating and sleeping habits. Another important factor was the nature of people in the game.!
There is a very big dark side to the game which was not exposed until recently where players are now being more open about it .If you noticed recently , a lot of it has been coming out .Players like Dan Colman refused to give an interview after winning the OneDrop mainly because he didn’t want to promote the game as he saw the dark side of the game .
Recently , the poker forums have also been flooded with a lot of defaulters and scamsters and I really didn’t want to associate with this for too much longer.In India , after a while a lot of tournament organizers started organising tournaments to make quick money.They would be ridiculous by raking guarantees.Only a few organisers tried to develop and nurture the game and make sure it grows while some were just out there to make quick money.Even the rake in cash games across some venues were ridiculously high and makes it highly unprofitable to play there regularly.In my view the rake was just going to kill all the players and dry up the games and as you can see now such is the case periodically. As a player this Industry also sees a distribution of wealth rather than the creation of wealth which means that there is a ceiling on your earning capacity unlike most other industries.After watching the big one for one drop in the amazon room last year,In my head I had decided that I want to be one of those baller businessman who plays the game for recreation rather than grind on the felts all day.!
Q3 Many big names in poker including yourself, Sangeeth Mohan and Pranav Bagai have very minimalistic association with poker now? How would you read into this trend?
Ans- Sangeeth and I have been very close friends for a while now.! We have tremendous mutual respect for each other. I have known Pranav for sometime as well.!He has been concentrating on his business and is still in touch with the game by organizing online tournaments. Sangeeth still continues to play cash games, But I’m sure he has been in the industry long enough to understand and know what I’m talking about. He too tried out different things by organising the THOS event which was such a success.At the end of the day it’s a personal choice. People who have been in this industry long enough will definitely agree with me on some level. Even the likes of Ivey and Galfond are not just players in the game but have a another source of steady income. The number of players that have gone broke and lost their livelihoods VS the number of players that have made it big is so lopsided. As a new entrant into this game,its exhilarating but I must remind everyone that it looks like a glamorous world but it’s a very hard way to make an easy living.
Q 4 Will you ever come back to playing regular poker again?
Ans Yes I will definitely come back to play regular poker at some point.This is only going to happen once I have figured out a source of stable income and I am well established there.
Q 5 If you were to name 3 things, what would you say ails poker in India?
Ans- The 3 things I would list would be:
- The system in India is not in place. People have a very limited idea on how to run things from the business end.This is because this game and industry is so new to the country that people are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Its dwelling on a trial and error method. They need to start adopting strategies from the west where the game is well established and the industry is set in its ways and always adapting to changing needs and trends.
- Rake: The rake structure in India is absurd. It’s the highest in the world. Let me give you an example: In Macau on a 100-200 HKD table(800-1600 INR) the rake is 10 percent capped at 200 hkd which is 1 big blind. In Vegas , on the 5$-10$table (300-600) it was based on time and costed you 6$ for every half an hour you played (atleast 10 hands). In India on the 200-500 INR table(3$-8$) the rake is 5% capped at Rs 5000 which is close to 60 $ a hand or 10 big blinds.It gets worse on the smaller tables.!With these rake structures it is impossible to beat the game in the long run. Organizers just want to make quick money and should realize that its not percentage but the cap on the rake that matters.
- Laws– Since poker is a new game in this country, We do not have defined laws for it. This creates a room for people to bend the laws and creates a window for foul play. There is no punishment for people who default, for people who scam . There are no rules to regulate these actions.
OPN wishes Abhishek all the best in everything he does and hopes to see him on the poker felt soon. Fingers Crossed!