Philip Sanders whom many regard as the pioneer of the poker revolution in Goa casinos passed away on October 23rd in Birmingham. Phil as everyone called him had reportedly been battling medical problems and finally succumbed ending a glorious poker career. While Phil had been away from Indian poker due to his medical problems for almost one and a half years, he was full of plans on reviving poker in India. He had returned to his native United Kingdom after a very successful stint with the erstwhile Casino Royale for medical treatment and reports suggest that he was recuperating well when this news came.
The poker circles were informed by Craig Wildman, his close associate about the demise of Phil. Phil was always known as the thorough gentleman who was full of ideas for poker and always looking for ways to implement them. He was a vibrant personality who had out and out knowledge of the poker business and went about things very professionally. Many a poker players attribute their success in physical tourneys to Phil’s encouragement and professional attitude.
Apart from being very good at poker administration, he was also an accomplished poker player. He has many poker titles to his name including the High Rollers Title and the Rs. 5K Buy in NLHE Event of the APT Asian Series, Goa. He also had some wins at the Indian poker leagues with a title win at the India Poker Pros in the Feb 2012 Main Event. In fact according to his Hendon Mob Profile, he was actively playing poker in Birmingham even till September 2013.
OPN was not privileged enough to operate during times when Phil was on board Casino Royale and has no personal stories to share. Thus we spoke to few people from the Indian poker industry who shared their poker story and tributes for Phil.
Rakesh Sharma, PPA Admin on Facebook and Poker Stalwart, was one of the first to express grief, ” Phil was among the first few poker people I met – he saw me trying my first ever live hand at the Royale poker room and a few months later, true to his predictions, saw me win my first set of tourneys! I particularly value Phil’s laconic observations, dissecting my line of play, monitoring my progress, nodding his approval when my range opened or when I started mixing it up.
I can also certainly say that I wouldn’t have taken to poker were it not for the atmosphere Phil and Craig maintained in the poker room – an air of professionalism, polish and a commitment to the spirit of poker. They made it a friendly space for newbies and women, maintaining civility and decorum on the poker tables, remaining firm and fair to the novice and the reg alike. I’ll miss trading stories and gossip with Phil, especially all the anecdotes about the early years of Indian poker, the advent of tourney brands, the serious promoters and fly-by-night operators, the business of poker itself and the promising Indian scene etc. Phil had to return to England, to battle the dreaded C and he seemed to be doing well, all set to return to India and poker. In our last phone chat a couple of months ago, he was full of plans and projects, eager to start rolling them out. It is terrible that his journey has been cut short.
Rest in Peace, Phil. In you, Indian poker has lost a great friend and pioneer.”
Kevin Neves was one of the first to break the shocking death of Phil said, “I first met Phil Sanders at Casino Royale- Goa in 2008. Since then he was one of my closest friends, who has always been my great inspiration and support. His contribution to put India, especially Goa on the world poker map has been immense. As a host, he made every player including the staff very comfortable and ensured everyone had a good experience. In a nutshell, my journey with Phil has been a great experience which I will always cherish. He was one of the most down to earth person I ever came across, which is what I liked about him.” R.I.P Phil Sanders You will be missed.”
RIP Philip Sanders. OPN Salutes the Master Poker Mind!