Kunal Patni was the musical star of the Indian poker symphony at the recently concluded Asia Championship of Poker(ACOP) in Macau. He gave the opening notes by winning the Event 1 $2,500 Rebuy Championship and the coveted Spadie Trophy and continued to make wonderful music through the other events. From a 13th place money finish in Event 2 that Anju Abrol won to a final table in Event 5 to busting Elky in the High Rollers Event, Kunal shone through the entire schedule of ACOP. Kunal spoke to OPN and told us that this outing had been a huge learning experience for him. In an exclusive ‘Hand Analysis with Kunal Patni‘, he decodes some of the important hands he played during ACOP and how they initiated the learning process.
Q1 Would you like to share a few hands from your high roller event which stand out for you?
KP- I won the satellite to the high roller event. I wasn’t planning to take part in the same otherwise. By the time the satellite got over, the high roller had already been going on for nearly two hours. So I joined late and was very nervous for the first time in my 17 day trip to Macau. Playing in a high roller event with the likes of Elky, Phil Ivey and other super well known pros was quite intimidating. The moment I sat on the first table I thought my nervousness was very evident to the other players as I fumbled with my chips, played out of turn etc. I hated that about myself. I quickly took a 5 minute break, went out for some fresh air and calmed myself down.
When I came back there were 2 hands that stood out for me on day 1 A of the High Rollers. This hand happened within the first hour of the tournament. I had lost 40% of my starting stack a few hands back when my straight on the flop ran into a full house on the river. So I had about 60% of the stack within an hour and obviously wasn’t pleased at all. In this hand I was dealt KQ suited in the small blind. This young Asian pro raised from UTG and the action folded to me. I made the call. Flop was Axx. I checked. He bet 60 percent of the pot. I called albeit reluctantly. Turn was a K. I checked again. He bet 2/3rd of the pot again. River was a brick. I checked and he bet a big amount again. If I had to call that and lose I would have been left with about 10% of my starting stack. I tanked for a good 7 minutes and I thought I saw a tell which made me feel the other guy had nothing and was just playing on my nervousness that I displayed a few minutes back when I joined the table. I made the call. He showed me QJ. And my KQ was way ahead. I doubled up and gained a lot of respect from other players on the table for making that call.
B. This was probably the highlight of the whole ACOP event for me. About 5-6 hours into the event and our table broke. I was sent to another table where the great man himself, Elky was sitting two seats after me. It was such a huge privilege to be sitting with him. I have read his books to prepare myself for tournaments. So I was obviously in awe of him. I tweeted immediately that it was a privilege to sit with ELKY on the same table and tagged him and he favourited the tweet within a minute. 5 minutes after this happened, I was on big blind. Elky raised me and the action folded to me. I re raised him. He immediately went all in. I had him covered. I called his all in. He had AK and I had QQ. My Pocket queens held and Elky busted out of the tournament. I was super happy to have doubled up but was sad to have busted him out. Wanted him to play longer so that I could learn more from him. I joked with my friends later that I busted Elky out.
Q2 Would you like to share some final hands that you played? After which you exit from the tournament?
KP– I ended day one with a very decent chip stack. Out of 83 participants 36 made it to day 2 of the event and I was 14th in the chip lead. I thought that it was pretty decent and I could make a deep run. Started the day very confidently. However got two sucker hands within the first 20 minutes of day two that left me crippled.
A. I raised from the button with J10 suited. The small blind called. Flop was J49. He checked and I bet. He called me. Turn was 8. So now I had the top pair and open ended. He checked again and I bet big. He tanked for a while and called. River was a brick so I missed my straight but still had the top pair. He checked. I thought of betting but thankfully checked behind. The guy had pocket 4 and had hit his set on the river. Lost quite a bit of chips in this hand.
B. 5 minutes after this hand I was on big blind with 9 – 10 suited. Old Asian man raised UTG. Action folded to me. I called. Flop is 9 10 5. I checked and wanted him to bet. He did so and I called his bet. Turn was a 8. I checked again and he bet. I called him. River was a 7. I could see that he didn’t like that card at all. I checked and he checked behind to show his pocket 5. My two pair on the flop ran into a set on the flop. Lost a big hand again. I really wanted to bluff and go all in on the river. He had made it evident that he didn’t like that card. He also told me that he would have folded had I bet anything on the turn. I should have just made that bet. After these two hands I was really short stacked and was left with about 20 big blinds.
Q 3. In retrospect, if you think you played them differently now would that have been a game changer?
KP- I couldn’t really have done anything about the first hand I mentioned above but I think I should have shoved all in the second hand mentioned above. The guy clearly showed weakness and I was really tempted to shove it but played safe. If I had been more aggressive things would have been really different.
Q 4. Can you walk us through your thought process in these hands? What all influenced your decision making?
KP- During the whole ACOP series I didn’t try anything out of the ordinary and played a good tight aggressive game. I am usually a loose aggressive player but being tight helped me a lot throughout the series. I saw some really good players lose their tournament life because of random loose play and I was very clear that I am going to be aggressive but tight. That helped me a lot I guess. In general Asian players including Indian players are more loose compared to the European players. My personal feeling is that the game is shifting back from being loose aggressive to tight aggressive. Even when I lost a lot of chips I didn’t lose faith in myself. I made a very good comeback in the high roller event as well as the deep stack event. In both the events I was down to 30-40% of my chip stack within an hour of the tournament. But I decided to just be patient and play it out. That really helped.
Special mention to two people here. One would be Aditya ‘Donkabomber’ Sushanth and second would be my boss Karan Bhagat. When the last two were left in the satellite to the high roller I was very confused about whether to take 200000 hkd (which was the cash prize for second place) or take the 250000 hkd seat to the high roller event. Donkabomber was the one who helped me in taking the decision to play the high roller event and I am really thankful to him. It was an experience of a lifetime. My boss Karan Bhagat is very passionate about poker and we play house games every week together. He kept a track on my progress throughout the 17 day tournament and kept motivating me. He would message me every 20 minutes to check on my chip stack and how I was doing and kept telling me to play tight. That was extremely helpful. And this was during each and every tournament that I took part in. And yes he gave me an extra day of leave when I made it to day 2 of the high roller event and that was super cool of him.
Q 5. What are the factors that you keep in mind while deciding a players range?
KP- Very frankly I don’t think I am still very good at deciding a players range. It requires a lot of playing poker and observing players and their plays and I am still a novice at it. I would totally be focused though while I was at the table even after I would have folded my hands. I keenly used to watch the showdown to understand how the other players are playing. Even during the break when most players rushed to the washroom or for a quick smoke break I would stay back if a hand was going on to see how it ended and what cards were shown. Every extra bit of information on the poker table is super useful.All and all this was an experience of a lifetime for me. This was my first major tournament and to win a Spadie and cash in other 2 Spadie events as well as win the satellite to the high roller event was far far more than I could have asked for. I used most of my winnings for buy ins to the other events which I had initially thought I wouldn’t take part in. Therefore the net earnings is way way lesser than my gross earnings. It’s very difficult to explain that to a lot of my family, friends and colleagues. But the experience gained from this awesome event is invaluable. My whole family especially my wife and my father have been very supportive of me playing poker and I will be ever so grateful to them. It wouldn’t have been possible without their undying support. I will be back for the next ACOP for sure and maybe a couple of more tournaments in between.
Thanks Kunal and once again Congratulations on getting the Spadie home for India!