2014 saw two big scores in online poker by an Indian player – $37K in the Bigger 109 and $29K for 2nd place in WCOOP heads up event. Yes, we are talking abong>rbhatia3. A Delhi based engineering-marketing professional who works full time with his dad in their manufacturing business pursued his passion for the game parallel to his work. Started off with cash games on the online poker sites, later he discovered his talent in tournaments and cashed big amounts. He shares with us his journey as poker player and his dreams and targets in 2015.
|Fav Place to play Poker||PokerStars|
|Fav Poker game||NL Holdem 6max mtt and Heads up sngs.|
|Fav Poker Hand||No room for favourites or superstitons in my game.|
Q 1 Hi Raahil, Thanks for taking out the time to speak with us. To start with, can you tell us when you start playing poker? Basically your poker journey till date…
RB – I was always interested in probability and maths behind card games etc. So as a kid I got hooked on blackjack, rummy etc. Started playing poker properly in my freshman year at UIUC in US. Played cash games live all over the place till last year. After joining work poker took a backseat. Last year around Sep, re-opened my PokerStars account after the last login attempt was in 2007 to try to satellite into live events and hopefully get a vacation out of it with my girlfriend. The first tourney I won was an EPT package to London for $13k. Then I realised the thrill of going deep in tourneys and the level of skill involved. I got a fresh ckill involved. I got a fresh change from the repetitive natured cash games. Since then I am hooked on tourneys chasing that big score. Recently I have shifted to long structured tourneys from turbos.
Q 2 How much poker do you play?
RB – I try to put in at least 5-6 proper sessions a month, mostly on Saturdays or Sundays. Other than that, I might play a few hyper turbos or small-mid stake turbos chillingly during the week. I am not a good multi-tabler so stick to only 4 or less high buy-in tables, even on weekends. I play all major series like WCOOP or TCOOP etc. Live cash game- I play once a month or in 2 months.
Q 3 What is your biggest poker achievement till date?
RB – I have not achieved anything yet that I’m super proud of. But the fact that I am able to create a difference in the world and spread some joy by donating over 10 percent of winnings to very good charities makes me very proud and happy. Also the fact that I can now take the worst bad beats on the biggest final tables and shrug it off in a second is something that I wanted to be like and I have got there. Other than that I think I played well where I finished 6th in the Sunday 500, which is without doubt the toughest and the best tourney online. Also, the two big cashes of 2014- 37k in bigger 109 and 29k for 2nd place in WCOOP heads up event are something that I am proud of , especially the HU as I battled and defeated some of the game’s best.
Q 4 You started off as a cash game grinder but the transition to tournament play has been rewarding for you. What would you say is your natural style?
RB – I feel I have a good edge when I have enough bbs due to my deep cash game (>250 bb buy-ins) history. My aggressive unorthodox play often messes with the regs head and I am able to play my image accordingly. Deep in tourney if I am the table chip leader I can dominate and put constant pressure. Now after playing online a lot I am comfortable in the reverse scenario also. Now I feel super confident short stack too as I know I’ll do justice to my 5-15 bb stack. I don’t go in with a particular strategy ever but try to play every hand as optimally as I can. I would say I play an aggressive fearless style, but in a different kind of way- I would rather put in my whole stack with a strong move and follow my intuition rather than being put in a situation where I have to flip for my whole stack. What I mean is I have no problem check raising my whole stack on the river with air if I feel the guy doesn’t have the absolute nuts and if I can rep them and feel that I can make him fold rather than calling off my entire stack on a flush draw. At all times, my loyalty towards my intuition is greater than my fear of looking like a fool by busting. Before starting every major session I write down some rules and I make it a point to glance over them every break. One thing I always seem to write is – control your aggression. I sometimes play a bit too aggressive for my own good and I need to learn to pick my spots better.
Q 5 How does your family feel about you playing Poker?
RB – I do not play professionally and still work quite hard as a marketing engineer. My family is very chilled. As long as my KRA at my Job is complete my boss/dad has no problems. Also with the amount of presents they have been receiving lately from me they should not have any problems.
Q 6 Are you working somewhere? Are you able to balance both things?
RB – Yes I work at my family’s engineering firm where we make auto components, trucks and trailers, mining/infrastructure equipment, parts for defense and such engineering jobs with steel. Its super tough to balance them out, especially living in India were all good tourneys start at midnight. I have a good deal with my boss (my dad). We both are big fans of Ricardo Semlers management theories and he is thus, a very practical and chilled out person. So the deal is that if I want to play a Sunday session and miss Monday I need to make up for it by going to office on the same or the next Sunday. If I bust everything by the time Supersonic starts, which I usually do, then I just sleep and go to work a bit late but make up for it. I am not one of those people who need rest etc. I can function properly for days without sleeping and have done that on numerous occasions. Even after winning both my 25k+ scores I was in office the same day grinding out work.
Q 7 Have you ever participated in any live tournaments in India or Internationally?
RB – Yes I Have. I played my first and only WSOP main event when I was 21. In Goa, I played all the IPS/IPC etc. tourneys when they started and the occasional 1 lac buy ins in Goa. I have a very solid consistent record of 0 cashes in about the dozen of tournaments I have played in India. Somehow I have been lucky that few of my business trips are so perfectly aligned with major tournament series happening at that particular place. For example EPT Vienna and Macau Red Dragon but unfortunately bricked both.
Q 8 Who do you idolize in Poker, both in India and Internationally?
RB – Idolize is too strong a word maybe but I admire a lot of players from India and abroad. In India obviously its “intervention”. Also I have not played that much with bblack, donka, anti, danish and the whole crew but they obviously seem to be good at poker and nice guys. I am big fan of Vanessa Selbst. I feel she is super smart and love her playing style. I saw her at EPT playing a 2k tourney and she ended up winning that too. And, obviously Ivey. Online I am a big fan of this guy – illini213. I have been deep with him a few times and he destroys the table. He and Nilsef make you feel less of a man when you are up against them as they are just too aggressive. Also imdanuts, lasagnamm, the two Europeans are marked as super sharks on my PokerStars.
Q 9 Who are the 3 names, according to you, who can make it big in International Poker Community?
RB – I think all the players at my cash game table are very very good/creative and they all have got the gamble in them so that can take them places- 4better (Arjun P), armaan007 (Armaan K), buzzzbeee85 (Rohit M), Ud, Karan Radia. Also felter1989 (Shanky). Apart from these I really do hope everyone in india who plays professionally (4better/antilog) or plans on playing poker professionally (Muskan/Pranav) hit it big. Somehow I’m always rooting for for better even with our last longers.
Q 10 What do you do when not playing Poker?
RB – When I am not working or playing poker, I like to travel all over with my girlfriend as we both live in different cities (bbay/delhi). I chill more than I party nowadays. I love music and listen to a whole lot of good music all the time, even while playing. By good music I mean Bob Dylan/Velvet Underground/Doors/Beatles/Nirvana and some PSY.
Q 11 What is your one Poker dream?
RB – I am not a big dreamer. I believe instead of wasting time constantly dreaming about what you want, you should have a clear vision and spend time wisely looking within and planning how to reach there. One goal I have is to make sure that the mental exercises that playing poker provides are well translated in to real life helping me become sharper, smarter and have a better understanding of the human psyche. Last year, I decided my goal was to be a winning heads up player. While I didn’t really get to play that many heads up SNGs I did end up 2nd in a WCOOP heads up event. But this year I am going to play heads up exclusively for a bit and grind tourneys on weekends. I guess to go deep and to win the WSOP and the WCOOP main events are the ultimate targets.
Q 12 What should be done to promote poker in India?
RB – These days FB poker groups are buzzing daily with Indians bagging big scores. I feel we have only seen the tip of the iceberg and the potential in India for poker is tremendous. However, the live scene is totally dry and that has to be improved in order to promote poker. We need a creative/risk taking promoter who will guarantee 50L prize pools or go out and get 100 players to play a 1 lac buy in. Do whatever you have to, to get those numbers. Reach out to the right people. Get celebs and attractions. Offer insane deals. Hold satellites in colleges. Get a good tourney series going. Why would I travel to Goa/Bangalore to play a 30k tourney? I will do that just for fun maybe, defy not positive in terms of business POV. I feel all the current promoters are not looking long-term and are looking to profit from every tourney they organize. Just like in any other business, you should be prepared to take a loss initially (in terms of possible overlay or investing big money on marketing or promotions) and hope to build their brand by organizing a big successful series. I too hope that one day I start my own site or be in the business side of the spectrum. If I had to choose between becoming Isai or Moorman I would choose Isai any day.
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