Bankers have been good at playing poker as their profession requires a similar set of mathematical and analytical skills which a poker player needs. Indian poker community has very good number of players from banking background and this week we spoke to one rising player of same profile. Varun Gulati has been playing poker for over 3 years in parallel to his job as corporate banker and wishes to turn a full time player in future.
In conversation with OPN, Varun shares his poker beginnings, the journey so far and his future plans.
To start with, can you tell us about yourself and when did u get started with the game of poker.
Varun – I am 33 years old from Delhi and working in Corporate Banking for last 8 years post my MBA. I got introduced to poker through my wife’s gang of friends (now our gang) a little over 3 years ago. I started with home games between friends and with growing interest started playing online and live tournaments as well.
What do you prefer more – tournaments of cash games? What would you like to become five years down the line – cash game specialist or tournament player?
Varun – I prefer tournaments way more than cash games. There are a few of reasons for the same. One is that I find poker tournament play way more complex and dynamic than a cash game play. Secondly, I think the idea of competing in a tournament and the desire to be crowned champion or the No.1 player on a particular day is far more satisfying than only a cash profit in a session of cash game. Also, I think a tournament gives a feeling of a sport to poker that I feel is missing in cash game poker. 5 Years down the line I will want to be a tournament player and a well-known and successful one. J
How much poker do you play on an average?
Varun – Since I am working, I play poker mainly on weekends and on holidays. On a weekly basis I would be playing on an average around 10-15 hours of poker.
What has been some of your biggest achievement in poker till date? How do you rank them?
Varun – Call it beginners luck or whatever, I have been an overall winning player since I started playing poker. I started online poker on Adda52 and won my 1st small tourney within a month. Thereafter, I have won multiple tournaments on Adda52, Spartan & Thrill Poker and final tabled many more (PMT 5 lac, Adda52 Millions, PGOL events etc). My biggest achievement was getting on the Final Table of my 1st live tournament in Golden Aces Main Event (Goa) in April 2014. I rank it highest in my achievements, as it was just 1 year that I had started paying poker and had gone to Goa with friends on a leisure trip. We decided to play the satellite to the main event just for fun and I ended up qualifying for the Main event through that satellite and then went on to the final table of the event finally finishing 6th. After that, I have just played 3 more live tournaments and cashed in the main event of IPC in Oct’15. Another achievement is that I have also become a profitable player on PokerStars in tournaments in last 5-6 months, which was not the case earlier.
Are you playing poker full-time? How do you balance you professional and personal life with poker?
Varun – No I am not playing poker full time since I also have a job as a corporate banker. I try to take out time for poker on weekends and holidays. Also I play small sessions on weekdays in the night. On weekends I generally have at least 1 long session in the night.
Is your family supportive of you playing poker?
Varun – As I already told you that I have to balance my professional work life and my poker playing time and no one has supported me more than my wife “Ujala”. She keeps encouraging me to play more poker and gives me enough space and time for the same. In fact she understands my passion for the game and my desire to play poker full time someday.
Who do you idolize in Poker, both in India and Internationally?
Varun – There are many good players but the one guy I idolize is Daniel Negreanu (Kid Poker) and not because I think he is the best in the world. He is no doubt a very good poker player but the thing I like most about him is that he has a lot of fun playing poker and is also entertaining to watch. There might be many younger poker players, some of them might be better than Daniel but they hardly seem to be having fun and many of them are boring to watch as well. I have taken a couple of sessions from Abhishek Rathod and will wish to have his clarity of thought. Other than that in Indian players “Intervention” is an inspiration and two young players, which I think will take Indian poker to another level, are Arsh Grover and Sharad Rao.
Which players you take up as strong competitors at the online tables?
Varun – Everyone. I never underestimate anyone online and I think talent coming out from India is amazing.
What is your one poker dream?
Ans – My one poker dream is to play poker professionally. Yes I have many dreams like playing the November 9 or winning the WSOP bracelet etc. but, if you ask me to pick one dream then that will be to someday leave my job and play poker professionally.
How do you like spending spare time off the desk and poker felt? What are you hobbies?
Varun – I am a big sports lover, like both watching and playing sports specially cricket. Also I like watching movies and also am a TV buff. In addition to that I like hanging out with friends over couple of drinks.
What’s your take on rising popularity of poker in India? What do you think should be done to promote this game more?
Varun – I think it’s exciting times for poker popularity in India today. I saw the number of players coming for live tournaments increase 3 fold in the last couple of years. Also with so many Indian sites coming in and ever increasing number of online players, the popularity of poker in India is at its peak. Poker has also become the Diwali game now, which was previously dominated by 3 patti. But having said that, the recent events that have occurred regarding some Indian poker sites is very disheartening. The traffic of Indian players online is at it’s peak and it should be encouraged. I sincerely hope that these events don’t kill the competition among Indian sites since competition is always good for any industry.