OPN Heads Up with Sanjay Taneja

One of the most jovial players in the Indian poker circuit, Sanjay Taneja has been playing poker for over 4 years now. His first online score can be traced back to Dec’12 wherein he made ITM in the $5.50+R NL Hold’em on PokerStars. He fetched his career best score in Sept’14 making a runner-up finish in The Hot $55 [Turbo].

Currently, he is managing 2 full-time businesses alongside playing online poker and travelling down to a few bigger live tournaments in the circuit. This month, he is ready to play the Deltin Poker Tournament powered by Adda52.com for which he already has won the satellites to High Roller & Main Event.sanjay_taneja_dpt

OPN India had a conversation with Sanjay wherein he shared his poker experiences, memorable incidents and future plans. Here are the excerpts of the conversation:

Hi Sanjay, thanks for talking to us. All geared up for the DPT? Who all are coming with you for the series from Delhi?

Sanjay – This time will be really thrilling as I am not just travelling with friends but also family.  My dear friend Dhananjaya Sharma is flying with me on 24th, and the very next day I am being joined by my Sister in law Natasha Khandheria, her husband Ajoy Khandheria with their group of 15-16 friends.

Please share your poker journey till date with our readers. How and when did u get hooked up to this exciting game?

Sanjay – I started playing poker on Zynga poker on Facebook, soon I realized I had a knack for the game and started accumulating chips which I would in turn share with friends and family. You start the game with 1000 playchips and at one time I think I had a billion.

Then, about 4 years back a friend took me to a home game and  reality knocked, I just could not stand up to the standard there and lost a lot. But instead of getting demoralized I decided to learn the game better. I saw videos read tutorials and played with the same group and another group on numerous occasions and despite all the knowledge that I had gained I still lost and lost. Everybody said “you have the cards written on your face” Now I was in a dilemma, do I give up the game I was so much in love with or prepare myself better?

Since on live felt people could easily ascertain my card strength I decided to hit the online arena. I started playing on PokerStars and had a decent score to show for myself. That kind of took care of not having a Poker Face J

I was also introduced to the IPPA forum where I made loads of friends online and these friends helped me improve my game a lot. So, online poker became my savior.

Which suits you better – live poker or online? Why?

Sanjay – I have only been playing live poker for a few years. In fact, I started playing live tournaments only this year so online remains my favourite form as of now. I started playing on ADDA52 as the first Indian site, now besides PokerStars I also play on almost all Indian sites like Pokerbaazi, Spartan, FTR and Pokerninja. Why I prefer Online over Live? Well I more than explained that in my reply to the previous question.

How much poker do you play on an average?

Sanjay – I play poker like an obsessive hobby, which means almost all of my free time goes into it. So, a couple of hours in the nights when I am not preoccupied and 7-8 hours in the weekend.

Are you playing poker full-time? How do you balance your professional and personal life with poker?

Sanjay – I wish I could play poker full time but no I don’t play it professionally as of now. Besides being a fashion photographer where I am my own boss, I run an options trading business where my work timings are Monday to Friday 9 to 3:30. So I get a lot of free time

Like I mentioned earlier poker to me is a hobby that I am obsessed with. So a lot of free time goes into it. My wife understands my passion so she stands by me and supports me. That takes care of the personal end.

You are very active in the online community of poker especially on Facebook.  According to you, how these communities/groups are helpful for a player?

Sanjay – Oh these groups are the lifeline of poker, I got to learn so much here that helped me improve my game.

I made some very nice friends who share my passion and are open to giving advice and even ready to do problem solving sessions with me.

I must mention Saby”infusion leo”, JD”JdSaz” and Arvindhan”tiltalert86” here who went to the trouble of going through some of my tournament hand histories with me and helped me find my leaks.

Which Indian players you take up as strong competitors?

Sanjay – We have some of the most talented players in India, it’s a matter of time when they will start showing some startling results online and live. These are exceptional players, way beyond my caliber so I am no competition to them.

What’s the most memorable poker incident for you till date?

Sanjay – I will tell you of a funny incident, happened a few years back when I had started playing cash. I was in Macau and in one hand I had J2, wherein I had yet to learn to fold bad hands. Against one competitor who had AA I flat called and the flop came AJ2, the guy went all-in and I promptly called the turn card came 2 and the river was 2. I won the hand quads vs aces full much to the disgust of my competitor and one gentleman on the table very emphatically said “Jack Deuce Never Loose”. And I sat there amazed that I was introduced to a magical mantra of poker.

The phrase stuck with me and over the next couple of years I lost a lot of money overplaying J2. Thankfully, in time my knowledge of poker expanded and I knew what a fool I had been.

What is your poker dream?

Sanjay – Thankfully I have a lot of respect in the Indian poker community and it will be clichéd to say “winning a WSOP bracelet” is my dream. I think to play well and be known as a player to reckon with is my dream.

What are your poker plans ahead this year?

Sanjay – There are lot of live tournaments I am going to play. DPT participation in August end is sorted thanks to Adda52.com where I won the satellite to the main event and The High Roller Event along with exquisite stay arrangements. There is Baazi poker tour 2 coming after that and various others.

The online the grind continues. I have recently won some online poker tournaments on Pokerbaazi both NLHE and PLO. So, I will love to add to them.

What’s that one thing you would like to do at DPT Aug’16 which you haven’t done in any live tournament?

Sanjay – I learn everyday – bet-sizing, position play, range balancing, aggression are various factors that I have been working on. I hope to put them to much more effective use this Deltin Poker Tour.

What’s your take on the rising popularity of poker in India? What do you think should be done to promote this game more?

Sanjay – It’s amazing how fast the popularity for poker is growing in India, it has even replaced a lot of other card games played during Diwali. A lot of new kids are joining the game everyday making it a more enjoyable and thrilling experience.

It’s a game of skill and it should be given its due status by the Government, it should be made legal. Poker players need to come out of underground games and enjoy it freely.

A regulatory body for online poker in India should be formed that looks into issues like charging of correct commission/rake, cash-outs for players, proper tax deductions, responsible gaming and safety of deposits. Once that trust is built I am sure poker will be a greater income generator for all these online sites.