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Showcasing India’s immense poker talent, the inaugural season of Global Poker League (GPL) India proved that the country’s interest in poker and the leagues associated with it is steadily growing. A product of Mediarex, GPL was hosted in India in association with PokerStars India and powered by Socios.com.
Though GPL India Season 1 took place last year, due to post-production work that had to be done to make the finished product suitable for the television viewing audience, the season was aired on Colors Infinity and Colors Infinity HD from March 9 to April 6.
The final two episodes featured the ‘Semi-Finals’ and ‘Grand Finale’ and witnessed the last four teams – Mumbai Jetsetters, Chennai Sharks, Bengaluru Hackers, and Delhi Diehards – battle it out for the ultimate prize, the five PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) Platinum Passes worth over ₹1 Crore in total!
Team Mumbai Jetsetters whitewashed Delhi Diehards in the Playoffs and obliterated Chennai Sharks in the finale to punch their ticket to the PSPC in the Bahamas. Led by high stakes cash game boss Kavin Shah, the team roster included wildcard pros – cash game veteran Raman Gujral and online tournament specialist Vivek Singh along with online qualifiers Saurabh Sindhwani and Aneesh Gopinathan. The team performed brilliantly and showed how strategic planning plays an integral role in winning a sports league of this magnitude.
Episode 1 to 8 – A Quick Recap
The first four episodes of the season brought TV audiences highlights of the action from the Bootcamp. The six Team Managers – Vikram Kumar (Chennai Sharks), Muskan Sethi (Delhi Diehards), Abhishek Rathod (Pune Alphas), Kavin Shah (Mumbai Jetsetters), Aditya Agarwal (Kolkata Creators) and Vidwath Shetty (Bengaluru Hackers) were tasked with choosing their respective two online qualifiers at the GPL India Bootcamp. The selection process culminated with all team members including the Wild Card pros of each team coming together on stage for the first time on Draft Day where the Team Jerseys were unveiled.
|Team||Team Manager||Interview Round Winner||SNG Match Winner||Wildcard Pros|
|Chennai Sharks||Vikram Kumar||Mithun Kookkiri||Suyog H||Ashish Munot & Gaurav Gala|
|Delhi Sharks||Muskan Sethi||Ajitesh Bhargava||Albetrose Alex||Arsh Grover & Niharika Bindra|
|Pune Alphas||Abhishek Rathod||Vishal Bajaj||Vikas Dhull||Nitin Jain & Kanishka Upreti|
|Bengaluru Hackers||Vidhwath Shetty||Shiv Bhargava||Arun Sriram||Abhishek Panda & Rahul Melwani|
|Kolkata Creators||Aditya Agarwal||Gokul Raj||Jai Saha||Jayjit Ray & Rishab Jain|
|Mumbai Jetsetters||Kavin Shah||Saurabh Sindhwani||Aneesh Gopinathan||Ramandeep Gujral & Vivek Singh|
Once the 6 city-based teams were drafted, the GPL India Regular Season kicked off. Episodes 5-8 brought us all the action from the Regular Season starting with the Manager’s Brawl, Qualifiers Showdown, Battle of the Pros and finally the Manager’s Finale.
Team Pune Alphas was the first team to get eliminated in Season 1 following a less than desirable run in the Regular Season. Even with Pune Alphas out, the competition did not subside, as two races were going on – for the no 1 spot in the Regular Season and the no 4 spot. Chennai Sharks and Mumbai Jetsetters were vying for the top spot while Kolkata Creators and Delhi Diehards were the two teams fighting for the fourth spot. It was Arsh Grover‘s (Delhi Diehards) phenomenal win over Vivek Singh (Mumbai Jetsetters) during the first ‘Battle of the Pros’ match that breathed a new life for the Delhi Diehards team and gave them an edge over Kolkata Creators. Aditya Agarwal needed a top-two finish in the Manager’s Finale to ensure Kolkata a spot in the Playoffs. Agarwal came very close but suffered a brutal bad beat leading to the team’s exit in fifth place.
With Kolkata Creators out of the competition, the remaining four teams started working for the upcoming Semi-Finals. Mumbai Jetsetters skyrocketed to the top of the Regular Season leaderboard with 29 points, followed by Chennai Sharks (24 points), Bengaluru Hackers (23 points) and finally Delhi Diehards who were at the bottom of the leaderboard with 17 points.
Episode 9 – The Semi-Finals
The top four teams returned for – ‘The Semi-Finals.’ The format for the playoff had the top-most team, Mumbai Jetsetter face the team at the bottom of the Regular Season leaderboard, Delhi Diehards, while the leaderboard runner-up, Chennai Sharks, having to face the team placed third on the leaderboard, Bengaluru Hackers in a best of three heads-up matches. The team on top enjoyed a distinct advantage as players from Mumbai Jetsetters started off with 50,000 in chips against the Delhi Diehards that had to make do with a starting stack of 35,000. Similarly, Chennai Sharks entered each Semi-Finals match with a starting stack of 45,000 against the Bengaluru Hackers’ 40,000.
With the four teams divided into two groups, each group played best of three heads-up matches where the Team Managers were required to nominate a member from their team before each game. An interesting stipulation to the format was that the Team Managers had to ensure all their players played before any repetition was allowed. This required Team Managers to put their thinking caps ON as this rule carried over the Finals as well, requiring Team Managers to decide whether to send in their stronger players in the Semi-Finals or to save them for the Finals.
Match 1: First up was the heads-up match between Mumbai Jetsetters and Delhi Diehards. Muskan Sethi nominated online qualifier Ajitesh Bhargava, while Kavin Shah decided to lead from the front and nominated himself.
Being the top-ranked team meant Shah enjoyed a sizeable chip lead over Bhargava as the former started off with a stack of 50,000 against the latter’s 35,000. The outcome of the match was unsurprising. Facing off against a Team Manager and cash game legend like Shah was never going to be easy for Bhargava, and the chip disadvantage only added to his woes. Shah made quick work of the Delhi Diehard qualifier who lost a big pot when his were cracked by Shah’s .
Shah then pressurized Bhargava further and went all-in holding . Bhargava decided to call with . The board was of no help to Bhargava, and with that, the Mumbai Jetsetters took an early lead in playoffs.
Match 2: The second semi-final match pitted wildcard pro Ashish Munot (Chennai Sharks) against online qualifier Arun Sriram (Bengaluru Hackers).
It was yet another uneven match-up which saw the more experienced Munot, whose team also had a chip advantage coming in with a starting stack of 45,000, easily overpower Sriram, who started with a stack of 40,000. After losing a few crucial hands, Sriram eventually moved all-in with , and Munot made the easy call showing . Munot further flopped two pairs on the runout , securing the win for Chennai Sharks.
Match 3: The third match saw Delhi and Mumbai return to the felts. This time, Delhi’s wildcard pro Niharika Bindra locked horns with Mumbai’s online qualifier Saurabh Sindhwani.
It was an interesting match-up since Sindhwani had the chip advantage, but Bindra was a cash game specialist with the ability to easily turn the match to her team’s favor. Sindhwani got the upper hand on Bindra early on, but the final hand of the match was a real head-turner. Sindhwani opened with a bet of 3,200 holding and Bindra 3-bet to 8,000 with . Sindhwani called, and the flop revealed and both players hit a flush draw. Bindra led out for 8,500 with her nut flush draw, and Sindhwani immediately shoved all-in for 40,100; Bindra snap-called. The turn gave Sindhwani a pair of fives and Bindra needed a spade on the river, but the completed the board. Sindhwani snatched the win away from Bindra after the brutal bad beat and knocked out Delhi Diehards from the competition. Mumbai Jetsetters became the first team to qualify for the Grand Finale.
Match 4: The next game of the semi-finals began with Bengaluru Hackers on the backfoot. Online tournament specialist Rahul Melwani was tasked with ensuring his team’s qualification. The Chennai Sharks sent in their online qualifier Mithun Kookkiri who had performed exceptionally well in the Qualifier’s Showdown.
Melwani found early success when his bested Kookkiri’s with the board running , but Kookkiri clawed his way back into the match and on the final hand his defeated Melwani’s as the former flopped two pairs, booking Chennai Sharks’ seat in the finals.
Episode 10 – Grand Finale
At last, the moment we had all been waiting for had arrived. The ‘Grand Finale’ brought two of the best performing teams of the league – Mumbai Jetsetters and Chennai Sharks – face to face. With the chance to participate in the biggest-ever $25K buy-in event, the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC), hanging in the balance, the race to the finish line intensified.
In the much-awaited climax of the inaugural season of GPL India, the two finalist teams battled in a best of five heads-up match format to determine the winner.
Match 1: The first match had two veteran poker pros butt heads. From Chennai Sharks, PLO specialist Gaurav Gala took his seat at the table and was met with the cash game expert Raman Gujral from the Mumbai Jetsetters.
Gujral started strong and took the game away from Gala when his outlasted the latter’s . With the board showing , Gujral turned three-of-a-kind sevens taking a massive chip lead against his opponent.
Soon after that, Gujral jammed with and Gala snap called holding . The rundown brought and Gujral won the first match for Mumbai.
Match 2: The second finale match-up had the Mumbai Jetsetters at a disadvantage. The team had up until then, been on point with their strategic planning, however, this time around, they had little choice but to send in their online qualifier Aneesh Gopinathan, who was perhaps their weakest link, against the Manager of the Chennai Sharks – Vikram “Lungi” Kumar.
It was never going to be easy for Gopinathan to win the match and as expected, Kumar dominated the former with his intimidating table talk and superior skills.
Ultimately, Gopinathan’s were knocked out of the park by Kumar’s which bettered to a set of aces on the flop. Though it was a short match, Kumar’s antics on the table certainly ensured that it was the most entertaining one. Kumar’s win meant that Chennai Sharks was now on an even standing with Mumbai Jetsetters.
Match 3: Due to the stipulation that the teams have to play all their players once before any player can be repeated resulted in the third match seeing the tables being turned on the Chennai Sharks as their online qualifier Suyog H now had to face off Mumbai’s online tournament specialist Vivek Singh.
Suyog got lucky early on as Singh’s pocket sixes were bested by his , as the rundown brought a better two pair counterfeiting Singh’s hand. Suyog however failed to convert the advantage into a win and soon enough, Singh’s spelled the end of Suyog’s , on the board . Mumbai Jetsetters were in the lead once again.
Match 4: It was now a do-or-die situation for Chennai Sharks, and in this dire time of crisis, they decided to lean on the supremely talented Ashish Munot. Though Munot was a skilful player, it was still a tough situation, primarily since he was to play the Mumbai Jetsetters Team Manager – Kavin Shah.
Shah showed why he is considered one of the top-most players in the country and whisked the win away from Munot. On the final hand of the season, Munot’s ran into Shah’s . The board bricked out, and with that, the Team Mumbai Jetsetters was crowned as the champions of GPL India Season 1!
With that, India’s first long-run poker league came to an end. It was an extraordinary journey that started with 7,500 online qualifiers competing for a spot in the six city-based teams and following several weeks of nail-biting action, crowned Team Mumbai Jetsetters as the first-ever GPL India champions!