5 Minutes Read
The Baazi Poker Tour Online (BPTO) kicked off on January 2, and the live edition of the series is just days from commencing onboard the floating Casino Pride 2 in Goa. With a massive ₹7 Crores guaranteed between them, the third edition of the BPT promises to be the BIGGEST yet in the brand’s history! We felt this was a good time as any to catch up with one of the key people behind the revival of this popular series, Vikram Kumar, aka ‘Lungi’ (cover image).
A man who has donned many roles in his professional life, Kumar is one of the most loveable personalities of the domestic circuit. A cash game enthusiast, Kumar has been a part of the industry for many years now. A self-proclaimed ‘recreationally professional,’ the Chennaiite recently shifted base to Goa after joining the core management team of the PokerBaazi LIVE poker room, the host venue for the BPT onboard Casino Pride 2.
As we got talking, Kumar explained why BPT is different from the other domestic live tournaments, stating that a lot of emphases are given to receiving and, whenever possible, implementing player feedback. He even went on to elaborate on how as tournament organizers, they are striving hard to provide the best possible service to players at the upcoming BPT series.
Besides his involvement with PokerBaazi LIVE and BPT, Kumar is also an integral part of the live poker staking stable, PokerGuru Staking. Boasting of several upcoming talents, the stable has made quite a name for itself in the past year. Talking about the success of the stable, Kumar said, “The stable is doing really well, the boys are doing really well. Adi (Aditya Agarwal) has been spending a lot of time with the boys.”
We even spoke about how the competition among brands hosting live tournaments in Goa is heating up, his views on the future of poker in the country, and much more. Here are the excerpts.
Hi Vikram, you must be busy with the preparations for the upcoming Baazi Poker Tour (BPT). What were the key learnings from the previous edition?
Honestly, I am not busy with BPT preparations. We have a kick-ass team which is looking after all the work. I am just chilling and trying to give a little bit of overlooking here and there.
It’s exciting leading up to any of our events, and Baazi Poker Tour is one of the major events that we look forward to. It’s an exciting time.
As for the key learnings from previous editions, some small issues here and there which we have addressed and probably provide an even better experience this time around. Key learnings from Baazi edition 1 and 2 – keep surprising ourselves more as we did in Season 1 and 2.
We know PokerBaazi is known for its player-centric approach. How has been the player’s response for the upcoming series? Any essential changes your team has incorporated for this series?
We have added more volunteers and helpline numbers for players to reach out to us regarding their stays or if they have any queries related to participating in the event. All of us are reachable at any point in time, and we try and live up to our player-centric approach, which is giving them the best hospitality and the best player experience possible from our side.
There is a lot of competition in live tournaments as well now. What differentiates BPT from other domestic tournaments?
I think your previous question answers that. We try giving the best possible service to the players and take their feedback seriously and try incorporating them to provide a fantastic experience to both the professional poker players and the recreational players who come for our events.
We have got to know that you have shifted your base from Chennai to Goa. Kindly elaborate.
One of the key reasons for me moving from Chennai to Goa is to concentrate on the cash game action and participate in some real mad action happening this year. I also want to train floor and team a little bit in sync to our work ethics at PokerBaazi and give different games to choose for players and also to streamline specific day to day activities.
What is your primary role at the PokerBaazi LIVE poker room? What’s the deal with you and your onion fritters?
So basically, Navi (Navkiran Singh) and Rohan (Dhawan) have been concentrating on the Baazi Poker Tour, and Nikhil (Jain) and I have been working on getting the cash games appropriately structured and to run regular games throughout the year. What we have achieved in the last couple of weeks is that we have been running games 24*7, and probably we are one of the very few casinos that have games running throughout the day.
Let’s talk about your other business venture PokerGuru Staking stable. How are things progressing at the stable?
The stable is doing really well, the boys are doing really well. Adi (Aditya Agarwal) has been spending a lot of time with the boys. Everything is going as per plan with respect to the PokerGuru Staking stable. The boys are crushing!
Can you name a few upcoming players who, according to you, have the potential to become the next poker superstars of the country?
There are a lot of excellent players. Everyone from PokerGuru Staking is doing well and has the potential to become the next poker superstar because they are being coached by the best. Then there are a lot of other young players who are doing really well. I feel we will do what Germany did a couple of summers back in Vegas – take the WSOP by storm and do well. Abhinav Iyer’s first individual bracelet is just the first step towards that.
From an industry standpoint, what is your outlook for poker in 2020? What do you think will work, and what won’t? How do you see Poker in India shaping in the future?
We have been talking about the poker boom for a very long time, but I think the real poker boom is right here and right now. There is a lot of opportunities for a poker player, there are more professionals. The ecosystem has grown, and there are a lot of people who are making a living out of poker. This industry is only multiplying, and this is the boom we are talking about. There is a little bit of tax streamlining here and there, and some government support would make us a great poker playing nation.
There is a lot of argument circling the poker world about how healthy the re-entry formats in tournaments are. Players like Negreanu have openly stated that they don’t think it’s good for tournament poker if it continues to spread. What are your views on this topic since almost all the major live and online tournaments today allow unlimited re-entries?
I am very recreationally professional to answer this question. However, for the Indian ecosystem, I think we are still too young to experiment with something, but then if a lot of the big boys are talking, there should be some sense to it. There should be an equal chance. If you ask me what my dream would be for this BPT, I would want some really unknown player to come and win than a well-known name or a professional poker player.
With the recent surge in big-ticket online events and high-buy ins, we have heard renowned pros of the country express their feelings that a lot of young blood of poker is spewing a lot of money in these multi-flight format events. What’s your take on this?
I don’t play that much, but when I do, I feel terrible that top players or the pros get more advantage by carrying multiple stacks, etc., but the will is strong.
Care to share a few of the infamous Lungi Tales?
In 2018, Shaun Deeb was the ‘Player of the Year’, and I remember we were playing on the same table at an event. I just wanted to put him off guard and probably tilt him a little bit, I won a big pot from him, and I took the chips, dragged them in front of me and asked him, ‘yo, I think you’re famous, what’s your name,’ and his face turned red. I think I got the better of him that day! (laughs)
Any parting words?
Keep doing the right things, keep working hard. Be disciplined, maintain bankroll, and keep crushing! Good luck #WillisStrong
I would like to wish everyone a very happy new year and looking forward to seeing you all at the BPT 2020 Jan 2-14. First phase online and the second phase from 7th onwards at PokerBaazi LIVE room at Casino Pride!
The third edition on the Baazi Poker Tour begins from January 8 at the PokerBaazi LIVE poker room onboard Casino Pride 2. Team PokerGuru will once again be present at the venue to bring you the blow-by-blow recap of all the live action as it unfolds, so stay tuned!