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With the second innings of the Baazi Poker Tour (BPT) just a week away, let’s take a walk down memory lane and what better companion can we find for such a trip than the inaugural BPT Main Event champion – Puneet Dua (cover image)!
A man of many talents, Dua has successfully transitioned from a Retail Consultant to launching his own mobile apps venture and is now the Chief Operations Officer (COO) at the fantasy cricket portal, BalleBaazi, which is a subsidiary of Baazi Games – the parent company of PokerBaazi. BalleBaazi has been in the news a lot these last few months and for all the right reasons. Starting with signing on former Indian cricketer and Arjuna Award recipient, Yuvraj Singh as its first brand ambassador in June to securing 4 Million (~₹30 Crores) from two private equity companies based in Singapore and Delhi in August, the fantasy start-up is undoubtedly going places and Dua is at the helm of things. There is little doubt that Dua has a lot going on for him, but throughout the changing professional sphere, poker has remained a constant in his life.
Though Dua doesn’t get to play the game as often as before, he does try and play some of the bigger events whenever he can! It was one of these exploits that will see him making a comeback to the live poker scene in Goa in less than a week! The poker enthusiast is one of six remaining players from a field of 271 entries (179 unique and 92 re-entries) in PokerBaazi’s PPL #35 High Roller 6-Max ₹70 Lakhs GTD (RE) which played out on September 26. Following 265 eliminations that took place over seven hours, Dua playing under the moniker ‘neo1’ bagged a stack of 2.742 Million to emerge as the end of play chip leader. The road to the title is not going to be easy for him though, as he will have to overcome some seasoned MTT players like Anish’ Illusionist’ Patra (1,785,357), Shashank ‘Westworld’ Jain (1,313,916), Sreekanth’ n0thing’ Narayan (1,118,829), Nitin’ hoodlincs’ Jain (878,803) and ‘mslpmfrt’ (280,528) before he can claim the title.
Entering the final table with nearly 34% of the chips in play, Dua is undoubtedly a favorite to take down the PPL High Roller, which will resume on October 7 at the PokerBaazi LIVE onboard Casino Pride 2 in Goa. If Dua goes on to clinch the High Roller title, it will act as a definitive confident boost for the poker aficionado! What a great story it would be if Dua who happens to be the defending BPT champion rides into the BPT comeback series with a PPL title in his kitty!
Also, will Dua be able to successfully defend his BPT Main Event title? Only time will tell, but for now, PokerGuru caught up with the man of the moment, and in a candid chat, Dua spilled the beans on his work at BalleBaazi, his plans for the PPL High Roller final table, among other things. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
Hi Puneet, it’s so great to be talking to you after such a long time. Incidentally, the last time we spoke was immediately after you had won the BPT Main Event title in July 2016. You had just quit your job as a Retail Consultant and were starting to dabble in apps and tech-related projects. So, fill us in on the last three years.
Likewise! It’s been a great phase from dabbling into apps which has eventually turned into some serious business. The gaming space luckily was the right door at the time.
Just like sports did and continue to do, the gaming space is widening up exponentially, it has kept me really busy and away from the tables most of my time. I’ve only managed to play featured events online once in a while.
So, talking about BalleBaazi – congrats on the latest funding. Work must be hectic for you right now? How is it working with the PokerBaazi team – share some info on the management team and roles/responsibilities? Also, how and what has changed since the funding?
Thanks, credit goes to a great team that had worked at the foundation level. It’s been absolutely packed as we have been adding sports such as football and kabaddi. Also, the number of fixtures is increasing in every category, including women’s cricket. It’s going great with PB (PokerBaazi) as they have added qualitative years of experience in the business to a nascent product helping it shape into a mature product in the space. Yuvraj Singh has been a great addition to the family. Every day at work is full of action.
Coming back to the main topic of conversation – the PPL High Roller. Out of 8.12 Million total chips in play, you bagged 2.74 Million and will resume the final table play in Goa with almost 34% of the chips in play. The shortest stack of the table is a 10:1 underdog as compared to you. What will be your strategy going into the final table? How do you plan to use the lead to your advantage?
Well definitely finishing second also feels like a bad result when I think of my chip lead, but I have often witnessed online players over trying when leading eventually not shipping, so no plans yet to tweak my gameplay based on my stack.
Take us through some of the crucial hands you were involved with and the table dynamics throughout the play. What was your plan going into the event – given that the field in such an event was always going to be super Reggy?
Well, luckily the flips fell my side mostly. Players were exposing a very wide range, you expect that short-handed so had to adapt, picked more chips in the late stage when less than 25 players were left. I prefer playing short-handed, always. When I started playing online poker during college days it was 6 handed Sit ‘N’ Go’s at FullTilt and 888poker – 2 places were paid that always helps in my opinion.
The biggest pot I bagged was a double knockout KK>99>AK. Pre all in.
The final table will be played live in Goa, and it’s not going to be easy with players like Anish Patra, Sreekanth Narayan and Nitin Jain in contention. What’s the plan?
Well, I won’t be surprised, but I will be disappointed if I don’t bring the title home. The plan is to take it easy and play my game and try not to let any other factors weigh in. I’m hoping to focus on my game and bring this home.
You seemed to have pretty much disappeared from the tournament scene since the last BPT win three years back – no live or online score I could track to you. What’s going on here?
It’s been BalleBaazi for the last 27 months now, looking forward to being coached in January before becoming a frequent customer at the live tables. I have been spending whatever little cash game time I have at OFC tables, I really enjoy playing the progressive & ultimate format.
I know I keep going back to our last conversation, but then you had told us that WSOP was on top of your poker bucket list. If you went to the series in the last 3 years, then honestly, we missed on that – but if not – is this still a top priority?
Yes, I am looking forward to going to Vegas in 2020, and I want to achieve it through Baazi Rewards.
It’s a great time to be a poker player in the country – poker seems to be booming both live and online. Do you think that the current growth is sustainable? We now have at least 3-4 major tournament brands in the country, and almost 7-8 high-value series are all but guaranteed in Goa. Care to share your views?
It is absolutely, anyone who is serious about the sport and can acquire good habits such as being physically fit and having a well-balanced diet can make big strides in the domestic circuit. I hope we get more bracelets next time like Abhinav did this time.
With those words, Dua signs off!