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The past two weeks have predominantly been about the India Online Poker Championship (IOPC), the flagship offering by Spartan Poker. The 17-day long series gave away a mind-boggling ₹20 Crores plus in cash prizes across 99 events with all of that coming together on the final day of the extravaganza last Sunday. The biggest Millionaire tournament to-date, the IOPC The Millionaire Main Event had a never seen before ₹3 Crores guaranteed making for a perfect finale to the series.
As can be expected at such a major tournament, the field was a stacked one comprising of some of the biggest names in the business. Among the scores of poker pros who had made Day 2 of the tournament was 27-year-old Anurag Srivastava, who plays under the moniker ‘Norman Bates’ on Spartan Poker. He had worked all through the week, bringing in no less than five stacks forward to the final day. And, little did he know that one of these stacks would get him one of the biggest online scores in the country to-date. Srivastava thundered his way into the final table where he came up against Wilson’ PokerBadger’ Yomso heads-up. Srivastava could have chosen to strike a heads-up deal, but no. Already ahead, he kept placing pressure on Yomso till the latter conceded, making Srivastava India’s latest Millionaire champion, banking a whopping ₹59.33 Lakhs!
For most, this windfall would have meant the end of a memorable Sunday grind but not for Srivastava. For the Delhi lad, who is an MBA in Finance, this was just the start of what turned out to be a life-changing Sunday. Srivastava was unstoppable on that day as he made good of his other stacks in The Millionaire as well, raking in three more cashes. He seemed unfazed by the enormity of the ₹60.34 Lakhs he’d earned in the event and briskly went on playing the other tournaments he had fired up across the various other sites. He closed out the AOPS Millions on Adda52, clinching the title for ₹8.92 Lakhs. If that was not enough, he final-tabled the PokerStars India’s Sunday Stars ₹2 Lakhs GTD (runner-up for ₹35,584) and PokerBaazi’s PMVS #20 BSS MegaStack ₹3 Lakhs GTD (5th for ₹18,690) as well. Now, if that’s not a marathon! Simply put, Srivastava collected a mind-blowing ₹70.11 Lakhs on a single day. A look at his online scores indicates that he has pocketed ₹75.29 Lakhs over the past seven days alone!
The Millionaire champion, who has been playing professionally since 2018, was surprisingly modest about his run when I spoke to him recently. Given that he was back to work doing what he does best, Srivastava gave me crisp and to the point answers while playing down the enormity of his wins. He called his Sunday run an ‘anomaly’ and admitted that he actually needs to work harder and put in more volume.
As Srivastava recounted the competition he faced on the final table, I discovered that he has a strong support system in his family. In fact, all the time that he was playing on the final table of The Millionaire, his father remained awake and was railing him right till he took it down at 5.30 AM on Monday morning!
Without going into more detail, we bring you the excerpts of our conversation with Srivastava, where he talks about his blistering Sunday marathon, and more. Read on.
Last Sunday was sure a blockbuster one for you that saw you walking away with over ₹70 Lakhs in winnings! How does it feel?
Thank you. Yes, it just feels great to end what was almost a 16-hour grind on such a high with two wins, also a great end to what was a pretty disappointing IOPC before Sunday.
You have been putting in a lot of volume across a lot of sites and predominantly play on PokerBaazi. Sunday was phenomenal that took your profit graph to a near-vertical climb. In fact, looking at your stats, I can see your have over ₹2.8 Crores in recorded online cashes and The Millionaire win last Sunday was by far your biggest singular cash to-date. Your comments?
I’ve been trying to put a lot of volume recently. Sunday was just an anomaly in terms of results, and I am just happy to be on the positive side of variance on such a big day.
Recount for us your run in The Millionaire. What obstacles did you face, and how did you deal with them? Also, how many stacks did you carry to Day 2 of The Millionaire, and what was the strategy you adopted to get into the final table?
I bagged 5 stacks for Day 2 of the Millionaire. For spots, I was just running good, I feel. Even on the final table, I woke up with big hands in some standard jamming spots for my opponents. I can’t really complain.
How big was the stack that eventually took you to the finish line, and how did you maneuver yourself through the competition on the final table? Did you have different strategies for the various stacks that you were playing with on Day 2?
No, I didn’t have a different strategy for different stacks, just that one of the stacks was really short, and I just folded my way to min-cash with that stack.
The stack that ended up winning was the one I bagged in Friday’s flight for 65 big blinds roughly.
Your final opponent in The Millionaire was Wilson’ PokerBadger’ Yomso, and you didn’t go for a heads-up deal despite being assured of a substantial payout if you did. Why?
No specific reason, I just wanted to play it out as the chip leader. I even played out the Adda Millions tournament. I felt focused and confident!
Who were the other formidable opponents on the final table that you thought would be tough to battle against, and why?
Yes, almost all the opponents were tough on the final table, and practically all of them were regulars. Wilson (Yomso), Tyler (Avijit Jaiswal), Ghostface (Sanket Arora), effuno (Sandeep Varma RS), bubblegum (Kanchan Sharma) and are all regulars on the online felts, along with fish2050 (Sriharsha Doddapaneni), who’s arguably the best player in India right now.
Apart from the Millionaire, a lot was going on on your computer at other sites as well. You won the AOPS Millions on Adda52 and FT’ed major tournaments on both PokerBaazi and PokerStars India. Can you take us through the Sunday grind?
It was a really long grind. I am happy to have made four FTs on all four different sites I put the most volume on. I am a little disappointed that I couldn’t close the other two.
You have been a consistent winner leading up to this life-changing Sunday. Care to elaborate on how or what you have been doing to get better in your game?
I honestly feel I need to work a lot more on my game and just continue to grind. As I said, the win on Sunday was just an anomaly, it’s all about going back to the regular schedule and hope to get better. I owe a lot of my success to my coaches in IPP.
So when did you start playing poker, and the obvious question, is what made you chose poker as a career? What about the game excites you apart from the money that we now know you have a lot of?
I actually started playing poker really long back, like in 2010 or something, but at the time, it was mostly just Diwali parties or some get-togethers. I was instantly hooked on to game but never took it seriously. I deposited $50 on Pokerstars.com back in 2012 and lost that quite quickly, but I did continue to open PokerStars and used to just sit and rail Indian players like ‘Intervention,’ ‘Danish7’, ‘Donkab0mber’, and ‘bblacklegend’ for long hours. At the time, poker was more of something I enjoyed playing with friends and having a good time, but I never took it seriously. I continued to play like this -some online games, some offline games till 2017.
I was part of online poker communities before 2017. Still, I never thought I will be doing this professionally, till late 2017, where I started playing small tournaments on stake. I met a few guys who played professionally, and I realized I can do it as well, but it wasn’t possible with my job. As a coincidence, I had to quit my job in Dec 2017 for health reasons and take a 2-month break. Within those 2 months, I was able to come 2nd in Spartan Millionaire for 14L through a 100rs Satty. After that, I was able to convince my parents to give me a chance to try and pursue this as a career. I invested in online courses, studied the game, and joined IPP a couple of months later. Thanks to my family’s support and my coaches’ guidance, I can happily say I never looked back after that, and I hope this is just the beginning.
You have a much bigger resume of online poker scores than live. Can we assume that you prefer playing online more? Why?
Yes, I’ve put in a lot more volume online, earlier I used to find it boring to play just 1 table at the time, but I do hope to start putting in more live volume in the future.
Your last recorded live score came in the 2018 WPT. With the live poker scenario undergoing a boom, can we hope to see you more in live events?
Yes, for sure. I hope to start attending a few more live events in the future. For now, I’ll continue to focus on online games and work on my game and probably start playing more live by the second half of the year.
Does this breakout Sunday set you up for WSOP this year? What are the plans for the rest of the year after this 70 Lakhs+ winning day?
Not really, no plans as of now to visit Vegas this year, but let’s see if something last minute comes up.
Any parting words of advice for other aspiring players?
Not much really, all I have to say is to just embrace your mistakes, everyone makes them and be open to constructive criticism from others.