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Kanishka Samant is one name that has been around the poker block for the better part of the decade. One of our first batch of Young Guns, the Mumbai-based poker pro, has delivered upon the promise he showed in the initial days multiple times over! Samant first discovered poker in 2010, and by 2012 he was playing the game full-time. He has since gone on to become one of India`s most respected poker pros, winning numerous accolades both in domestic and international tournaments.
An experienced equity analyst, his strong quant background has fared him well in his poker career. With an impressive $250,000 (~₹1.78 Crores) in career live winnings, Samant has six major titles to his name and is the only player to date to have won the IPC Main Event twice. He is now looking to extend that experience by turning tournament organizer having joined forces with his good friend Jaydeep Dawer and Manish Goenka in the management team of The Indian Poker Series (TIPS). Samant is also the mindset mentor at the India Poker Pros (IPP).
We sat down with Samant to get the inside scoop on his new role at The Indian Poker Series (TIPS), his poker journey, and his approach towards his students of IPP. You can hear the excerpts of the conversation in the audio blog below or read the same in the interview that follows.
Hi Kanishka, and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru! There are a lot of things we are curious about, so without much ado let’s dive straight into the questions!
You have recently partnered with Manish Goenka and Jaydeep Dawer for the 3rd edition of The Indian Poker Series (TIPS) that’s coming up next year. Tell us about the details of this collaboration. Is this a one-season partnership or something more long term?
Jaydeep Dawer is a friend and I know that he is extremely passionate about promoting poker as a mind sport. So when he approached me to get associated with TIPS; he and Manish (Goenka) who wanted domestic players to play in Europe in a tournament series with reasonable buy-ins and big guarantees, so I was pretty excited to be on board and help them in their endeavors.
I am going to be a part of the management and all three of us have similar roles. For the first couple of seasons, I was not associated with TIPS so I am trying to suggest ways by which we can make the experience better for players. We are trying to offer as much as value as possible to the players as they will be traveling to Europe to play the series and it should be worth their while.
To answer the last part, I definitely don’t see as a one-season partnership and rather a long one.
There are so many domestic and other Asian stops already popular among Indian players. In this congested diaspora, where does TIPS fit in?
So TIPS has low buy-ins but huge guarantees at the same time. It also has three World Series of Poker Europe Main Event tickets as a giveaway. We have also added a couple of new high roller events as we saw a lot of interest developing within domestic circuit for those kind of tournaments. Over there, the rake is close to lowest in the world to be honest, so cash games also will have a massive value.
We are giving, we are trying to set up added benefits for all the players and a few announcements are in the pipeline and in a couple of days, you will be hearing about those as well.
You have some prior experience running a live tournament brand with the Mahjong Aquarium Poker Championship (MAPC). What were some takeaways for you from that venture?
So MAPC was a huge success thanks to the support shown by the players and I believe we hosted it well. We considered 100 player mark to be good and the turnouts surpassed our expectations. We made the structures carefully, the dealers were trained prior to the event and the tournament area was big and comfortable.
The turnouts were more than expected and so was the prize pool. Overall, we were extremely satisfied with the outcome but the key takeaway from it, was to provide a more player-centric experience and think of what the players want and going forward as well, in any venture, the effort would be the same and obviously every experience is new.
Let’s talk more about Kanishka, the poker pro. You are one of the early stalwarts of the Indian poker industry and have been playing poker professionally since 2012. How did poker happen to you?
Well, poker happened to me as it did with millions. Through Zynga poker on FaceBook and after that, I instinctively grew fond of the game and put in a lot of work through the years to stay at par with the learning curve.
In 2010, I started playing some cash games, some home games here and there. In 2011, I met Vikram Varma and he basically invited us to come play his India Poker Pros series. I won that and it gave me some breathing space and bankroll to kind of like have some future plans related to poker.
I won the IPC Main Event satellite which gave me the chance to play the Main Event there which I won as well. But the most turning point would be getting coached by Robitinion in 2012 onwards. He was very good and he, it’s thanks to him. And obviously Danish Shaikh and we still are kind of like, bounce hands and kind of improve each other pretty well.
You have an envious record of live scores on the domestic circuit that includes an IPC title, a WPT India win and many FT finishes. Your online achievements are equally impressive. So here’s the most basic question – what do you prefer more, playing live or online and why?
So live poker any day of the week. Currently, I play 4-5 days a week online, sometimes I play 6 days, 7 days a week. Sometimes I take a lot of breaks. I wanted to improve this year so I decided to play loads and run hands. One day of the week, just dedicate it to that and the plan has worked fine, I am happy with my performance this year.
You are the only one so far to boast of an incredible two IPC Main Event titles – the first one you won in 2012, and the second in 2015. What impact did those wins have on your poker career?
The first IPC Main Event was huge for 2012, it had some 60-70 odd runners but winning the 2nd one with around 250 players after three years, it was special as it justified the efforts I put in and motivated me to stay focused going ahead. And well, any shipment is precious to a player.
This has been a breakout year for you – winning the IOPC Elite in January, the Destiny 8.0 SnG for a ₹10 Lakhs Europe package, a Head-Hunter title, and numerous scores. Not just your online scores, even the PHP 200K High Roller title that you won at APPT Manila in August for a career-best ₹95.05 Lakhs. What seems to be the reason for such consistency?
I have a strong mental game and I am honest with myself. I put in more volume this year as compared to the previous couple of years and simultaneously, I put in work every time I spotted a weakness and I believe it’s an ongoing process.
I used to mark hands every time I had a doubt and used to ensure to discuss the same and play correctly and rinse and repeat every week.
How are things at India Poker Pros where you are a mentor? What is your key role, and plans for the IPP?
I am a mind coach as I understand what it takes for a poker player to get and more importantly, stay motivated. Poker is a mind sport and we need to always be hungry in order to strive and tap our optimal potential. Everyone in the industry is proud because it’s a very self-centric profession. The thing is you cannot improve in solitary.
Very few people are actually lucky to get good mentors like Aditya Agarwal and Danish Shaikh. Everyone has to go through variance and deal with their personal issues and nobody wants to talk about it. I put concerted efforts towards ensuring that the players have a healthy mindset and I make sure they are not thinking about the end results but focus on the work at hand.
Are other poker business ventures also in the pipeline or likely in the near future?
To be honest, I don’t think I am a good businessman. I’m truly, I am just passionate about the game and I do my best to promote it in my best capacity. I am not sure about other ventures in the future yet, I am not sure.