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The latest to join the brand-ambassador bandwagon is Vikram Kumar (cover image), who has been signed on as Team Pro by PokerBaazi. Vikram will be the third pro on the PokerBaazi rooster, after Paawan Bansal who was the first to be signed on in late February, 2016 followed by Abhisek Panda.
The Chennai-based Vikram was part of the OPN Challenger Series in January this year and his crowning moment came when he won the India Poker Championship (IPC) Spartan Poker Online 50K High Roller for ₹8 Lakhs, besides making two final tables at IPC events in the October 2015 and January 2016 editions.
Vikram began poker about seven years ago at the international tables and after his recent final table finishes at the IPC, decided to become a full-time pro. PokerGuru caught up with Vikram for a quick session and here he tells us about his induction into professional poker, his tie-up with PokerBaazi and future plans…
Please tell us about your background and your poker journey?
Like many others, I also got into poker through Zynga and then I was playing some home games here and there – that’s in late 2008-09. I used to travel a lot to Colombo and Bangalore on business front and that’s where I used to play some occasional poker games and I was doing alright but it was more of a recreational play. Sometime last year in May I travelled to US and I was playing in Vegas for around 4-5 days. I played six of the daily tournaments that happen in Venetian, Bellagio and MGM, final tabling four of them and chip chopping for 1st place in one. So the run was quite satisfactory and very happily I continued my trip and in Niagara I played some cash games where I won a $3,000 bounty when I made my full-house with 29.
I had a decent bit of bankroll when I came back to India and I thought to continue playing here but the game selection I was making was not good. I was playing $300 hyper turbos heads-up and $500 heads up matches on PokerStars and then I figured out that wasn’t the right way of going at it. At the same time I started joining these online forums for Indian Poker Players and understood about bankroll management, then came to IPC for the first time. I bricked the series but decided that in next IPC if I final table one tournament I will pursue poker full time. In the next IPC, the first event was the ₹5k Warm-up which I final tabled and the very next day was the Spartan Poker Highroller event final table which I ended up shipping. So back-to-back final tables and one title was the icing on the cake and that made me turn into a full time pro. Been going to almost all live events in Goa doing pretty good and final tabling Jan edition Main event which is like the most important tournament. So going into day 2 and then playing final table, I was pretty happy with my run.
From a recreational player, the urge to play poker seriously and turning pro I would say that the motivation came after the US trip.
Do you play online or live? Which format do you prefer?
I was playing a lot of live previously and was not doing good online but things have changed in the last 3-4 months. I have been putting a lot of volume playing online on Indian sites. In the last couple of months my scores have been green more online than live.
What has been your highest score till now?
From tournament perspective, my highest score would be the Spartan Poker Highroller Event’s first place for ₹8 Lakhs up top.
Talking about the PokerBaazi Team, tell us how did it happen. What would be your key role as a Team Pro?
So the first final table, I was playing with Navkiran Singh (PokerBaazi CEO) on the same table for long time and that’s how we got introduced and started speaking and discussing about poker. The next day he saw me winning the highroller event and since then we became good friends. Sometime late last year he talked about forming a Team pro and just recently PokerBaazi signed Paawan Bansal. At that time, Navkiran told me that we will talk about this at the right time and just a couple of days back we reconnected on this and that’s how it happened.
He told me that I will be adding a lot of value to the team and PokerBaazi. I would be the brand ambassador for them, I will be promoting the sport and educating the young crowd about poker being a game of skill . Additionally, I will be representing them in tournaments and will try to make people realize that it’s a skill based game and not gambling.
Any parting words?
Yea I really wish that the sport is recognized as a skill game throughout the country and playing poker should be legal in all the states in this year. And to achieve that all of us have to work as a team, as a community the way we are going, I think its not going to be that hard and I will definitely try my best to make this happen.
Thank you Vikram for taking the time to talk and good luck in your new role!