Heads-Up: Baazi Poker Tour Main Event Champion Puneet Dua Speaks of His Poker Plans, WSOP Dreams & More

Puneet Dua
  • Profile picture
  • PG News July 5, 2016
  • 4 Minutes Read

The Baazi Poker Tour (BPT), a new brand of live tournaments debuted on June 23 at the Deltin Royale Poker Lounge in Goa, and was a huge success drawing large crowds. Making history was Puneet Dua (cover image), who defeated a 217-entry crowd in the ₹25K Main Event for a sum of ₹10 Lakhs after a four-way deal. And, Puneet did it by qualifying for the Main Event through an online satellite.

29-year old Puneet hails from Delhi and after years as a Retail Consultant, quit to launch his own venture in mobile apps, but poker has remained a constant in his life. His poker journey began at 17 and he already has a win at an event in Macau, besides a deep run at APT Goa and believes he is at his best in bounty formats.

Like any serious poker aficionado, Puneet dreams of making it to the WSOP and plans to go to Las Vegas for the series after two years. He is however not looking to depend on poker for a living, and declares that he would have a back-up plan.

Puneet clearly is intent on the sport and passionate about its study. He gives us an in-depth recall of his crucial hands at the BPT Main Event, his strategy to overcome opponents and especially the final table that makes for a highly interesting read.

Here he shares with us snippets of his life, mainly his poker journey, his view of the poker scene in India and his idols, along with a lot more.


Please tell us a little about yourself

I am 29 years old, was born and brought up In Delhi and went to modern school, Barakhamba Road. Post that I studied Retail and Marketing and then studied branding from Germany and pursued my career as a Retail Consultant for a few years in India. However I used to get many international assignments including the Paris Fashion Week and participated in fests.

My last job was with Arvind Ltd which is a big clothing company owning brands like Gap, Creyate and all. I was based in Gujarat for 18 months, and prior to that at Mumbai, followed by Bangalore.

Recently I quit my job after working straight for eight years. Right now I want to try something new, so I am launching a couple of mobile apps and want to see how that works. If something in the tech industry works for me, I won’t go back to a desk job so I am trying that for a year.


How and when did you come across the sport of poker?

I learnt the game from my friend Naren, who studied in Chennai. This was a long back and he learnt to play in the hostel with fellow students, and he in turn taught me how to play. This was probably in first year; I was 17 that time, so we used to play small cash games at friend’s house in Delhi itself. My next experience of Poker was in Bangalore, there was a lot of action there. The first event I ever attended was Aces Unlimited in Goa though my first win came in Macau like 5 years ago and then I went deep in APT (Goa) also. I consider Bounty events as my specialty, whether live or online, I do my best in bounty only.


How often do you play and which variant of the game do you prefer playing?

I play around 4-5 days in a week and at least three times in a week I put in 6-8 hour sessions. I prefer to play live but subject to the days call I decide where to play. Sundays I don’t mind playing online as there is a lot of action/value there. I like to play tourneys more than cash and it’s hard to find a live Sit n Go in Delhi, so yea I play cash here in Delhi and online I prefer playing only tourneys. Cash I play online only when I need to build a bankroll or something but it’s not my first choice.


Please tell us about your BPT Main Event experience. Any key hands you want to talk about?

From Day 1 itself I started noting down how many hands I was playing or how many flop/turn/river I was seeing. I was trying to calculate the basic online stats that you see using HUD’s or other softwares. People were making fun of me as I was writing down notes on the first table. Not much happened in the first three hours of play at table 1, but then I got moved to a second table where I was left with around 12.5k chips only and then the biggest hand happened. I had A 2 offsuit in big blind and UTG who was making a lot of moves and was a pro, limped. It was a loaded table with some big names on it and action folded around to the small blind who matched. I checked to see the flop open K 8 8 which got checked and we saw a 2 opening on the turn. UTG raised and he was covering me. SB folded and I tank-called a tough one and was ahead. So that was a decision based all-in call. From thereon, I got a couple of double ups and won some flips. I was doing well but the last or second last hand of day I lost a major pot and bagged 86k.

Day 2 started on a bad note too as I lost half my stack in the first hand itself again. From there I won a couple of flips and when the table dominator Nikita Luther wasn’t on my table anymore it was a bit better because she was 4-5 betting pre and not letting anyone see flops. Eventually when we were down to 3 tables, it was all about flips for me and I tried to protect my stack.


You were fourth in chips when final table commenced, please tell us about the play and journey at the final table of the main event. Any particular strategy you had in mind?

On the FT I was a bit relaxed because I was already assured decent money. Rajat Sharma was the first elimination after he got short in a kings vs. queens hand and I knocked him out with a shallow simple call. I was feeding on these crippled stacks and waited for people to be short stacked before risking my stack against them but I had my share of swings too on the final table.

I did not knockout many people till the first half of the table was gone. I just had to be patient and try and steal a hand in a round maybe to survive. I was lowest in chips when top 4 players were left and then Ankush (Agarwala) offered a deal to restructure the payouts which I definitely wanted, as it bumped the fourth place prize money by 2 Lakhs. I was happy even coming fourth at final table, I was satisfied with the money part however I wanted to chase the title. So we re-structured the payouts and then Sameer (Tavanandi) eliminated Ankush and then further went on to eliminate Simon Mint too, leaving just the both of us.

When heads up started, I was a 2:1 underdog and I had a bone to pick with Sameer (jokingly) as he eliminated one of my good friends Archit Khandelwal after giving him a sick beat. There came a time when I was left with 800,000 and he had around 3.7 million chips. He wanted to chop the heads up positions too and wanted to shove all-in blind to which I disagreed. I wasn’t getting cards in the beginning but then I decided to make a move as I was too short. I made a move on all streets in a hand holding 7 2 with complete air and got him to fold on the river. I showed the cards to him and his railers, who were constantly woo-ing me before that. Then he spazzed and eventually I picked up aces at the right time, as we were almost same in chips with me just about covering him. That was the first time in the entire trip that I got aces. So, I matched and he raised, I 3-bet, he 4-bet shoved and I snapped and before the flop only I was sure I had won it.


Do you wish to pursue poker full time in future?

For me, I want to go to the Mecca of Poker i.e. WSOP in the near future and to reach their and to do well there needs consistent efforts and learning and playing on my part. I will continue watching videos and playing the game but I don’t know if I would solely depend on Poker to generate income, I will definitely have a backup plan.


Where and how often do you travel for poker?

Twice a year, all-domestic – Goa or Bangalore. Twice is my average, nothing is planned for me; if I get time and there is a series coming up I try to map it and play that.

I try to play satties online for these series and this time too, I won tickets for three separate events including the main event.


Do you play online? Please tell us about some of your notable scores till date.

APT GOA was a good finish although the cash money was lesser as the other guys made a deal as soon as I left the table. In Macau the finish was around 4k USD. Online my biggest score is around 2.8K USD on 888poker.

I play on Spartan and Baazi among the Indian websites.


How much time do you devote to improve your game and how do you do it?

I spend about 30 hours playing tournaments in a week and make it a point to watch a couple of YouTube channels. I also read some things here and there. I don’t have a fixed schedule and neither am I coached as of now, however I tried it earlier and it did not work, so I am sticking to material reading and watching videos.


Who are the players you look up to, both in the domestic and international circuit?

Archit (Khandelwal) is a very good player and I learn from him. Whenever I go for cash games, he is around, so he advises me about betting values and patterns, which really helps. I also take hand suggestions from him so he helps me with that as well. I would also want to thank Kunal Chandra (KC), I learnt from him back in the days by watching him play live at the bigger tables.

Internationally I follow Daniel Negreanu a lot. He’s my all time favorite. And also Stu Ungar if we talk about inspiration.


What do you think about the current scenario of poker in the country?

Its improving, again the fields are still very small here as compared to Vegas or other international series but its improving. I mean back in the day 70-80 players were all we saw but now they have improved the numbers and got to around the 200-250 mark. In a span of 5 years, I would hope to see 500 number fields in the country and it is booming. It’s increasing at a good pace.


Please tell us about the home game scenario in Delhi and where do you play?

I play only at Regius Club here. I play 20k buy-in with 100/200 blind. They have 4-5 tables always running so it’s a great place here. I only play NL Hold’em. I honestly hate Omaha as I feel it’s more gambling. It’s similar to betting on columns in Roulette I think.


What are your plans for future?

I am looking forward to live events and a lot of people have offered to buy my action off late, so I will see if I can work out a deal with someone. The idea is just to play more and prepare myself for Vegas. I would probably want to go there after two years.

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