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If 2017 was labeled ‘historic’ for Indian poker in terms of scores and performances, then 2018 expanded the Indian presence on the international poker map. The Indian challengers have gone truly international, breaking new ground to return with big winnings and acclaim.
Looking at how the year has been, what started as a modest presence at the Macau Poker Cup, the Indian participation gathered stream at the APPT Macau, taking on a feverish crescendo at the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) that saw the biggest-ever Indian contingent take on the series with confidence and panache. The Indians really rocked the show at the WSOP and taking on from there, kept the momentum going in the post WSOP international outings including the APPT Manila and the APT Philippines.
Team India then dug in its heels into the lively and competitive felts of the World Poker Tour (WPT) stops in Korea and Vietnam. The first-ever country-based Global Teams Event was part of the WPT Korea chapter where the Indian team captained by Nikita Luther and comprising of pros Amit Jain, Kunal Patni and Dhaval Mudgal were seen in action. Though the Indian team didn’t make a very prominent headway in the event, Mudgal took the international felts by storm with his historic win in the WPT Vietnam Main Event. Zarvan Tumboli took down the Ho Chi Minh Cup, making WPT Vietnam one of the most smashing outings for Team India.
Back home, the live tournament circuit is going to sizzle with the WPT India about to make its second consecutive run in Goa from November 13-19. But for now, we present you with the best Indian outings in 2018, summarizing the standout performances by our domestic runners in international tournaments.
Top 5 International Outings For Team India In 2018
2018 World Series of Poker
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the biggest sporting destination for poker aficionados and over the past 14 years, a steady number of Indian challengers are seen every year at the series. A number of seasoned pros, along with fresh talents made for a power-packed team at the WSOP this year.
Paawan Bansal emerged as the top performer with his runner-up finish in The Closer $1,500 NLHE (30-min levels) $1M GTD event, where he raked in $378,765 (~₹2.58 Crores). It was not just Bansal’s own career-best performance; he also picked the biggest score by an Indian at the series till date. Overall in this year’s WSOP, Bansal added ₹3.03 Crores to his bankroll.
The poster boy of Indian poker and a mentor for many upcoming players, Team PokerStars India pro Aditya Agarwal was among the top Indian runners at the series. Agarwal played the entire schedule and added eight scores to his tally. He picked his career’s seventh Main Event score, inching closer to the world record of 10 Main Event cashes, currently held by Berry Johnston.
India added another WSOP bracelet to its kitty with Nikita Luther’s bracelet win in the Tag Team event where she paired up with German pro Guiseppe Pantaleo.
While there were moments of utter disappointment, like Jasven Saigal’s elimination at the hands of poker icon Phil Ivey on Day 2C of the Main Event that crushed his hopes of picking up a score in the WSOP and bracelet winners Nipun Java and Aditya Sushant failing to defend their Tag Team title, there were many encouraging scores and firsts, making it the best WSOP outing for Team India ever.
Many domestic sites sent online qualifiers on an all expenses paid trip to Vegas for WSOP. The biggest group was of 9stacks qualifiers, who were 25 in total. And the online qualifiers certainly didn’t return empty-handed! Cracking the top 50 of the Main Event was Nishant Sharma, who finished 34th to earn a payout of $230,475 (~₹1.57 Crores), while 9stacks qualifier, Vivek Rughani (88th for $77,695 – ₹53.12 Lakhs) and Kartik Ved (128th for $57,010 -₹39.35 Lakhs) also ran deep in the Main Event.
Commendable performances coming to a total of 56 scores were posted by Nipun Java, Jaideep Sajwan, 9stacks qualifier Mayank Jaggi, Kunal Patni, Sriharsha Doddapaneni, Abhishek Rathod, TeamPokerStars India pro Muskan Sethi among others.
2018 APPT Macau
Macau played host to the 2018 Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) at PokerStars LIVE Macau poker room in March this year, and the 26-tournament series ran from March 14-25. The Indians kept the rail back home cheering and ended their Macau outing with a total of 12 scores.
India’s poker pioneer Aditya ‘intervention’ Agarwal was at the top of the charts with his runner-up score at the HK$40,000 NLHE Main Event. Agarwal all but had the title in the bag and clashed with Lin Wu heads-up, looking strong to claim the title. However, he saw a couple of unfavorable hands coming his way and lost out. Agarwal banked a whopping $242,211 (₹1.57 Crores) for his runner-up finish.
Even as Australia based Indian challenger Ashish Gupta was the only other Indian who cashed in the Main Event for HK$245,000 (~₹20.29 Lakhs), India’s high roller specialist Raghav Bansal finished 18th in the High Roller for HK$218,000 (~₹18.06 Lakhs), and went on to pick up two more scores in the series.
Kalyan Chakravarthy was certainly on a hot run at the PokerStars Asia Open event where he finished 16th for HK$25,900 (~₹2.14 Lakhs). Benjamin Murry, Sahil Chutani, Arjjun Rohan Singh, Sumit Sapra and Kunal Jain were the other Indians who picked up scores.
2018 Macau Poker Cup
Macau, the hottest hub for poker in Asia kicked off a fabulous 2018 for Indian poker players.
This year, the 28th edition of the popular PokerStars LIVE 2018 Macau Poker Cup series took off on January 26 at City of Dreams, Macau and the crème de la crème of Indian poker were in attendance. Big names like veteran pro Aditya Agarwal and Raghav Bansal were seen gunning for the top prize in a number of events.
Vinay B was another final table finisher, with his fourth-place finish in the HK$8000 NLHE Baby Dragon event where he pocketed HK$331,000 (~₹30.67 Lakhs). Agarwal also picked up two scores, while Kunal Punjwani, Zarvan Tumboli, Sahil Chutani, Sumit Sapra and Vivek Rughani further added to the team’s tally!
Rajeev Raut teamed up with Neeraj Kumar in the HK$5000 NLHE Team Event and the pair displayed excellent camaraderie on the felts but missed the title by a whisker, finishing runners-up. Each of them pocketed HK$29,000 (~₹2.68 Lakhs).
All in all, with 20 scores in one of Asia’s most popular poker festivals, the spirited Indian runners just made the right moves to set the rest of their poker playing season in motion.
2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) Vietnam
The 14-event long 2018 edition of World Poker Tour Vietnam (WPT) ran from September 26 to October 4, at Vietnam’s popular poker haunt, Pro Poker Club.
The series turned out to be another successful outing for Team India and started off with a bang, with a runner-up finish by Sumit Sapra in the Welcome Event for ₹5.06 Lakhs. Upping the ante, the Indian contingent brought home two title wins and a number of cashes.
The most dazzling and phenomenal performance was by singer turned poker pro Dhaval Mudgal, who crushed a 679-strong field in the Main Event to win his first major international title for a whopping payday of VND 2.42 Billion (~₹76.02 Lakhs). Delhi-based Mudgal boasts of an illustrious career spanning over a decade, and though he has a commendable $223,128 in career winnings, including a title win at the 2015 Rockets Anniversary Series ₹5K Ruby Rebuy Event, along with other big scores, he finally collected a much-deserved international title at the series.
Another winner from the Indian contingent, MadOverPoker pro Zarvan Tumboli emerged victorious in the Ho Chi Minh Cup and pocketed VND 246,950,000 (₹7.70 Lakhs).
In addition, we also saw Romit Advani running deep in the Main Event, with a 16th place finish for VND 133,970,000 (~₹4.19 Lakhs).
2018 APPT Manila
The nine-day 2018 edition of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Manila that kicked off on August 4 was more action-packed than its previous runs and the Indian turnout was huge in nearly all mega tournaments at the series.
By all means, it was a dream adventure for our Indian challengers as a total of 42 scores were posted by Team India. Chiraag Patel took down the NLH Turbo event for ₱350,000 (~₹4.56 Lakhs) and was the only Indian to claim a title.
While Sahil Agarwal (₱4,656,260-₹60.67 Lakhs) finished runner-up in the ₱200,000 High Roller, Akshay Nasa (₱2,822,000 – ₹36.67 Lakhs) and Kunal Patni (₱960,000 – ₹12.50 Lakhs) finished runners-up in the APPT National and 6-Handed Shot Clock respectively.
The series’ Main Event was the biggest tournament in the history of Philippines and eight Indians, headlined by Sriharsha Doddapaneni (43rd for ₱210,000 ~₹2.72 Lakhs) and Ravi Priya (62nd for ₱170,000 ~₹2.20 Lakhs) posted scores.
We also saw Anup Palod, Jasven Saigal and Jaydeep Dawer making deep runs in different tournaments while Sam Srinivas Polishetty’s (6th for ₱91,200 – ₹118,842) finish in ₱10,000 NLH Turbo capped off another spectacular performance by our pros at the international felts.
With such remarkable scores, Team India has set the bar quite high and such continued stellar runs will not only inspire the upcoming talents but will also help grow the interest for the sport in the country!