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A Shining Young Star on the Indian Poker Horizon, Who Is A Living Proof That Persistence and Hard Work Never Goes Waste!
Devesh Thapar (cover image) is certainly one of India’s youngest poker talents, with an already impressive poker portfolio headlined by his recent historic victory when he took down India’s biggest online poker tournament – PokerBaazi’s The MoneyMaker 2.0 for a life changing ₹30.57 lakhs.
22-year old Thapar`s tryst with poker began when he was in class 11th and is self-admittedly crazily in love with the game. Whether its home games, live or online, he has done it all and how. He is not the typical Zynga kid on the block but his initial participation was through those small ₹100 buy-in games; slowly and steadily he moved up to ₹5,000 games and by the time he progressed to the third year in college, he had to make a decision, a tough one.
Thapar left pursuing his law degree from Amity Law, Noida to opt for a career as a professional poker player and tellingly says that, “my dad knows what it takes, he believes there is no shortcut to money. They don’t have a legacy to pass on to me and were worried that I am leaving my studies to play a game that they didn’t understand back then.”
Well, in his own words – “There was no bankroll, just a will and a wish to play”.
Cut to the morning of November 27, 2017 and he got to hear the golden words from his Dad. First “Acche se khelna”, then “tilt kyun ho raha hai?” and finally “Well done, beta”. Thapar didn’t just create history, he finally made his dad proud. And the champion himself says – “I backed out on studies, I compromised my career and that day it all came together and it was worth it”.
Thapar displays a rare maturity that goes far beyond his age and an even rarer discipline and willingness which he had molded after putting in the hard work at a time when his peers were probably busy enjoying their college life.
He is a living proof that, all it really takes is steadfast determination and the grit to never settle for anything. He is grounded and extremely aware of the need to put in sufficient practice and study which he will always inspire to do. Well, bankroll isn’t the problem anymore, he just wants to learn from the best to stand among the best.
Clearly, this talented player is one of the future star of Indian poker and will be a name to watch for in the coming days. Read on to know more about Thapar and his poker journey!
Hi Devesh, congratulations on winning India’s biggest online poker tournament. Please tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your educational background?
Thank you so much. I am 22, was born and brought up in Delhi. I was pursuing a dual degree i.e. BBA + Law. I left Law in third year to pursue poker professionally. However, I am giving my BBA exams this year, so by next year, I should be a graduate.
How and when did you come across the sport of poker? Please take us through the journey.
I first learnt the game poker when I was in class 11th. This would be in 2012. I am not the Zynga kid, actually a friend of mine received a chip set from his elder brother and hence we started to play. So, we used to go to his place, our pocket money used to be like ₹2,000 a month, we used to play ₹100 buy-in games. We used to play 3-handed and I used to lose every day. But even during those times I used to feel that I can do something good in this.
I used to play live poker only, so slowly and steadily, I started playing more frequently. We used to play randomly and I’ll be honest, we knew almost nothing about the game. In class 12th, I took a break but we still used to play small ₹100 – ₹500 games once in a while. Then I joined law school (Amity Law School, Noida) and that was the time I actually began pursuing this game seriously. Me and a group of seniors used to play poker. So, basically, they used to play Teen Patti and then I explained them the rules of poker. Everybody got a hang of it and they started playing poker every day for hours. So, I used to play with them every day, like ₹500 or ₹1000 buy-in games for 4-5 hours.
At the end of 1st year I got to know that there are some tournaments happening in Goa. Bankroll wise I had nothing, through home games I had made a bankroll of ₹30,000-₹35,000 and the one who told me about the series was Aditya Sardana who is the owner of casino cart. He used to host a ₹1,000 raked game at his place and we used to play that every day. I was doing decent there so I just went for the Goa tournaments and ran deep in quite a few events. That was the time I realized that tournament poker is fun as well. That’s how my tournament journey started.
Cash games was a day-to-day activity because I think the best and the worst way about where I was studying was that just 10 minutes away, there was a poker table. So, we used to start grinding at 12 pm every day. First year I did well in college, second year I got to know about that table. So, I just started playing more of poker rather than focusing on classes.
I used to play daily and then I stared venturing out to new places and playing with new people. By now I had moved up to ₹5,000 games from ₹1,000 games. At that point I realized my passion for the game and by the time my 2nd year completed, I had already attended 2-3 more tournaments, I had started playing more cash and got introduced to online poker.
Online poker was fun you know, losing quickly and winning very quickly. That’s just a crazy feeling when you are starting out to play online, the rate at which you lose and win was insane. If you win, you get money in your account and everything. It looked like one hell of a dream when I started playing online. So that’s how it all started online.
Third year I was doing decent in poker but my academic results dropped too much. I was a 7.5/8 pointer before and third year, I flunked in 2-3 exams. I, however, gave them again and cleared those but at that time, I had to make a choice on whether I wanted to continue playing poker or concentrate on studies. So, the decision I took was that I had to continue poker and so, I left my Law studies in third year.
I quit Law, it was dual course so I still had the chance of getting BBA degree which I should get soon. That was the time my parents were very much against it, my dad never believed in poker. My dad is a Vice President of a company and he has been working for 25-odd years so he knows the struggle it takes to achieve something. And he has that typical Indian mentality that we don’t have a business so we can’t pass on a legacy to you, you need to work. My parents were very disheartened when I decided to quit Law. They probably wanted me to complete studies and then do this but I had a different mindset all together and was adamant that I will do this. And I think, studying is not for me.
Then I started playing poker full time, I used to grind online a lot and live as well. At a live poker table one day, I met PokerBaazi’s co-founder Navkiran Singh. I used to play on Khelo365 when it was called Deccan poker before, then I got to know about PokerBaazi from Navi. He downloaded the application for me and gave me some free chips to try the website.
Playing on PokerBaazi became fun and slowly I started playing across different stakes over there. I realized this game’s potential is much more and I didn’t lose any hope in spite of too many ups and downs. There was no bankroll, just a will and a wish to play. I had to do it seriously because I had quit Law.
After 2016, I took this game very seriously, I used to play cash a lot and travelled across the country to play. Tournament poker used to attract me a lot, whenever you go and see people making final tables, chipping up and all, excited me. That was the time, I got the rush that comes – that you have to do it and beat it. However, in the beginning I never used to run deep that much. I think in my first attempt it was beginner’s luck but after that I was unable to make much impact in tournaments. I started working on my game a bit and have been lucky to be with friends who are now the top guns in the circuit. They helped me a lot with my game.
How was your experience playing PokerBaazi’s “The MoneyMaker 2.0”?
I didn’t play any satellite or anything for The MoneyMaker 2.0. I saw that PokerBaazi was offering a free ticket on a deposit of ₹30,000 using a deposit code so I used that offer. I had deposited one more buy-in amount because it’s a very high variance tournament. The MoneyMaker is probably one of the highest variance tournaments in India right now, with the number of people playing and the big buy-in and everything. So, I know I didn’t win any satellite for it, but yea.
In my first bullet, I ran my stack up to 80,000 when the blinds were 400/800, so, I had like 100 big blinds, I made a foolish mistake then against Nitin Jain. I lost 70-80 big blinds in that hand and almost got busted, later the first bullet went down completely. That was the time where I was very disheartened because till the time this hand came, the blinds were 500/1000 and I had no other choice but to re-enter.
I got the 20,000 starting stack and I then got down to 17 big blinds. You know I had a side bet with Kanishk Upreti so I was motivated that let me just outplay him at least and then probably I will go bust but the thing was, it was too tough there.
I remember it was the last level to re-enter so people who wanted to re-enter were jamming left, right and center but I kept my calm and finally got a big triple up. I had ace-king, some guy had pocket tens and one player had king queen. I hit my ace on the flop and tripled up to 45 big blinds. I had a decent run thereafter but at the time of bubble, when there were 82 people left, I was on 75th position. So that was a tense moment and it’s that time one thinks that let me at least cash you know. You have nothing left at that time except wanting to cash. I made a few gutsy moves at that point and when the bubble burst I was like 60th among 80 players.
At that time I thought that if I can manage to get one more double up, I will be able to run it up and will be back. Luckily, I took a double up shortly with ace king against jack ten or something so again I had a good stack. Till the time this happened, we were down to 30 odd players and I had a decent stack.
Then I lost a big pot, I had ace king and the other guy tabled pocket aces. I was still calm and started the grind again and ran up to a decent stack once again. The game changing hand for me was, when Jasven Saigal jammed, one guy called and I woke up with kings and called. It was pocket kings vs tens vs nines and I won that hand getting a major and much-needed triple up.
I just kept on crushing thereon. I was chip leading when the final two tables were left. I didn’t spew my stack at all, didn’t take any marginal spots against any player. Slowly the final table was formed and I started out as the chip leader. That was the moment I felt that ‘Today is the Day’. It’s just nine spots away and it’s a huge amount, so let’s just crush it.
Please tell us about The MoneyMaker final table journey. Any key hands or takeaways?
Early on the final table, I lost a big pot in which the other guy had queens, I had ace king. But I didn’t tilt myself, I didn’t let it affect me. I was like never mind, let it go. I was the chip leader and had got down to 28 big blinds but I felt I could still make it. Then one hand that I won was when I jammed 24 big blinds and Pulkit Goyal who had me covered, re-shoved. I had eights and he had ace queen and my eights held.
I don’t want to say this but I think on that particular final table, it was just Pulkit Goyal and Gokul Raj who were the tough regular players and the only two I was worried about. I didn’t want to take any chance, but then Pulkit busted.
When the play got down to three-handed, I held an overwhelming chip lead but what happened was, the blinds got frozen to 100,000/200,000 with set ante so the thing was, I couldn’t put any pressure after that. It became more of a cash game.
The pay jumps were huge like third was ₹11 lakhs, second was ₹20 lakhs and first was ₹30 lakhs so every step and decision counted. The dynamics completely changed and I got short after 2 hours of play. It was seven in the morning and even we were getting tilted as no one was getting busted. No one was ready to give up. Then fortunately I won a huge pot with seven’s which held against ace king and in the next hand I busted ‘pokerisnogamble’.
Heads-up was a short affair; it was just a 20-25 minute heads-up match. Gokul was short and in the last hand, he opened the button, I had ace eight. I didn’t want to shove so I flatted. Flop was Ax 8x 5x, I checked and Gokul checked back, turn was . There were a lot of open enders so I checked again for deceiving and he bet. Now he bet and I knew he could have a lot of hands which he why he is betting on the turn so I just 3-bet light and induced a shove.
He called and the river was a three. I tanked for some time and jammed. He called with pocket jacks and that’s how The MoneyMaker ended. It was a great achievement and here are no words for the moment I shipped it. So, yea!
Please tell us about your views on Team PokerBaazi.
PokerBaazi is a crazy site; they have the best people around. Starting from support, back end to the owners. I think have been very good to the industry and we never face any issues. There was a glitch which happened because there was a lot of traffic but the way Baazi management took control of the situation and rescheduled it perfectly, hats off.
I know there were a lot of people who were commenting on Indian poker group IPPA@PS and the Baazi team, handled it wonderfully. They are the best. Anirudh Chaudhry and specially Navkiran Singh. They have been one of the sweetest guys in the industry and even if you face a problem, they are all ready for it. The site gives crazy response and is there for all budding players.
Your views on Online MTT`s in India? Is the value enough to make a living?
I think rather than live, I will prefer playing online. Not saying this because I shipped the MoneyMaker 2.0 but I feel being profitable playing live in India is very difficult. The reason being the TDS and the overheads.
Online is a good solution to that and now the tournaments have become so big online, you have a lot of value to put in, everyday there are tournaments throughout the day. Just go and register, they are available across stakes. MTT’s online have a great scope.
In India the fields are so soft, so regulars can actually keep crushing the fields. For e.g. Nishant Sharma and Vaibhav Sharma. They have been crushing not because they are lucky, it’s just taking the best value out of it. Like for MoneyMaker all I invested was ₹11,000 and got ₹30 lakhs. It’s a massive return if you do well.
Your views on new operators entering the market and their offerings?
Ok, everyone might have different view but I believe in India, it’s very tough to capitalize the poker market in India. It’s too tough to attract and capture players you know. The problem is there are people who play but there aren’t a lot of people who play.
What I feel is for any new site, it takes a lot of time from them to actually get the traction. I know there are a lot of websites coming in but I don’t think it’s easy to run a successful one. That’s what I think, all because of the numbers in India.
How much do you play & which variant of the game do you prefer playing? What’s your grinding schedule like?
The thing is, I was a cash game player mostly but since the last four months, I have completely shifted to tournaments. I used to play decent stakes PLO games and live I am a good Hold’em player. But what I felt was, in tournaments, I was doing really good since few months.
I have been studying Jonathan Little and understanding how he explains pots, ranges and everything. So that’s been quite helpful to me. In my case, I stared off with cash games, I am a bit biased towards PLO due to the insane action you get, it’s more hands and lot of money. But for 4-5 months, I just wanted to learn tournaments and I am doing well there too. So I think I will stick to tournaments.
My grind regime before The MoneyMaker 2.0 was that I used to get up at 6 in the morning and play 50/100, 100/200 PLO on PokerBaazi because the games are very soft in the morning. All the tilted players who have been losing the whole night they sit there. I play till 10 and then sleep again. I then start my session at 3:30 – 4 pm and I play till 7. These are the two times when I am playing only cash. Then after 7:30 or 8, I start grinding tournaments. I open up any MTT that is running and start grinding. That is my regime.
I play cash twice a day, make some or lose some, and play MTT’s at night. From now, after MoneyMaker, only tournaments.
What’s your family’s understanding for the game?
Actually, this is the most interesting thing I would love to answer. The day I quit pursuing law, for 3-4 months I clearly remember my parents not talking to me properly. They used to ask me why I took this decision. Quitting law that too in third year was a very big decision, as I could have completed my course in another two years, so, my parents were pretty much against it and every time I used to go to Goa, my dad used to tell me that you don’t need to go there, you are never going to do anything huge.
Slowly and gradually when they saw me cashing out online and everything, my dad used to see that ok, there is some potential in this. Every day I used to show them some or other article. I would specially like to mention that you guys have been a key help – PokerGuru you know. I used to show them your articles and tell my dad that this is PokerGuru, this is how they publish and project and cover everything in poker.
So, they started getting a bit of confidence but you know, but they would still tell me that there is no easy money. You have to work hard and only then you can achieve something. They said you need to first learn the game extensively, if you want to do it, do it properly. That day I felt that my parents have some confidence in me.
I faced downswings in the middle of this year and I was almost crushed. So, that time, my dad asked me what did I think about my decision and whether I would want to continue this. I didn’t know what to do and I had no answers to give to my parents. I kept quiet and didn’t reply.
Off late, I won a big event on Baazi where I got ₹5 lakhs for 1st prize. I went for WSOP Europe, the day I came 66th in THE COLOSSUS, I called him and told him and he said well done in finishing whatever you have done.
These were the small moments but the big one came in The MoneyMaker 2.0, I remember I was on the final table, 3 players were left and I was telling my dad “papa ₹8 lakhs lock kar liya hai, next is ₹11 lakhs, then ₹20 lakhs and finally ₹30 lakhs.”
That was the moment for the first time I heard him say “Beta, acche se khelna” I was like WOW.
3-way I lost a big hand where I had ace king and one guy had ace nine. he flopped two pairs and won. I was flabbergasted and threw whatever was in my hand. I was so irritated but he came to me and said “tilt kyun ho raha hai?”
I was so shocked to hear the term tilt from him. He said “aaraam se khel, kuch nahi hota, payjump dekh.”
That was the moment I realized that my dad is interested and I had to ship it. When I did, I shouted at the top of my voice and he was just behind me and he hugged me saying “well done”. That was the happiest moment of my life!!
I backed out on studies, I compromised my career and that day it all came together and it was worth it.
What live events are you planning to attend now? Any set travelling plans?
Actually, I had planned to attend APT finale Macau immediately after MoneyMaker but I couldn’t attend it due to some reasons. But now I am very sure that I will be planning a trip to Aussie Millions.
We are a group of many regulars like Sumit Sapra, Jaydeep Dawer, Nitesh Baliyan and all. I know it’s a big variance trip but we are planning something crazy that we are going to go there for a month, grind cash games and then take part in tournaments to reduce variance. Playing in a foreign country is full of variance so we have big plans. I am even going for the Baadshah Gaming Live Tournament which starts next week.
How do you go about improving your game?
Pre-MoneyMaker, God was kind as I had good set of poker friends. Kanishk Upreti has helped me a lot with my game, my patience level and handling my tilt. Nishant Sharma and Vaibhav Sharma have been my guides, I have stayed with them, I have seen them play to understand how they play. Like Vaibhav is killing on PokerStars and Nishant has been crushing domestic sites. They taught me bet sizing and all. They taught me a lot. Then, I studied Jonathan Little and a lot of charts online. I studied a lot online.
I want this to be published that I would love to be coached by Danish Shaikh and Abhishek Rathod for MTT’s. It’s not about bankroll anymore. Now it’s about growing in the game and learning from the best.
I lost this opportunity once. I was told to leave the group as I was an undisciplined poker player. I moved up the stakes without their permission but now I think they will be happy that I am disciplined so they won’t say no to me. My key goal will be to get coached by Danish or Abhishek very soon. They are the beasts and just crushing the games. I think if they teach me, I will manage to do wonders.
Any tips you want to share for upcoming poker enthusiasts and how to approach things in the start?
Ok, I don’t know but I think it’s all about your bankroll, that’s what I want to tell budding players. At the end of the day what I feel is that if you have bankroll, you can play decently. You need to learn the skill but at the end of the day it’s all about grinding. Grind every day, don’t leave one day of grind. The day you miss out on the grind, that day you miss out on the money. Be disciplined when it comes to bankroll management. Study about the game and keep crushing.
Who are the players you look up to?
Domestically, Raghav Bansal for tournaments. I just love his game. He is a Delhi boy and he will be my first choice. Then, Anujkumar Kodam who shipped the first MoneyMaker. That guy is a beast and he has been shipping almost all big events. He’s been doing really well.
Internationally, I have a standard list – Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari. These were the guys I used to watch when I started and I was lucky to meet one of them recently during my WSOP Europe trip. Just to see them play is amazing!
What are your plans for future? Any set goals?
I may shift next year to USA or Canada to pursue my MBA. I will continue playing poker there. To play poker, I would love to settle abroad as I believe the taxes in India turnout to be negative EV for a player. They have taxes too but the amount of volume you can put in there, you can’t do it here. For E.g. Deltin Poker Tournament (DPT) happens after every three months. To balance my bankroll, I need to play Series like DPT thrice in a month.
Thapar Signs Off!