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The year-end is generally stock-taking time, and an apt time to recap the top five developments that propelled the growth and development of poker and online gaming in India.
With every passing year, poker is steadily gaining ground within the country. While 2018 was a remarkable year, 2019 was undoubtedly even better. Among the significant highlights of the year was Young Gun Abhinav Iyer’s historic win in The Closer at the 50th annual World Series of Poker (WSOP), which brought India her very first solo gold bracelet!
Iyer’s fantastic performance at the biggest stage for the game not only put the country on the international map but also acted as a catalyst to popularize the sport in India. It also gave an impetus for other players, both newcomers and established pros, to try harder, resulting in many more big scores being posted throughout the year.
Young Gun Abhinav Iyer Captures the Solo WSOP Gold Bracelet in The Closer For ₹3.87 Crores!
2019 has been a memorable year for Abhinav Iyer. He started the year on a winning note by championing the VND 8 Billion GTD Main Event at the Asian Poker Tour (APT) Vietnam January edition for an impressive VND 2,269,092,000 (~₹69.51 Lakhs). He carried that form all the way to Las Vegas, where he was part of the largest-ever contingent of Indian players to attend the WSOP.
Being one of the early birds to arrive at the series, Iyer played the full schedule and collected a total of eight scores, amounting to $585,548 (~₹4.03 Crores) in winnings, but it was his bracelet win that saw him enter the annals of poker stardom!
India has already secured two of these coveted gold bracelets through Aditya Sushant and Nikita Luther, who had won the Tag Teams events in 2017 and 2018, respectively. However, the solo gold bracelet had eluded us all along.
Even before Iyer took down The Closer, four Indians, Raghav Bansal, PokerGuru Ambassador Ashish Ahuja, Kunal Punjwani, and Kalyan Chakravarthy, had all come close to capturing the gold, but none of them was able to “close” the deal.
As the series entered the home stretch, Iyer trailblazed through the 2,800-entry field in Event #84: The Closer – $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em to clinch the much-talked-about solo gold bracelet, banking a personal-best score of $565,346 (~₹3.87 Crores). Incidentally, Iyer’s score was not only the highest score by an Indian at the WSOP but also the most an Indian has won at a poker tournament in recent history.
Besides Iyer, six more Indians cashed in the event. WSOP first-timer Siddharth Mundada (73rd for $5,956 – ₹4.08 Lakhs) was the last of the Indian challengers to be eliminated before the final table was convened.
Right from the start of Day 2, Iyer was in dominating form and obliterated the competition to reach the final table with the biggest stack. His rampage continued, and soon enough, he was squaring off against Sammy Lafleur for the bracelet. It took about an hour for the event to wrap up, and it was the Mumbai-based pro who eventually brought home the gold!
While Iyer’s bracelet victory was, without a doubt, one of the biggest stories of the year, several other significant developments impacted the poker industry, and will be covered in future features in this series!