Poker : Not just a game, a way of life.

Posted by Anand Iyer on 2019-06-27 at 12:15 PM

Hello, fellow poker enthusiasts!

Today, I would like to share my journey from being an Esports player to transitioning into the glamorous world of poker.
Esports (electronic sports) are competitive video gaming at the professional level.
Gaming is something I was always fond of since I was a little kid, but taking it to a level where it becomes your source of living was still a dream. It was at the start of my under-graduation that the internet gaming boom hit India. We were exposed to the quality of gaming taking place on the international scale, with most of our idols playing in a stadium surrounded by thousands of fans. They had it all, the glory, the money, and most of all, the joy of doing something that makes you happy. The top-most game at that time was League of Legends.

ESports Arena

League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Riot Games. Not only did it require fast reflexes (eye-hand coordination), but it also needed you to make the right decisions within fractions to win efficiently. One such poker professional who is well known to all, Bertrand Grospellier (ElkY) had immense success in the past as an Esports gamer. Anyway, this was when I started to pump in a lot of hours a day to achieve my desired ranking. I finally hit the top 1 percentile tier by mid-2015, and it was at this point that I realized I needed a team to compete internationally. This was the most challenging part, finding four more people like you who are willing to give it all, with minimal or no returns. Eventually, I did find skillful teammates with whom I competed on a national level. Sadly, to go pro, we had to have a server of our own in India, something that was out of our control, much like variance. We couldn’t compete internationally with the massive latency difference between our competitors and us. Even though we could compete on an elite level in India, it had no monetary rewards. Now I was unsure of what I wanted to do from this point onward in my life.

It was during this time when I was first introduced to poker by my friends. We used to have several house games at a friend’s place where I used to accompany them and learn the game by observation alone. I had no knowledge of the game, and I did not want to gamble without knowing what it is. I started to learn and understand the game from a friend who used to consistently win in that orbit. He taught me the basic do’s and don’ts and encouraged me to play. It was a reasonably easy orbit where nut pedaling your way was highly profitable. My mentor/friend and I were the only consistent winners during our regular sessions. By the time I could learn more about the game via studying it, we heard of high stake poker houses in the city with mediocre players. This was when our group evolved from playing relaxed house games to intense high stakes poker regularly. The players there were mixed, with a few who were better than us technically and others who were worse; but one thing common among them all was that they had the funds to sustain at such stakes. Aside from the fact that it was already eye-popping stakes for us, added by our inexperience, already inflated egos and no respect for variance; it ended the way it started, quick and messy. What we did notice during those live games was that there were a lot of players who used to play daily featured tournaments on their phones. We quickly found out the massive prize pools some online sites offered and thought it would be nice to hit a big score on one of them. It seemed more rewarding than playing live as you could grind daily at the comfort of your home without the hassle of traveling to different places within the city. My friend started playing these tournaments regularly on various platforms, and it was during one such Tuesday night, on Spartan’s featured tournament Mega Stack, that he struck gold by shipping it. We were inside his car at 2 AM in the morning when the tournament ended and winning it filled us with euphoria.

I too wanted a taste of this sweet nectar, this was when I made my first deposit and started playing satellites every day. I did not have the roll to buy-in for the featured tournaments, and I was too hyped to play tournaments limited to my (bank) roll. I wanted to hit it big, and I finally did it a month after; by coming second in Mega Stack scoring my biggest paycheck. I joined a satellite at 4 PM in the afternoon for a measly buy-in and got myself a free ticket for the 7 PM featured event. The satellite lasted till 7:30 and I got directly seated into the tournament, albeit a half-hour delay. I ended up on the final table finishing second, calling it a night by 3 AM. The massive win engulfed all the stress/fatigue within me of having played continuously for the past  10-12 hours. I spent the next few months playing tournaments with below-average results. This was when I knew I had to work on my game, and my friend recommended me to start playing cash games online, instead of trying to get lucky on tournaments.

I started playing cash games (mid-high stakes) with just a single buy-in deposit and multiplied my initial investment. But luck is a fickle mistress, the variance soon got the better of me, and I busted it all. This was when I learned about bankroll management, choosing the right stakes, and taking variance seriously. I was told putting volumes will tone down the variance and help me beat the game efficiently.

I summed up a decent bankroll and started grinding low stakes while working on my game consciously. The results were favorable, with me beating the game consistently and piling more money to my roll.
Things were looking good till I learned about Game Theory Optimal (GTO) solvers and how people use it to study the game. It made me realize how far behind I was.

Currently, I’m on the verge of jumping up in stakes with a much broader understanding of the game. The funny part is, the more you know, the more you realize that you do not know!

With various professional coaching sites offering their mentorship programs, more and more people are flocking to the industry with a dedicated approach to the game, resulting in the game reaching new pinnacles. A large number of Indians are flaunting excellent results on the international scene. This is already turning out to be the next big thing, and with a little luck on our side over the legal hassles, it surely will.

I am genuinely grateful to be born into a generation where we can monetize most of our interests.

That’s it for today, good luck for all your future endeavors.

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