Nassau (Bahamas), Jan 7 (IANS) Eight Indian men from across the country are vying to win one of the largest prize money of over Rs 21 crore in a poker tournament being held over five days in this picturesque island, known for its watersports and casinos.
The eight won the entry ticket of $25,000, among the largest, through "platinum passes" offered by the organisers, Pokerstars -- by playing and winning other tournaments or online competitions. In all, 1014 players entered the first day of the five-day tournament with around 250 getting eliminated. The prize pool would be over $25 million with the top player getting a percentage of the pool.
"It's all about surviving for five days with enough chips. It's challenging both mentally and physically," said Nikhil Segal, a Delhi based architect who was able to hold on to and gain a little from the starting stack in chips of $60,000 on the first day. Segal, who calls himself a recreational poker player told IANS that one had to be totally focussed on the game, as most of the world's top most players were here to compete in the Pokerstars' tournament.
Segal, a single parent of two children, started playing the game some 15 years ago and has competed in other tournaments, including the World Poker Tour (WPT), said this one in Bahamas is really huge. "It doesn't get better than this, as the number of people playing is very large.a According to the organisers, the last record touched was of 639 players in 2007 at a WPT tournament.
Raman Gujral, among the eight Indian players here, says that what attracted him to the game was that you did not need much "other than an analytical mind". Added to that was the carefree lifestyle that goes with life of a poker player: "You are your own boss, and you answer to none."
Gujral, who too could preserve his stack and make a little over it, said he has been playing the game for around 15 years with the first six or seven years just spent on online games.
He said he chose to turn a professional poker player, giving up the second stage of actuarial studies for a licence, after he found that he could make much more money in this game. And he has had no reason to look back. He told his parents that he would get into the game full time if were able to make $5000 a month to convince them this was plausible and he was working towards a target. "The fact is that when I told them this, I was already achieving that target easily."
He has lately slowed down, playing only once a week and leading what he calls a "semi-retired" life. He has played a few tournaments, some in Macau and many in India. But these were not very large ones. He said his income from poker was steadily increasing till he chose to slow down a bit.
Gujral said that in a big event like this one, the level of play is very high as the best players from all over the world converge. "Strategy does not change overall much as you play your game. But you have to keep in mind that very high level of skill is on display."
Other Indians who got through for the tournament included Sharad Rao, who started playing at 19 and won the platinum pass through Diwali Rush freeroll game playing against over 800 players; Kavin Shah, who was introduced to the game in Australia in 2005; Aneesh Nair from Kerala who gave up his stock-broking job to become a professional player; Saurabh Sidhwani and Vivek Singh who too were unhappy working for someone else; and Sumit Sapra from Chandigarh.
Some of them got their ticket to Bahamas by playing in the Global Poker League India in Goa. But the thunder was stolen on day one among Indians or Indian origin players by Shyam Srinivasan from Canada, who increased his stack by more than four-fold. Among women, Indian origin media person from Canada Aleeyah Jadavji had a good run.
"It started off rough, because I had some really good players on my table. It was interesting but I pulled off the biggest bluff of my life at one point in the game," she said adding that the presence of world-class players elevated the game enormously.
Poker, she added, may not often be based on bluff, as professional players may see through you, but played strategically, it could yield great dividends.
The top name who busted out on day one was golf legend Sergio Garcia.
(Hardev Sanotra is in Bahamas at the invitation of Pokerstars. He can be reached at email@example.com)