Nothing short of a Dream come true!

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Hi Guys! I’m Prashanth Sekar, and I recently won India’s biggest online poker tournament – The Game Changer!!! 🙂 And yes, it is unreal – to say the least.

I’ve never actually written a blog before, and while I initially thought I had no words to express my feelings, it turns out I was wrong! Winning something of this magnitude made me look back at my poker journey, the struggles, all the ups and downs – and it made me smile with satisfaction! This piece probably doesn’t do justice to how ecstatic I truly feel, but here goes!

Back in the Day…

Like most others, my early years through school and college were a mix of constant ups and downs. I come from a Tamil Brahmin family and was born and raised in Chennai. I was always into board games and video games, and never really enjoyed outdoor games too much.

School and college was the usual drill, work towards good grades, try getting into a good institute, aim at maybe studying abroad, and end up with a well-paid respectable job. Nothing out of the ordinary. Well, I got all those off the checklist.

It was at some point in my final year at NIT Warangal that I got introduced to poker. I’m sure most of us were introduced to the game at a similar time and in similar fashion. Home games, parties, all-nighters and hostel rooms! Back then I looked at poker as something that was definitely fun, but more importantly, something that would give me a little extra spending money.

I then wrote CAT and got into an IIM. One more off the checklist of the Indian dream!

During Bschool, I mostly enjoyed hosting games like Poker and Counter Strike, and spent a lot of time on it. Once I graduated, I moved to Bangalore for my job, and the city has been my second home ever since.

Getting into Amazon was my dream job at the time (2015), and I settled well in Bangalore. Work was good, and all along my love for the game of poker kept increasing. I started playing more regularly, and initially stuck to only cash games, once or twice a week. It was more of a weekend thing. You either hit a pub, watch a movie, or play Fifa at home. Now poker got added in this list of activities.

A new found love – MTTs

It was around 2017 that the tournament bug bit me. By this time I had made friends in the Live Poker circuit and started understanding terms like Bankroll Management and Pot Odds. I made the good decision of creating a separate Bank Account/ATM card for recreational Poker escapades and started off with 40k in it with the intention of steadily grinding live 2.5k cash games to build a decent roll.

One of my friends also convinced me to play a tournament back then, and I ended up finishing 7th in that. The rush of winning (even 7th) was something new, and I loved it! I went on to make a lot of Final tables in the live circuit in the next 2-3 months and actually started enjoying tournaments more than cash.

Next up was a lot of 2+2, strategy forums, and mainly a lot of books and study material like Raise Your Edge, Winning Poker tournaments 1 hand at a time and Jonathan Little’s tournament series trilogy. It wasn’t too long before I managed to win my first tournament title. I remember thinking back then – I could get used to this! This was the point in my life where I looked at poker as a serious career option. The win gave me the confidence that I was missing, and I sort of already knew what was going to happen next.

The big shift

I sat down and really thought about it. What do I want to do? I got the grades I wanted, the colleges I wanted, the job I wanted, and yet, it seemed like there was something missing. Maybe this was it.

Evaluated the scenario and took a call that I had a decent Life Roll and savings to support a sabbatical and chill for a few months while also working on Poker and chilling in general. So I finally decided to hit the pause button to figure out what next for me and quit my job in Amazon India on August 7th, 2017.

Was happy, feeling free, had more time for family and friends and also enjoyed playing live tournaments. Saw more consistency in my live results and slowly learnt about the booming online poker industry.

Live VS Online

Unfortunately for me, live was a lot different from online, and I took a while making that adjustment. I went on a terrible downswing (in hindsight though, there’s so much I could have done differently – mainly relating to Bankroll Management).

I fortunately had a good poker trip to Goa where I finished 13th in the WPT India SuperStack event – and this gave me some breathing room. I decided to get serious and stick to buy-ins below 1k online and put in a lot of volume in these after reading a lot on Tourney Variance and BRM on variance forums.

I slowly started making a comeback, and recorded some decent finishes in tournaments online. I also spoke to some existing crushers in the community, took their advice and decided to invest a portion of my winnings in a subscription course – RYE. Meanwhile, I also got involved in working with a poker company, and that helped me understand the game and its trends a lot better.

The Downswing

Then came the inevitable BIG downswing right after WPT India 2018– One which I was not prepared for. I kept making the right decisions and kept working on my game. I felt I was playing better and improving, bust despite all that, I went through a terrible downswing which hit me more mentally than financially.

They say don’t be result oriented, but I had reached a point where it was just so hard to look at it like that. I was playing a lot, min-cashing here and there but mostly bricking. I slowly saw my roll reduce day by day. I kept trying to stick to the basics, make the right decisions, try and look at it long-term. It’s so true though in poker – no result is accurate unless recorded and analysed over a long period of time.

My ticket to freedom – The Game Changer

It’s incredible how everything just worked out. I had a couple of decent scores online just days before the Game Changer, and this allowed me the luxury of reserving a few bullets for the event.

I availed the free ticket deposit offer of Day1A (which makes the win extra special as the free ticket converted into the title). My Game plan was mostly to keep it simple and be patient. Accepted the fact that stacks are going to be swingy throughout and that should not affect my overall game. Dropped down to 8k on Day1A but kept at it. Capitalized on some spots and ran good as well to close at 2,13,000 (55 BBs). Made the decision of not entering other flights so as to enter fresh into Day2. Motto for Day2 was simple and straightforward: Enjoy, Play and make good decisions – whatever the result!

Day2 was swingy at the start but capitalized on my value hands, waited it out, ran good and ran a few bluffs to enter the final 40 with a top 10 stack. Then had the bad situation of the 2 chip leaders on our table and they were super aggressive and putting in plenty of pressure. Also went through a card dead phase.

In Final 2 tables, was lucky enough to have the chip leader shove into me when I picked up Rockets. Quickly entered as the chip leader in the Final Table and focused on putting pressure on the short and mid-stacks as the pay jumps were massive! Did make a few mistakes which I would like to look up in review.

Feeling happy and lucky to close it out. In the final hand when all the chips came towards me – that was it! It was all over. That Moment! It is the best memory for me so far, and cannot be expressed in words!!

All along my poker journey, I (and most of us I’m sure) was searching for that one BIG score that could literally change my life. Something so big that would give me the luxury of changing how I approach the game and how I approach life in general. It’s ACTUALLY a life changing moment for me to have won the Game Changer, and that’s why its taking this long to digest!

Thanks a lot PokerBaazi. This is the most special moment and Win of my life and thank you for the opportunity and brilliant execution to pull off India’s Biggest tournament. Wishing you all the best for the future and bigger tournaments as well :D.

Well played by all the other contestants as well and GG All.

What’s next?

I intend to study a lot, keep fit mentally, and put in decent amounts of Volume. For now, I just want to take a break, enjoy this win and maybe invest in a new monitor and setup. Travel-wise I have no major plans yet, but maybe 1 International poker trip for the year just for the experience of playing International live irrespective of loss/win but has to be well within my budget and bankroll.

That apart, just keep grinding, keep enjoying, keep it real and continue the Journey!!!

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