‘The Technical RollerCoaster’ By PokerBaazi CTO Avneet Rana

PokerBaazi CTO
PokerBaazi CTO

First and foremost, a big heartfelt Thank You to all the Baazigars who participated in the recently concluded PokerBaazi Premier League Season VI and contributed to making it a big success. We, the entire tech, marketing, and operations teams, had put in an enormous effort and it was heartwarming to see our over-time bear fruit.

Having previously written fleetingly about the various software updates that we’ve launched, I, today, wish to share my journey to Head of Technology at PokerBaazi with all the Baazigars.

A complete ‘Punjabi’ lad at heart, I completed my schooling from YPS Patiala before going on to receive my Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from MIT, Manipal. My professional career began at TCS like countless others in 2012. I continued at TCS for a little over a year before finally growing disillusioned with the work. Around the same time Navkiran, whom I knew from college, approached me to join his venture – PokerBaazi. It was a great opportunity for me as it gave me the chance to showcase my skills in the field of software which I, until then, never had.

The task to create an indigenous poker software from scratch is harder than most people expect. It is like holding Seven Duce offsuite and winning it from a AKQ dry flop. It was certainly harder than I had ever imagined. Our entire tech team worked sleepless nights for months and it took the complete efforts of everyone involved to launch the PokerBaazi client 1.0 on 21st October ’14. What took some more time was my own curiousity towards the designs. Let me tell you that I am indeed a finicky guy when it comes to design. I thank Anirudh Chaudhry for bearing with me for all this when we were deep into logical discussions.

What helped back then was the knowledge we had from our poker-playing days in college. The team did extensive research as well and our flash-based client was the only one in India to have certain features such as Straddle, Player Notes, Tiling, and Cascading at the time.

We followed up the first release with another a few months later in May ’15. In this version, we introduced tournaments of FreezeOut and R+A variants for the first time on our client. The first tournament we ever hosted on PokerBaazi was the ‘Play to Win 75K’ for the first 50 users on our website.

A major milestone on the technological front was achieved in August of the same year with the launch of the Android app. We continued to steadily update the client for the remainder of 2015 until the launch of the revamped PokerBaazi client on 20th April ’16. This update really catapulted us to another level with the introduction of many exciting features such as Run It Twice, Time Bank & Seat Preference. New tournament variants and Anonymous Tables soon followed.

Even though the new client was well-rounded on the whole, certain problems remained. These came to a fore during PPL Season V when some players faced problems when registering into tournaments. A major internet outage caused by a cyclone in the south Asian region added to the woes. I was surrounded by lots of queries and I would be lying if I say I wasn’t psychologically affected by all this. But it was then that I realized the value of a good team and a motivating leader. Navkiran, walked up to me and told me and I quote, “There is no shame in failure. The shame is only if you are dishonest. Are you?” I remember these words point to point because there are a lot of times when we feel low, but just this feeling of being honest with your work is what lifts you back up. I started listing all the technical issues, making sure none are left. I am personally grateful to Varun Ganjoo for being a pillar at that time. He not only shared the task to listen to each and every person, but also for lifting up my spirits with the lamest of the jokes, being the PJ king he is. These days he is busy with his ‘Aao Kabhi Haveli Pe’ meme.

ME: Ganjoo, how do you like this? I don’t like this design.

VG: Aao kabhi Haveli pe, tumhe designing sikhayein

Moving forward, I had only two things in mind. One, to respond to everyone and get due compensation wherever applicable. Treating every player as equal has been PokerBaazi’s undeterred rule. Second was to come up with a plan to overcome all the issues.

Work had been on for a few months to release a new version of the software before PPL V, but the launch got delayed due to some insurmountable technical problems. We eventually did release the client in January ’17. This version is built on the latest HTML5 which contributes to the lag-free experience. Also accomplished this time round was a complete architectural overhaul of our software and game engine. This also allowed us to integrate other UI enhancements. The four-coloured deck, time bank activation, and revamped mobile experience are some of the new features we’ve been able to include.

We also published our iOS app in the same period. It is hard for me to swallow that it took this while. I am myself a die-hard Apple fan. If Apple built houses here, I would take one. If Apple had a daughter, I would marry her.

The success of PPL VI was to a major extent on the capabilities of our much-evolved client.

PokerBaazi has come a long way since the first launch back in October ’14. But, like wine, I feel we only get better with time. Plans in coming months focus purely on improving the gaming experience for everyone. Among the new features in the pipeline are Visual Hand Replayer, KO Tournament, Show Cards, Tournament Deal Making, and Auto-Seating for Cash Tables. It should be a fun ride as we introduce these features soon.

As always, I welcome any feedback you have for the PokerBaazi Technology team. I believe that it is the constant inputs of the poker community that has helped us reach where we are today and I hope that you and I can grow together as we take the PokerBaazi experience to previously unexplored places in India every day.

I would conclude by saying what I have witnessed in my life : ‘Haar kar jeetne wale ko Baazigar kehte hain’.

Signing off