From a national level FIFA player to an absolute poker pro, here’s Gautam Rohilla’s enthralling poker journey

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Amongst the prominent winners at the now concluded PPL this time was Gautam ‘M8a7’ Rohilla who not only finished second on the Leaderboard but shipped an unbelievable 6 PPL titles, winning hefty prize amounts in the series. Based in Gurgaon, Rohilla did his B.Comm from Delhi University and is now pursuing an Advanced Accounting Course on the side. Poker has been his mate for the past three years, ever since he graduated college. The highlight of his journey is him being a professional FIFA player who has played on a national level primarily – offline and online. His FIFA friends introduced him to Pokerbaazi from where he originally started his journey with the game.

‘There’s a promo code sunny500 on Baazi which basically gives you 500 chips for free every time a new ID signs up. Through that, I dived first hand into poker, my friends taught me how to play and I earned my first 1500 bucks at that time. It was like free money!’ the 23-year-old reminisces his early days with Baazi.

Take a look at how he transitions from full time FIFA to an absolute pro at poker:

Hi Gautam! Congratulations on winning back-to-back PPL titles. First off, we’d love to know more about this legendary switch from FIFA to full-time poker. Would you like to walk us through your journey?

I’ve been a professional FIFA player – online as well as offline. I’ve represented India in a couple events, played a few tournaments in Delhi. In monetary terms, FIFA tournaments have a prize pool of about INR 50k where many players compete against each other for the win. In fact, I switched to poker because FIFA doesn’t hold the same position professionally as it did in the early days.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you and your poker journey overall?

So, I launched my own start-up during my 1st year of college where I used to manage and organise FIFA tournaments in India and I was in ties with other companies who also organise several gaming events and purchase & sell gaming equipment as well. When I initially switched to poker, it was mostly recreational – a INR 100 – 200 buy-in thing. I used to see other players winning lakhs of rupees through these tournaments, never thought I’d do it as well. Now due to everything happening around us, I figured I had the time to also do what I intended to.

You started your journey with Pokerbaazi, would you say you’re a loyal Baazi player?

Majority of my games are on Baazi! Since I started my journey with this platform, I feel like I know the people, how they play, it’s a comfortable feeling. Love the interface on their portal and the customer support is top notch. I don’t think I’ve seen a better customer support team in India than Baazi.

How did you progress from cash games and minor tourneys to bigger stakes?

I started with low buy-in cash games, earned somewhere around INR 8K in total savings. I just invested all of it in cash games but couldn’t get a return, that was a bit depressing for me. Shortly after, I decided to register in a small tournament on Pokerbaazi, however I got the money as rake back. I ended up winning the tourney and that definitely appealed to me. The investment was low and I thoroughly enjoyed playing for 4-5 hours straight, added to that got an amazing return on the buy-in.

I started playing cash games again right after playing some tourneys and was making some decent money through that. With poker, it’s always the more you play, the better you can get at the game. That’s exactly what I did.

Have you ever taken some professional poker training, or did some online courses to improve your game?

Yes, I’ve done some courses – The Raiser’s Edge, did some hand history sessions on Run it Once. They’ve been super helpful. I used to watch hand history and analysis of Phil Galfond which has taught me so much. I feel one shouldn’t play serious poker without learning and studying the game, and neither should one keep studying without putting in effort and playing the game. A balance is necessary.

What keeps you motivated and energised during long tourneys? Any tips you’d let us on?

I usually exercise a little and workout before the long grind. That keeps me rejuvenated.

Would you share little poker anecdotes with us that you remember?

I remember this vividly – When I was playing in the BPTO Main Event, I made a pretty sick call after I’d entered the FT which actually landed me in 3rd position. The only thing that hit me then, I was actually super confident about my hand but ended up losing to it.

Now that you’ve played LIVE as well, what do you feel differentiates live from online poker?

Lots I can think of actually. In live, most players are actually good ones competing and they won’t bluff much as well, they tend to play tight. It’s fairly easy for them to put pressure on the emerging players or newbies in the circuit, same goes for regulars. In online, you can get more value for money and in chips. It’s definitely easy for me to play online than live but it’s more fun to get into live poker action.

Any advice to newcomers in the industry?

If you want to go full time, study as much as you can. If you’re thinking you’ll only put in more volume and money, it would only get you as far. Studying and learning the game is important. Also, I’d love to take this opportunity to give a shout to Chirag Sodha! When I wasn’t in a great place personally, he counselled me, talked to me regularly, helped me out a lot, supported me and because of him, I’m doing really well today.

Once again, heartiest congratulations on your several wins, Gautam! It was a pleasure speaking with you.

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