The National Poker Series was introduced with an objective of finding India’s first poker gold medalist and trying to impose on the minds of the Indian public that poker is not just another casino game and that it has the properties of being considered a proper skill game or a sport.
It’s incredibly hard to win with huge fields, and boy did NPS receive an incredible amount of entries across its tournaments. It’s hard to win one tournament but it’s even harder to win 3 events in the same series!
In the early hours of June 28th, we received India’s first poker gold medalist, Mohammad Azhar Tak! The man shipped 3 events in the first edition of the National Poker Series – INR 50L GTD Kick-Off, INR 30L GTD Friday Force and the INR 3 Crores GTD Main Event!
It was an unfathomable run. Simply an outstanding achievement for any poker player. The 23 year old topped the NPS Podium AND the Series Leaderboard as well! He earned himself an cumulative prize money of INR 72.35 Lakhs during the series!
There’s not much left to say about Mohammad Azhar ‘chandlerbing’ Tak other than hearing about his poker journey and making history at the NPS from himself!
IPN: Tell us something about yourself, where you’re from, childhood, studies, college life, profession.
MAT: I am Mohammad Azhar, 23 and married. My family is based out in Kuwait and I have been living in Delhi and Jaipur for the past 5 years. I have done my BBA from JNU Jaipur and as of now I am a mix of a coach and a player.
IPN: Tell us about the Main Event grind and what was going on in your head during the event.
MAT: Well, I had gotten my Day 2 planned stack finally on Saturday in the second last flight, I bagged close to 50BB starting stack for Day 2 which I believe is a very comfortable Day 2 stack for any event.
During the start of Day 2 I was picking hands spots and I had planned to not let it come to a point where I might have to flip for my tournament life in order to survive so I rather went the organic approach, played a lot of postflop where I do feel I have an edge over a lot of these mtt players.
My only fear during the entire Day 2 grind was whenever I held premium I asked myself what if this is a sick sick cooler and we are gonna bust without even realising that we might bust that hand, apart from that I just kept praying for good table draws as the game went deeper.
IPN: Tell us about the hand which brought the Main Event Gold Medal for you.
MAT: The hand was rather simple for such a mammoth payjump of 17L, I open jammed 44 OTB HU for around 13bb effective, while I had 4 times the stack as my opponent. He woke up with a snap calling hand ATo and the sailboats held to seal the deal!
IPN: How has the NPS experience been? What all aspects of the NPS did you like the most?
MAT: NPS for me has been more than just a series, this was a challenge to myself, coming out of 2 years MTT break ( I played but random and very few events during this break), it was the battle to fight the toughest in India in some of the most neck to neck MTTs and coming over the top of everyone that this NPS was all about.
The most respected aspect of the entire format was that the MTTs started in the evening allowing players rest and life outside of the series too.
The GTDs of almost every event were crushed so that was again a very nice thing as it gave more value than we expected. The various leaderboards were simply extremely well structured as they allowed players from all races of life to come ahead and have a chance at topping the leaderboard.
IPN: How do you think the game has changed over the last couple of years in terms of skill and is it harder to take down big events nowadays than it was when you started playing?
MAT: Absolutely! Back in the day when I started grinding 6L GTD used to be the biggest weekly event out here at baazi and fields were smaller, there were overlays, players were either really good or really bad which made variance of the game less impactful,
today with so many satellites, deposit codes and so much free knowledge out there on the internet everyone knows the sheer bases of the game which makes the skill edge diminishingly small. And with so many top regs still making it to the top,
they give a much tougher fight and more and more players are leaning towards the play to win strategy unlike the ladder and survival strategies back in the day. So the price and prize of poker along with the effort have significantly gone up.
IPN: How big of an impact do you think the National Poker Series will have in making poker an accepted sport in our country?
MAT: I really feel that as more and more efforts such as NPS made to give the sport a real sport feel, people with time will move to the school of thought that there must definitely be skill involved in the game because when you are doing something consistently say in the field of 10L fellow players,
then you are definitely doing something really right and that along with the money earned doesn’t go unnoticed. I personally feel NPS is going to be like WSOP of India for times to come ahead of us. And we must try to be as integral a part as we can of this ongoing poker boom.
IPN: What are 3 essential things for you while playing online or live poker?
MAT: For online, I need music, isolation and a solid 7 hour sleep in the night before
IPN: Which one do you prefer: Cash or Tournaments?
MAT: Cash, I just believe given the top heavy and variance stricken nature of MTTs, in a bad spell they can end up resulting to a very insignificant amount and also with a greater depth, there is more postflop play which is where I believe my edge is and I prefer to play at.
IPN: Which has been the most memorable moment in poker?
MAT: This will surely be the NPS Main event when the sailboats held
IPN: When was the last time you lost your temper?
MAT: On Saturday, the day before the NPS Main event. I was on the final table of an event and we were 4 handed and winning even a bronze could seal my deal very very well for the podium finish but I busted 4th AQ vs AJ,
I was sorely disappointed in the moment and I remember saying to a friend that this very well might have been the last FT of NPS and we didn’t complete it to a satisfactory ending.
IPN: Are you a better poker player online or live?
MAT: Surely online because being an action junkie, I end up becoming way too creative playing a single live table.
It was a pleasure to speak with Mohammad Azhar and we hope that we continue seeing him crush at the big series coming in the future! It was an unbelievable achievement and one that will be remembered by people throughout the industry for a long time!
For more interesting interviews with some of the best players in the country and updates on PokerBaazi, keep reading India Poker News!