The newly crowned Moneymaker winner, Sandeep Singh is a force to reckon with! In this all exclusive interview, Singh takes us along on his Moneymaker journey, reminiscing his early days in poker, lets us in on a few tournament tips and even shares some personal anecdotes that’s made this interview scroll worthy till the very end. Indeed, he might be an extraordinary player on the felts and ships major tourneys but Singh makes us believe he’s just a regular guy with a full-time job who plays poker on the weekends and lives the family life oh-so-soundly!
We’d like to congratulate you on your Moneymaker win; how do you feel about shipping such a major tournament?
It’s a great feeling. It’s probably one of India’s biggest tournaments to win and taking it down is definitely one of the key achievements of my poker career!
What was your experience like on PokerBaazi playing the Money Maker?
Money Maker and other tournaments on PokerBaazi have a certain novelty to them. They are great to play and the games grow progressively given the time limit. Having day 2 and the final table on the next day is a real relief for poker players. PokerBaazi has been a game changer for online poker.
Can you let us in on any of the hand details that led to your eventual success?
Just before the final table with 14 – 15 players left. A Limp from UTG, I would usually open that, but I limped because of a hunch with Ace 7 from the button. Followed by limps from both small and big blinds. Flop opened ace, 6 ,7. UTG bets, the next opponent on the table who had his eyes on me for a while decides to 3-bet.
Since I hit my two pair, I flat called him. He goes all-in on the turn and I matched him since we were almost even big stackers at that stage. This hand gave my chip stack the necessary boost and propelled me into being the chip lead on the final table.
A game of poker has an interesting way of making its way into your life. Care to share your anecdote with us?
I was introduced to poker during my final semester IIM in 2010. We used to play low stakes tournaments with friends. After that I spent a few years in Gujarat and there were no active poker scenes there. Moved to Bangalore and was made aware of the legality of the game and the active live games.
However, I didn’t start until a tournament was held by Golden aces at Casino Pride. Not being aware that the venue was Goa, I was notified at midnight and decided to fly down to take part and ended up coming 4th! I’d say I attributed it a little more to my luck, than my game. But this gave me the confidence and I continued playing cash games in Bangalore.
Been traveling to Goa and playing live tournaments since 2015. I was always learning on the go with games up until last year and then I decided to study the game and have been seeing exponential improvements in my online results.
“It’s probably one of India’s biggest tournament to win and taking it down is definitely one of the key achievements of my poker career!”
Moving to more pressing matters, the novel COVID 19 pandemic. How have they impacted the poker felts?
The impact is mainly on the live games. The online scenario has remained the same, in fact poker is one of the pandemic proof professions to be in at the moment.
Bringing us straight back to live or online. Where do we spot you more often?
Earlier live. Considering there are more games online now, my preference has shifted to online.
What do you think is the main difference between live and online settings?
The main difference is obviously that your opponent is in front of you. For online poker while players are using HUDs although I haven’t studied it yet, I have the most rudimentary form of it, player notes, to help me with my online games. Online helps you multi-table and the games are fast paced compared to the live ones. Online all the way!
Since MTT is the new online mode. How do you fair with MTT?
It is difficult, but now that I have a better understanding of the game, my thinking or reaction time is much lesser. You don’t have to think for every hand. You know your positions and what hands to be pushing by this stage. I play a maximum of six tables at a time and tend to manage well.
Share with us your motivations to excel in this skill-based mind sport.
The game itself. The game always fascinated me and for the sheer love of the game, I always wanted to pursue it. When I moved to Bangalore, opportunities came knocking twice.
Further travelling to goa and seeing players consistently perform motivated me to think of what I could do differently. Interacting with players who are successful definitely drives us to pursue and improve our game.
“Great players are focused. They analyse their game and it’s a continuous process that they do not deviate from. Keeping the process going is crucial and the fearlessness! Losing a hand and being busted from a tournament is no longer a fear for them”
Who do you look up to from within the industry?
There was a time when I feared Aditya Sushant being on my table, purely for the psychological edge in his playing style. Worked on my game and now I prefer an aggressive table and trapping my opponents at their own game. Ashish Ahuja has had a great run and it’s the kind of consistency I want my game to reach.
There are so many brilliant players out there. What according to you is the major difference between the good and the great players?
Great players are focused. They analyse their game and it’s a continuous process that they do not deviate from. Keeping the process going is crucial and the fearlessness! Losing a hand and being busted from a tournament is no longer a fear for them.
Now, all things aside the felts. Is poker full time for you?
No, I am a working professional and work in the US mortgage service company. I play poker over the weekends. There are a few tournaments I play over the week. But I have professional ambitions as well and limit my games to the weekend and try striking a balance. So far, I’ve been managing to do well in both. It’s tough for sure and leaves me with little time for myself.
‘Poker is one of the pandemic proof professions to be in at the moment”
How’s the journey been with your friends and family accepting poker?
It’s been a Roller coaster ride. Considering I entered the game with no mentoring and was losing, I’ve had people confront me about the late hours. During one New Years in Goa, I took my wife, sister and brother-in-law to the casino and my poker stars were aligned and I happened to win on all the four consecutive days that I played cash games.
This certainly set in a level of comfort for my wife that the sport is a lot more than just gambling and that you can also win. Comforting her was my priority. I promised her last year that if I didn’t become a winning player in a year, the game was not meant for me and I would stop. I knew I would turn it around. Quitting was never an option for me because of how much I loved the game.
P.S: My wife ended up trying her hand at a few women’s tournaments in Goa and shipped a small tournament 2 years ago! (Now that’s a winning story for sure!)
Poker as a game teaches you a lot. Do you take these poker lessons back home or to work?
Patience has been my biggest learning from poker. Learning not to overreact and control yourself in situations is something poker has taught me and I implement it at work very often. This has certainly increased my ability to think through a situation before reacting in all walks of my life.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Is it all poker or do you have something else in mind?
Travel the world and play on some of the world live felts. Pursue my professional ambitions as well and reach the top in both worlds.
Talking about the future, will we be seeing you at PokerBaazi’s End Boss tournament? What strategies will you be bringing to these felts?
Yes! And like every tournament, I come in with the intention to win. The bigger tournaments give us sufficient time to prepare. So I set a target and practice by taking part in smaller tournaments during the run up to the main one. This has been my strategy and since they’ve shown results, I think I’ll continue with this for End Boss.
With the MoneyMaker title in his hand, he’s also bagged himself a new job and is celebrating his wife reaching the finals of a Mrs. India pageant. What a sweet home run!
Congratulations once again Sandeep!