In the weeks following WPPT, I went back to some of the books and online material I’d read earlier, primarily to analyse my recent play, to revise some notions and imbibe newer concepts that at first glance seemed complicated. Again, a spate of micro buy-in and freeroll tourneys followed, to try out all that I was learning. I also started making some notes on some of the regular players I’d encountered – their ranges, styles, tells etc. This was to come in very handy in the coming weeks/ months.
On the Live Tourney scene, I only played the PGT 5K FO, making an early-ish exit at 50/88, after building a chip stack only to give it away through some ill-timed aggression and bad reads. I, did, however, feel ‘ready’.
At the IPS in end-March, things began to fall in place. I liked the structure for the 10K double chance freezeout. My basic strategy was to not take the entire stack in the beginning, but to play very aggressively with the initial half stack, as the safety net of the other half was around in case I lost a coinflip. It worked out very well and I arrived on the Final Table with a massive chip lead – over 70,000 chips to the nearest guys at nos 2 and 3 (Jasven and Michael) with 28,000 chips. It was also my first time with Adi on the table!
For many on the FT, I was an unexpected aberration; it was quite amusing to overhear remarks about me while waiting for the FT walk. One of FT players even offered a wager that I’d bust at no. 5/6, no chance of getting into the money! For this FT, I decided to temper my aggression for the first couple of orbits, basically allowing shorter stacks to battle it out, busting or doubling up – when the field got pared down to 6, I decided to shift gears.
It was fun to be heads-up against YJ Kim. I finally took down the title on an ATC shove by Kim after he’d been crippled in the second last hand of the tourney. The fact that I arrived on the FT in big chip lead and more or less maintained it throughout was a huge confidence-booster; it reflected in another FT the next day; I again got there with a decent stack, virtually tied in the no 2 spot. Some donk play saw me first grind, and then hanging on by a slender thread to finish at no 4. These 2 days alone wiped my poker tourney deficit – and the excel sheet finally began to reflect a positive balance in both the columns – cash and tourney.
2 weeks later, at IPL, in the 5K R+A, I busted at 14/34 – good experience as it pitted me against another set of players altogether, helped me make my notes and laid the ground for the 15K Freezeout deep run.
I got to the FT in 7th place with just 15-16 bbs, but I felt I was in the ‘zone’. It was a tough table, with Niranjan and Apurva in big chip leads; others included Olli, Poros, Vikramjit and Fred Hallan. The initial 2 hours on the FT were just about grinding, stealing blinds and surviving, with a couple of smart laydowns that helped me avoid some very awkward spots (eg, Niranjan’s AA that turned into flopped quads vs Fred’s TT; I laid down 88 after leading out 2.5x). Down to the last 4 with 8 bbs, I shifted gears and steadily built a fighting stack, finally moving upto a close no 2, eliminating Poros at no 3 after 2.5 hours of FT play. The Heads-Up battle with Apurva was fascinating, with many thrusts and parries but no major or massive action, until the last hand over 100 minutes later – once again with a strong hand on SB, I completed my blinds (Apurva had folded to several of my strong hands, reacting to my preflop raises or 3 bets) – this time he moved all-in to an insta-call by me, to find his A8o dominated by my AQo – the board ran dry, and to many’s surprise, I picked up my first IPL trophy! It was an intense heads-up battle, with much railing and sidelines chatter from the Delhi contingent – my major learning from this experience was to block out the surroundings and to ignore all ambient noise, to focus on the hands, reads and tells!
And- with all previous deficits wiped out, I now had a bankroll of over Rs 300,000, allowing me to enter more tourneys over the next 3 months, playing my poker sans fear or anxiety as I was no longer ‘gambling’ with my own money, even if it had been earned basically on the cash tables, (anyway not gambling out of my own pocket)!
Soon more FTs followed as did more Titles (UPC 5K R+A, IPL 5K R+A, IPS 5K) and many Top 4 finishes (IPL, IPS, Golden Aces, and 2 at the APT)! By Aug, 3-4 months after I commenced my tournament journey, I was leading the IPL POY and was at no 3 in the IPS POY, despite missing full editions or not playing in many events! But more than all these results, it was a steep and swift learning curve, that kept me totally engrossed and engaged – and time for a simple realization – that poker is a fascinating realm that I enjoy thoroughly, and the learning will just about never end!