Live Cash Games in India – Past, Present and Future

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    • #23849

      Hey Guys,

      Firstly let me say its a pleasure to finally find an up and running discussion forum devoted to poker players in India. Poker enthusiasts in our country have so far been without a trusted adviser/expert/friend who speaks the same language as them. PokerGuru, through this forum, will certainly fill that gap. Seriously guys, keep this up, hope you soon have a billion members!

      The reason I started this discussion thread is to get a variety of perspectives on the nature of live cash games in India. To track its growth from the early stages to where it stands now and where do we see it heading. The intention here is to create a common pool of information and ideas provided by you all for the universal benefit of the live cash poker playing community in India. So whether it is some experience of live casino poker you want to share, or some new ideas to improve the standards of the game here, or even just some gossips doing the rounds of poker circuit in your city; do feel free to tell us all about it. This is just a small effort to build a better informed network of cash game players from India.

      Let me kick it off by sharing with you all whatever limited experience I’ve had so far. I am a relative beginner myself having learned the basics one and a half years back. I didn’t know anyone personally who played the game and picked up the rules online on a complete whim. For the first six months or so I remained a casual online player, usually competing in small buy-in MTT’s. My first exposure to live cash game was in a Goa casino in Nov’09 during a 3 day holiday trip with my wife. For someone who hasn’t even seen the inside of a casino before, forget sitting on a poker table with complete strangers; it was a truly overwhelming experience. The poker table used to be on the main gaming floor (more distractions!) and when we learned that the minimum sit-down is Rs 10,000, my wife promptly took me away to the dinner buffet section instead and ready to depart on the next boat leaving the casino. It took all my persuasion skills to ensure we stayed back a little longer and eventually swiped our credit card for my live cash poker foray. Well, it was an eventful first hand by my standards at the time and one which I am unlikely to forget. There were 2 tables running at the time and unfortunately I could only get a seat at the main table which was mostly occupied by the regulars of that time (as I was told by the trusty floor manager). Regardless, I took the seat and posted my forced first blind. I watch in dismay as UTG+1 open raises to 3k and is subsequently called by 2 players ahead of me without so much as a second glance to their hole cards. As I was trying to come to terms with these monster pre-flop raises of 15x, I look down to find a pair of kings in my hand. At this point I am feeling more scared than jubilant due to the fact that now I am forced to play a big pot with my first hand, without having the faintest clue as to how the table is playing; who I am up against and what is the correct move in that spot. Under pressure to act and constant stares by other players on the table, I reacted by doing whatever came first to mind. With a silent prayer to unknown poker gods, I pushed all my chips in front. I watched in horror as my all-in was called first by the initial raiser and another player behind. Even at the time I understood my one pair will need a lot of luck to survive against 2 players. I sat there helpless as action unfolded on other streets. At the end of it, the roll of dice fell in my favor as the kings held good against busted straight and flush draws of the other 2 players. Triple up first hand and I was ready to burst with excitement. Proceeded to fold my way for the next half hour before sneaking out the back door with my winnings (that’s right, exactly the kind of actions which we frown upon as regulars today :P).

      I started playing a lot more regularly in live cash games from January of this year, and have made a slow & painful progress in learning the nuts and bolts of this complex game. Although with every hand I play or observe, I come closer to realizing the truth that it may take a lifetime to master the game. I will continue to share my experiences and other happenings on the cash game front in future posts. In the meanwhile, it will be great to see all of you share some of your own thoughts and ideas related to our common passion.

    • #29065

      Hey Rohit

      Good to see you make the effort and write an exhaustive note.

      Its been very well written and summed up.

      I can see your humble words that you call your self a “relative beginner”. Even though your poker experience is as short as 18 months out of which the initial 6 months were Online and later from January did you start to play live games.

      I do recall meeting you in Casino Royale Goa in April 2010 but a faint memory also says I met you in my visit in January 2010 when I was day for just 2 days. I did observe your game in Jan and felt you had a good game. And in April all my doubts were cleared. You played the IPS (India Poker Series) and I can recall your win in the IPS Chapter 1 main event of 15K Freeze-Out which you had won on the 25th of April 2010.

      You are amongst the finest cash and tourney players I have seen of late. Besides that an excellent human being. Between thanks for the lunch at Cida De Goa in October which we all had together after I had just landed in Goa and reached there when you all were lunching there.

      Warm Regards

      Bharat

    • #29244

      Hi Rohit,

      First of all, thanks a lot for starting this discussion. I learnt the basics of the game about 8 months ago and have been playing on and off…So I call myself a complete beginner. I call myself a poker enthusiast more than a player as I know that there is a lot more to poker than just the “face”.

      I learnt poker at a friends party.( My friends where facebook poker legends.lol ).. And till that day i thought poker was a computer game.. So, when my friend was asking another one over the phone to get “chips” I mistook it for “lays”. So thats where I learnt the basics and then I was thrilled. I think being a geminine the thought of math,calculations,risk and excitement kinda sounded great. So i took it up seriously ( on facebook. I still couldnt sleep the day when i reached a million play chips on fb..lol) ..

      So that aside.. My first LIVE poker experience came in hyd. I just dint know that something called a cash game existed then. But neverthless I paid the 1000 bucks buy in and sat down.. That, I think was my first wake up call… Just realized after 3 buy ins that , I just played weak… I was no good.. Then came my bangalore experience where I played with GOOD players.. ( Kaushik Paul , I think is a great player)… Thats where I learnt how this was played and then started reading about it online. ( Super system- I thought , itwas great for a start.. All hands revealed ( gus hansen) started making more sense as I played on though)..

      The day I thought I could actually play this game was when i came second in my first ever live tournament..
      A little story – I came to bangalore on a Sunday particularly to play this tournament ( 5 k Re-buy) and as I reached Bangalore i realized that i had forgotten my ATM card in Cochin.I had exactly INR 5400 with me and I knew it was do or die. It will take me 200 bucks to reach there and 200 to get back.. So thats exactly what I had. No Rebuys either. Neverthless i went for it , and with the added pressure , i think I played well.. And it all went as I had planned.. Tight Aggressive start.. Correction : SUPER tight aggressive start, Super aggressive on the bubble and end game… I think it paid off… ( Thanks to the little something which Doyle Brunson and Gus hansen taught me). And realization struck that I am more of a tournament player than a cash game player.

      Now the reason I thought I will reply to your post is coz of a problem I have in my game. I have been asked not to do it , but i keep doing it. First the question : In a CASH GAME is it bad to play tight , when you are up?
      Let me give you an example. We usually play a 2k – 3k buy in 20 – 40 game. Now If I kind play good and up say to about 20 – 25 k .. I say to myself ” you knw what, I think we are good. Play tight.”… I dont know why but its a natural process. The reason I do it is because I have seen people who are up by a big margin during a session and by the time they are done with the night they are 4 buy ins down..
      So my question is , IS IT OK TO PLAY TIGHT THEN??? IF YES, great!! If no, What do u suggest..

    • #29252

      Bharat –
      Thank you for your words of encouragement. Looking at the poker scene in India though, I feel there are quite a few talented and far more established cash and tourney players in the country who are more deserving of your praise. Congratulations on making the IPS one of the most popular and successful tournament series, attracting players from all over. For the benefit of this discussion thread, it will also be helpful if you could contribute some of your own thoughts on the poker scene in Kolkata (city with probably the highest number of active young players – both online and live).

      Sangeeth –
      I really enjoyed reading your post. Reading about someone’s initial experiences with poker and their hesitant, awkward introduction to this beautiful game was good fun and I hope we will get to know a lot many interesting stories through this forum 🙂

      The answer to your question is a simple and positive YES. Most of the cash game regulars will do the same once their targets for a session are reached – its called stack protection and not someone who will always play super tight. Its a natural human tendency to bank all profits and avoid further unnecessary risks. Only someone with mostly gambling instincts and who is not a long term serious poker player will ignore this natural instinct. In a nutshell, stack protection is a strategy to ensure you do not leak chips away by getting involved in too many hands or making thin calls or risking chips by running monster 3 barrel bluffs. All said and done, at the end of the day if you leave the table with winnings in your hand, there is no bigger confidence booster for your game which will also reflect the next time you sit down to play. Now ironically, in some cases playing too tight can act as counter-productive for a new player trying stack protection. Either he is easily pushed around by other players who will force him to let go of winning hands more often as they realize he has become more risk averse; or the player himself will not be able to get full value out of his good hands as he wants to avoid big pots now. Either of this is highly negative EV for the player in the long run.

      Playing tight or aggressive at any stage in a cash game depends upon a number of factors apart from your winnings at that time. I am a firm believer that one has to consciously make the effort of changing gears several times during a session, taking in factors like table image; effective stack sizes; table positioning; ratio of fish/sharks etc. As you play more sessions and keep analyzing and evolving your game, you will develop the instinctive awareness which will make you a much better judge of these situations.

      As a side note, in a home game environment I’ll expect that non-serious players/gamblers will not look too kindly upon someone who refuses to give action after being up for the session. This may lead to a possible situation where they will simply avoid playing such a player. All these situation-specific issues have to be addressed before coming up with an ideal strategy for any cash game. Also, it seems your average buy-in for a cash game is about 50 to 100 BB’s, which in my experience is less than ideal. One of the most crucial aspect of any cash game is to ensure you have the bankroll to sit with at least 150-200 BB’s at any point in the session. And try and cover almost all the stacks on the table, at least the weaker ones. In a cash game ‘Chips attract more chips!’ and it takes only one or two big hands to make it a successful session.

    • #23850

      Rohit
      I have always admired your humble ways. I still maintain that your game is excellent and of the few players whom I have witnessed playing, yours would surely appear in the top 10-15. I would not place anyone in ranking as because my knowledge and observations are limited. But you are surely excellent.
      I agree there are others in our country who are also excellent in cash and tournaments. Infact the other day Vikram (Verma) put a post on FB asking to name the top players and I had to put up a list of almost 15 names from the ones I have seen play. There are lot more whom I have not seen only.
      Thank you for the words of praise about IPS. I have put in a lot of labour, time and energy into it. I hope it continues on its growth path and obviously it is all because of the support I keep getting from people like you who come and play and also help us improve, with support from media like PokerGuru and Card Player and the likes.
      Kolkata players are more in the younger age bracket (college or just out of college buys). They are aggressive in their play and also are not that good with bank roll management. This is purely my view and may be I am wrong with this. I think if they balance out their methods then they would show better results than they have shown till now. I have done my initial bit in 2009 for Kolkata to get poker players under one roof. 2010 onwards I have heard that they have all become over aggressive in their cash play and may be some of them play 5 – 6 days a week. I personally do not play more than TWICE in a MONTH so my interaction with them is very limited. The boys whom I am playing with are fairly balanced in their bank roll management and also their game is stable. I think gradually they will appear in the top names in tourneys if they keep their head in place. In cash games they would also perform well as they stick to the blinds/table which suit their bank roll.
      I think this is all the input I am able to give at this point of time.
      Signing off…..
      Bharat

      Bharat –
      Thank you for your words of encouragement. Looking at the poker scene in India though, I feel there are quite a few talented and far more established cash and tourney players in the country who are more deserving of your praise. Congratulations on making the IPS one of the most popular and successful tournament series, attracting players from all over. For the benefit of this discussion thread, it will also be helpful if you could contribute some of your own thoughts on the poker scene in Kolkata (city with probably the highest number of active young players – both online and live).

      Sangeeth –
      I really enjoyed reading your post. Reading about someone’s initial experiences with poker and their hesitant, awkward introduction to this beautiful game was good fun and I hope we will get to know a lot many interesting stories through this forum 🙂

      The answer to your question is a simple and positive YES. Most of the cash game regulars will do the same once their targets for a session are reached – its called stack protection and not someone who will always play super tight. Its a natural human tendency to bank all profits and avoid further unnecessary risks. Only someone with mostly gambling instincts and who is not a long term serious poker player will ignore this natural instinct. In a nutshell, stack protection is a strategy to ensure you do not leak chips away by getting involved in too many hands or making thin calls or risking chips by running monster 3 barrel bluffs. All said and done, at the end of the day if you leave the table with winnings in your hand, there is no bigger confidence booster for your game which will also reflect the next time you sit down to play. Now ironically, in some cases playing too tight can act as counter-productive for a new player trying stack protection. Either he is easily pushed around by other players who will force him to let go of winning hands more often as they realize he has become more risk averse; or the player himself will not be able to get full value out of his good hands as he wants to avoid big pots now. Either of this is highly negative EV for the player in the long run.

      Playing tight or aggressive at any stage in a cash game depends upon a number of factors apart from your winnings at that time. I am a firm believer that one has to consciously make the effort of changing gears several times during a session, taking in factors like table image; effective stack sizes; table positioning; ratio of fish/sharks etc. As you play more sessions and keep analyzing and evolving your game, you will develop the instinctive awareness which will make you a much better judge of these situations.

      As a side note, in a home game environment I’ll expect that non-serious players/gamblers will not look too kindly upon someone who refuses to give action after being up for the session. This may lead to a possible situation where they will simply avoid playing such a player. All these situation-specific issues have to be addressed before coming up with an ideal strategy for any cash game. Also, it seems your average buy-in for a cash game is about 50 to 100 BB’s, which in my experience is less than ideal. One of the most crucial aspect of any cash game is to ensure you have the bankroll to sit with at least 150-200 BB’s at any point in the session. And try and cover almost all the stacks on the table, at least the weaker ones. In a cash game ‘Chips attract more chips!’ and it takes only one or two big hands to make it a successful session.

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