5 Minutes Read
He may be a small-town player but he’s well versed with the dynamics of online poker and what it takes to win. A regular on the virtual felts, 31-year old Dhiraj Chawla recently grabbed the spotlight by winning theKhelo365 Colossal Leaderboard, an eight-week long promotion that ran from July 30 to September 30, and the top prize of a dazzling i20 car and R15 motorbike that came with it! And while many may find this a big win, Chawla who plays on Khelo365 under the moniker ‘Rocky Singh’, isn’t impressed as he feels he has a long way to go and has bigger dreams and higher goals to reach, in poker.
A businessman by profession, Chawla first learned of poker from social media and started with playing on Zynga Poker for fun. What began as a recreational activity firmly rooted itself as a major part of his life. He now plays online whenever he gets time off from work and family life and makes regular trips to explore the live casino gaming scene in Goa and Sri Lanka. With the aim of visiting Las Vegas one day, Chawla has stepped up his involvement in poker off late and plans to enter the live tournament action in a far bigger way than ever before.
In a candid interview with PokerGuru, Chawla talks to us about his introduction to poker, playing on and winning the Khelo365 Colossal Leaderboard, his views on the online and live poker environment in India and his poker plans.
Hello Dhiraj, thank you for speaking with PokerGuru and congratulations on topping the Khelo365 Colossal leaderboard. Please tell us about your eight-week long journey in the promotion.
I have been playing on Khelo365 over the past 10 years, from the time when it was known as Deccan Poker. In the past, my own online grind has been irregular, due to my business commitments. I used to stay off for several months and then resume playing online poker. Over the past three months, I have been active on Khelo365 though initially, I wasn’t aware of the Colossal Leaderboard. I kept playing, the winnings kept coming in and I continued. There were some losses, as well and after the first month passed by, I suddenly realized that I was placed second for four weeks on the mentioned Leaderboard, and if I continue, there was a chance for me to win. So then I kept up the momentum for eight weeks straight.
Tell us about the prizes you won for topping the Khelo365 Colossal Leaderboard. How was the experience?
The Khelo365 Colossal Leaderboard announced a winner’s prize of an i20 Car and R15 motorbike and I was happy to learn I had won. The experience was good. The competition was definitely very tough and I didn’t even think that I’d win the Colossal Leaderboard. While playing on Khelo over this eight-week long period, I saw that there were hardly any players who played continuously throughout these weeks, like me.
Did you have any strategy of finishing in the top place in the promotion?
Not really, the only difference, as I said earlier, was probably that I was one of the most regular players through these two months that the Colossal Leaderboard was running on Khelo365. I usually activated my playing for the Leaderboard on the weekend, either on a Saturday or Sunday.
Tell us about your poker journey.
I live in Asansol, West Bengal and started playing poker on Facebook where I discovered Zynga. Slowly as I got a grasp of it, I began to surf online to learn more about the strategies involved, evaluating the opponents, etc. At this point, I was assisting my father in our family business and used to play usually for smaller amounts, of ₹500, ₹1,000 or ₹2,000. Soon, I found that my friends were also interested in playing and we started hanging out over weekends to discuss strategies and moves.
I also started to visit Goa to play in casinos. I cannot recall a particular time or moment when I fell deeply in love with the game, but I did! I truly believe that poker is not a game of chance at all, but one that requires skills. Once you get hooked to the game, you cannot stay away.
I have been playing online for more than a decade now, mostly on my phone. I have all the poker apps and keep surfing through different sites to play. But I mostly do prefer playing live, for which I visit Goa at least 4-5 times a year, and have even started visiting Sri Lanka.
How does your family react to your passion for the mind sport?
The traditional Indian mindset is not appreciative of poker, as it is considered gambling and a degenerative habit. Since I play online mostly I have seldom discussed my passion for poker with my parents, as I feel that they may not support me on it. However my wife is fully supportive of this, and she even travels with me during my trips to Goa. While I play poker in casinos, she keeps herself busy with games like roulette.
Which other online sites do you prefer to play on and why?
I have played on nearly almost all poker sites. Apart from Khelo 365, I prefer to play on Adda52. I have also found the Kolkata-based PPPoker quite reliable.
What is your usual routine for playing poker and how do you go about improving your game?
Well frankly, I cannot discuss my routine elaborately simply because my timings vary due to my business commitments. But yes, I do put in several hours on playing online whenever I can, and catch up with my local friends to play poker couple of times through a month.
As far as improving is concerned, it comes with time and patience, and I cannot confidently say that I have improved, since it’s a continuous journey in poker, and a long one, to understand the intricacies of it. The biggest lessons I have learned have come in during the long hours I spent on online sites, where I played, lost money and worked on my strategies in real-time.
What is your opinion on the current online poker environment in India?
As someone who has been playing online for a long time and has keenly observed the changes in the online poker industry of India, I can tell you that the poker has been in a constant state of flux in the country. Like other regulars, I have also witnessed many sites popping up and fading away, so I’d say that it’s still a long way from developing into a stable, safe environment for players.
Although I play on all the online sites in India, I somehow feel that sites need to improve in transparency. There are many fake players, as well and it is difficult to gauge who are genuine players. I feel that there needs to be a stronger system of verification of sites and players.
Do you prefer to play live as well? If yes, then please tell us about the live tournaments you have participated in.
Though I have not competed in live tournaments as such, I absolutely love to play poker in a live environment and I strongly feel that while players should explore the feel of playing online, nothing beats the rush and thrills of playing on the live felts.
When you play in a casino or poker room, you get to see your opponents in person, you can assess their move, and read their game. This is an important, and I’d say one of the exciting aspects of playing poker.
I play poker socially with a group of my friends, usually a couple of times a month. Apart from Goa, I have played in Mahjong Casino in Sikkim and recently started exploring the live casino scene in Sri Lanka.
What according to you are the most important qualities that poker players need to develop?
I didn’t have much patience when I started out, and that has changed with time. I’d say, patience, willingness to stay open and keep learning, and bankroll management are the most important qualities for poker players to abide by.
Bankroll management, in particular, is very important. In my initial years, I have committed big blunders as far as planning my finances is concerned and I learned how important it is to plan your financial resources, the hard way. Unfortunately, in India, bankroll management is a less known subject. In fact, I’d say that 80% of people who try their hand in poker for the first time have no clue on how to go about planning the amount of money they should be spending. But yes, having said that, people are smartening up and making smarter decisions, for sure. We are seeing many more bright professional players rising up and scoring big wins at domestic and international events.
From winning the Khelo Colossal leaderboard and beyond, what are your plans for the near future in context to poker?
Poker is a very important part of my life, and there’s no stepping back for me. But I do plan to limit my online game and move onto the live scene in a bigger way. In fact, I want to start competing in live tournaments now, though I cannot think of a timeline of when, since I’ll have to really plan it for taking a break from my work.
Given your strong views on Live Poker, what is your dream poker destination?
Undoubtedly, Las Vegas! It’s the ultimate poker destination and I HAVE to go at least once in my lifetime.
Any parting words that you’d like to add?
Poker is a very good game involving skills and your experience will improve as much as you play. I’d just like to underline the importance of getting the right exposure in playing poker, which I feel one can get only by playing live.
So my advice to newcomers taking to poker is to step onto the virtual poker sites very carefully and make sure that if they do, they really plan their moves and the amount of money they invest in, very well. Don’t lose your money in the rush to earn quick bucks! You may feel it’s all going good, but then you may soon end up losing a bigger chunk of your bankroll. So be cautious, gain a more balanced understanding of poker, and play live rather than online is what I would suggest to players.