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Heads-Up With the 2018 WPT India High Roller Champion – Kalyan Chakravarthy

Kalyan Chakravarthy
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  • Namita Ghosh November 27, 2018
  • 6 Minutes Read

The 2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) India is over, but echoes of the excitement that the biggest live tournament show ever hosted in India brought on, still remains. For Kalyan Chakravarthy, turning up at the series proved to be the right decision. Chakravarthy took down the 2018 WPT ₹100K High Roller, defeating Adda52’s celebrity pro Minissha Lamba heads-up to win ₹37.53 Lakhs.

Not that this was the biggest win for Chakravarthy, but a prominent one nonetheless, as the Delhi-based Hyderabad native picked up his second title win at the WPT and this time on home soil. Last year in January Chakravarthy had won the $660 NLHE 6-Max Event at WPT National Cambodia in Sihanoukville for ₹4.69 Lakhs ($6,635).

2018 has been a breakout year for Chakravarthy by all means. In a year that brought big international wins and scores for Indian players, Chakravarthy`s trailblazing run in international tournaments surely stands out. Mention his name and people remember his remarkable performance in Las Vegas earlier this year where he won the $600 NLHE MonsterStack at the 2018 DeepStack Championship Poker Series (DCPS) in the Venetian for ₹1.01 Crore. Chakravarthy intrigued everyone by keeping away to a big extent from the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) where a large Indian contingent fielded across various events.

But even before his monster Vegas score, the IIT-Delhi graduate who loves to travel and play chess when he’s not playing poker, had splashed across online and live poker scene with big scores. In February 2018, he finished runner-up in the HK$18,000 NLHE Doupai Cup Main Event for ₹64.90 Lakhs and March saw him compete in the Big Millions tournament on Adda52, the final table of which was contested live at the Deltin Royale in Goa. Chakravarthy claimed the title for ₹28.5 Lakhs.

With another WPT title in his kitty, Chakavarthy is looking forward to bigger and better things. PokerGuru caught up with Chakravarthy to learn more about his experiences at the 2018 WPT India series, his heads-up match with Lamba in the High Roller finale and more. Here are the excerpts.

Hi Kalyan, and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru. Congratulations on winning the 2018 WPT India High Roller! is your second WPT title and latest win onhome soil. How do you feel?

It feels quite good to win a title and I am happy that they are coming in such major tournaments and particularly this one, since it’s WPT India and my first Indian tournament series after long time like around 2 years! I’m really glad I got one more WPT title, that too in India. Hopefully my run continues even further.

Thanks to all out there who wished me good luck and sent all the positive vibes along, and thanks to my rail, Kranthi Kumar, Deepak Bothra, Siddarth Singhvi, Phanidra, Ratul Steves, Naresh, Rana and few others. Also to Kunal Patni for making the table lively by acting as Tournament Director, and special thanks to the WPT team especially Danny and Manish Adnani as well for clarifying anything (doubts) I had right away.

What was your strategy for the event, especially going into the final table? Any interesting moments that you’d like to share?

In the High Roller, I entered Day 2 with three times the starting stack and double the average, so it was a good start. I was picking up chips timely with squeezes and few other moves. At a point when there were around 23 people left, most of them had a near-average stack, came a hand where I doubled up and became chip leader. Here on, I started applying bubble pressure and accumulated even more chips, so when the field narrowed down to 12 people, I had like 1.2 Million chips while the average was 4 Lakhs.

My strategy for the final table was to keep applying pressure on medium stacks, basically ICM pressure wherever possible and also gamble little bit against short stacks.

Talking about interesting hands, yes in fact, I remember a hand where I got lucky against another stack of around 4 Lakhs with ace-ten vs. ace-jack and I got my ten on the turn. My chiplead increased even further, and I had, like 33% of chips in play when like 10 people were left and I carried the same to the final table. So, yeah to my good fortune, the tough nuts fielding in the event were not carrying huge stacks on the final table and were limited to fewer options.

You clashed with Adda52 celebrity pro MinishhaLamba in the heads-up match. How was the experience and how did you find Lamba as an opponent on the felts?

Playing heads up with MinishaLamba was great! It was the first time I played with her. I’d heard she’s doing quite good in Indian circuit tourneys, and I finally witnessed that.Though her stack was kind of fluctuating when we were down to 5 players, she looked quite relaxed and composed and was making the right decisions according to her stack sizes.

I think I played little different than usual to counter her strategies and yeah, my chip lead gave me the leverage to try multiple things which fortunately worked out. I wish her much more success in upcoming events too!


You have been playing poker for more than 5 years now, but we could call 2018 as the breakout year for you, with a runner-up finish in the Doupai Cup Main Event (Feb) several scores in the APPT Macau, and of course two title wins. In fact a big portion of your lifetime earnings have come in this year. Compared to last year, what factors do you feel worked for you, and were there any special efforts that you made to improve your game and focus?

Though I started with playing poker long back, I got more active in 2016 and results started showing up. But yes, I used to play more cash games and less of tournaments in 2016. In fact, I started moving more to tournaments in 2017, so I think with more experience it showed a great impact in 2018 along with the hot run. I’m sure many players keep working on their game from time to time and so did I and I am glad it’s working out.

You travelled to Vegas this summer and shipped the $600 NLHE MonsterStack in the DCPS at The Venetian, but you were hardly spotted in the WSOP events. Was there a specific reason why you steered clear of the WSOP and will we see that changing next summer?

Well, I was picking events looking at it from the value perspective, my skill level and few other factors. So I’m sure that will keep changing every year so maybe I will play more of WSOP events next year, but that’s something I need to figure out once the schedule is out.

Coming back to the 2018 WPT India, the series turned out to be a huge success, with a huge turnout and several big wins. What according you are the primary reasons for such a big and record-breaking show?

The 2018 WPT India was a grand show. The numbers speak for themselves and reflect how much poker is growing in India with time and people’s perspective is changing. I’m sure a lot of people have by now, realized that poker is a skill game and more people are keen in getting into the game. So thanks to all the leagues out there which have been promoting the game in the right way. I’m sure WPT India is gonna (going to) get even bigger and better in the coming years and wish the WPT team all the best.


Who are the poker players that you look up to, in the national or international circuits and why?

Rainer Kempe is the one I look up to. His game perspective, discipline and the mindset he has about the game itself is quite different. I find the fact that irrespective of whether he’s been losing or winning, he tries to do the best he can everytime he sits at the table, very inspiring.


Since you have been active in the international poker circuits, tell us your views on the developing poker scene in India and Asia?

I can clearly see the boom happening in both Indian and Asian circuits. Look at any series in these regions and you’ll find that the field numbers have been increasing drastically from series to series, which itself says that it’s gonna(going to) get bigger and bigger with time.

Also the progress that the online sites have been making in the domestic space is remarkable. Many sites have promotions encouraging upcoming players who aim to fulfill their poker dreams. But I do also feel and hope that thesupply and demand ratio should be maintained for the healthy growth of sport. It won’t really be good for online poker in the long term if either the supply or demand gets overloaded.


Tell us about your future plans in poker. Are there any possibilities that we will be seeing you as among the Indians participating in the PokerStars Players NLHE Championship in the Bahamas?

Yeah I wanted to go to the Bahamas but need to see if I can fit that into my schedule. But yes, I would definitely want to go to the PSPC Bahamas, as a lot of passes have been distributed and it’s gonna be quite soft. Also, given the value addition done by PokerStars, the PSPC looks like a very good tournament so I will be making my decision on it soon.


(Image courtesy: onlinepokernews.in/PokerNews India)

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