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Heads-Up With The Winner of Team PokerStars Pro Jamie Staples’ Platinum Pass Adventure – Nikhil Segel

Nikhil Segel
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  • PG News October 30, 2018
  • 5 Minutes Read

He’s a 47-year old architect based in New Delhi and has been playing poker ever since he discovered poker apps and free poker on his iPhone. An avid recreational player who has dabbled in live tournaments in Goa and other international destinations, Nikhil Segel (cover image) has snagged what has eluded even the most seasoned poker pros, a glittering Platinum Pass worth $30,000!

Segel participated in and won the #MyUltimateSweat challenge designed by Team PokerStars pro Jamie Staples, punching his ticket to the prestigious PokerStars Players NLHE Championship (PSPC) that will take place at the Bahamas in January 2019.

He is the second Indian to have won a Platinum Pass this year after Sumit Sapra, who became the first Indian to pick up a Platinum Pass after winning a three-round flipout tournament at the 2018 Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Korea Main Event.

While five additional passes have been bagged by the yet-to-be-announced winning team of Global Poker League (GPL) Season 1, one Platinum Pass will be going to the winner of the PokerStars India special ‘Diwali Rush’ promotion that is running from October 28 till November 5.

Segel is surely going to part of an elite group of Indians pros that will be seen in action at the PSPC.

As part of the challenge Staples had invited players and poker aficionados to send in their choice of a personal challenge that they’d like to undertake and achieve, over a period of three months, and the player putting up the best challenge would go home with a Platinum Pass. A total of 149 people participated and logged in their chosen challenges and updates on Twitter.

With three goals logged in to participate i.e. to quit smoking, lose weight and reduce his high blood sugar levels, Segel started on his personal challenge journey. Not only did Segel overcome the mental roadblocks that had been stopping him from quitting smoking and getting his health in order, he did so in style! Going far beyond his initial challenge of losing 8.5 Kilos, Segel went on to lose nearly 17 Kilos, from 105.3 kilos to 88.1 kilos in just 84 days.

Nikhil Segel
Nikhil Segel

Nikhil Segel’s #MyUltimateSweat

Staples announced Segel’s win on Twitter, “It was really close between the six [finalists] of you, and the winner is Nikhil Segel. Congratulations Nikhil, what you did was absolutely amazing, 50 cigarettes, getting your blood sugar in a good spot, your salutations, and most importantly, you motivated everyone in the challenge to be better, congratulations and let’s start training for the PSPC.”

Segel discovered he was among the six finalists, when Staples shared the news on his tweet dated October 17.

So where does Segel go from here? Apart from running deep in the PSPC, he also wants to go on losing more weight over the next three months and get his beach bod ready for the Bahamas! Segel had a candid conversation with PokerGuru and here are the excerpts.

Hi Nikhil and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru. First of all congratulations for doing the country proud! You won your way through Team PokerStars pro, Jaime Staples’ Ultimate Sweat Challenge and have won a $30,000 Platinum Pass! What made you join the challenge?

I truly believe that the universe conspires. I had no plans of joining this challenge. In July, I was actually sitting watching YouTube in bed late at night and suddenly the YouTube rabbit hole took me down from one video to the next and I ended up watching Jamie Staples’ video. Since PokerStars got fenced in India, I wasn’t surfing PokerStars.com and so I had no information about this challenge. Suddenly I saw Jamie’s video and it was like a Eureka moment because I was going through a bad patch and I was really spiraling down in terms of my smoking, my health, my weight. I saw it as an opportunity to have enough reasons to get things back on track. So I then immediately made a quick video and said I’m in.

You took up three difficult hurdles that were affecting your health i.e. weight, smoking and high sugar levels. What was your strategy to tackle these issues?

I was in a bad place. I was a diagnosed diabetic and I wasn’t really giving a damn about it. I was picking out on sugars because it would give me a little bit of a high and cut my depression and I’d feel more depressed the next day. I was also smoking a lot, close to 50 cigarettes a day.

So I had to correct my sugars and the only way to do that was to drop weight, quit smoking, and get exercise in place. My strategy was derived from there.

I’m 47 and I can’t do intensive exercises, so for me it was really about using very strict dietary control using MyFitness Pal app. I was logging every single bite I took. But then Mike Vacanti who was also a judge also shared his app, Mike Macros which is an awesome app and there was a lot of learning from there as well. I was my own dietician and nutritionist and I went by the belief that as long as it is less calories taken and more calories burnt, one loses weight.

I have always hated exercise, especially yoga but I decided to challenge myself and I performed 50 Surya Namaskars every day, apart from increasing my activeness.

I started with the challenge on July 15 and continued till Oct 8. Losing 8.5 Kilos was my starting challenge. I have always struggled with 99 kilos as a weight, and wanted to cut below the 99 Kilo mark. But I manage to cross it in the first month itself. I also realized that there is a non-empirical methodology because everyone’s body is different. So I converted my weight loss goal to percentage value and decided to drop between 15-17% of my starting weight. In the near-three months of the Challenge, I dropped 16.33% of my body weight, nearly 17Kilos. My HbA1c went from 8.2 to 5.3!

Of the three goals that you set yourself on achieving which was the most difficult one, and how did you tackle it?

Quitting smoking! When you’re a chain smoker, there’s nothing more difficult than this. Earlier, I used to plan my travel based on which airport had a smoking lounge. I was very scared initially that if I quit smoking I wouldn’t be able to drop weight. I would refuse to go with clients in their cars while going out of town, so that I could smoke. It had started to be a huge hindrance. In my first video to Jamie [Staples] I said I might quit smoking, and he promptly changed to “You WILL quit smoking.” So, on 14th evening I took a few sleeping pills and I decided to sleep through the weekend, and that gave me a break before I stopped completely. I had huge urges, and it was really tough.

What also turned out to be tough was how I had structured my plans to reach my goals. I decided not to do it in an anti-social way or change my routine. I am a single dad, I have friends and we play poker regularly. I decided not to carry my own food during social outings, or avoid drinking or stick to salads when stepping out, but decided to eat sensibly and in moderate quantities. Along this, I was recording everything I ate. I started off at an average intake of 1500-1600 calories a day to 500-600 calories. So, I was working, traveling, going out for meetings, etc, because that was also part of my challenge.

How did your family react to your decision to participate in the challenge?

Both my sons and my 87-year old mother were supportive. The reaction was that we’re glad that you’re doing it and working towards getting better. My staff was very supportive, they kept an eye on my food, coffee and tea intake, and stopped me from having that extra cup and switched me to green tea. I feel blessed to have wonderful friends, who sent me video messages to motivate me. My endocrinologist was shocked and texted me when he saw my health reports, so there was a lot of fun support.

Jamie Staples mentioned while declaring you as the winner that you motivated everyone who participated in the challenge to “Be better.” How did you connect with the other contestants during the challenge, and what was your inspiration behind motivating them?

Motivating others became a secret challenge which I told Jamie [Staples] about, and no one else knew about it. #MyUltimateSweatChallenge was Twitter-driven and I have found Twitter to be a very lonely place, so I realized that there would be a lot of lack of motivation and I realized that like me, other participants will also lack motivation. So I added all the 149 contestants who entered Jamie’s challenge along with five to six judges and Twitter initially blocked me! I decided that I am going to comment, like, share the tweets shared by other participants and motivate them. Suddenly, it became a community of people motivating each other. Yes, you don’t really eliminate competition this way, but then every contestant had his own challenge to complete.

How and when did you start playing the mind sport? Please talk us through your grinding regime.

Gambling and cards may be considered taboo in many families but not in mine. My mother plays rummy every afternoon. We used to play flash in Diwali. And then in 2009 I started playing poker on my phone on the WSOP app, Zynga app and other poker apps. That time, I had also opened an office in Goa and I used to hop into Casino Royale that had opened its first poker table. So I was part of a phone group, and 6-7 of us used to get together in Casino Royale to play poker. Around the same time, I went to Genting and I played a lot of min-flash there. Then in 2011, I participated in the World Gaming Festival but then realized I wasn’t very good.

Five years back in Delhi, we started the Coin Flip Club, we organize MTT every six months, I have cashed that a couple of times. Now I’m not playing as much as I used to earlier.

I have played a lot online. I have always been a huge PokerStars fan. I have also played on Adda52 and other domestic sites, but I find the analytics to be too overwhelming. I was really happy when PokerStars came to India, and I wish it wasn’t fenced.

You’ve described yourself as a recreational player. After winning the Platinum Pass, will this change and do you see yourself considering poker as a profession in the future?

I’m an architect, and that’s who I am. But as I said, the universe conspires in crazy ways. If I bink the PSPC, I may decide that poker might call in for livelihood but at this point, I don’t look at poker as a livelihood. I enjoy poker tremendously, and I see myself playing poker irrespective. I like to play poker whenever I am free, and in fact, I keep playing online daily. I don’t have the time to play long tourneys and I’m more fond of the cash game format.

Now that you have won a Platinum Pass, how do you plan to prepare for the PSPC?

I have put out an open challenge with the training site, ‘Raise Your Edge’ to make me a pro in 69 days and I’m awaiting their reply. Jaime [Staples] has promised to give me some coaching. I’m going for the WPT Goa next month to practice, and I’m looking for coaching and tips from other pros. There’s now a private group for Platinum Pass winners and we have been promised video sessions with pros who will give us tips and tricks.

I was never fond of reading up on poker but I have started doing that. If the universe has brought me at this point, it will have a plan for me.

Who are the Indian and international poker pros that you look up to and why?

Daniel Negreanu for me, is God! I have always admired Jamie Staples for his honesty and humility. I’m a huge fan of Andrew Neeme. I admire Chris Moneymaker for being the most amazing man I have ever seen on video. The humility of these pros is so endearing. Dhaval Mudgal is a friend, and I have played a couple of times with Muskan Sethi. Frankly, I find the international pros to be more humble, helpful and responsive.

What are the International destinations that you’re planning to visit for poker in future?

Maybe, Las Vegas next year, during the WSOP. I want to attend Run It Up, but all of this depends on me having the money, or getting into the ITM into the PSPC and I’m just praying for this, that I run deep!

Good luck Nikhil!

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