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A Roundup of the Key Achievements of Indian Players at the WSOP Over the Years

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  • Namita Ghosh May 1, 2020
  • 3 Minutes Read

Before the COVID-19 outbreak sent the world scuttling indoors, 2020 bore all the promises of being another great year for live poker. Had things gone on as usual, we would have been only weeks away from the most extravagant poker series – the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP)!

Hotel bookings would have started filling in right about now, and Vegas would be lit up in preparation to welcome the hordes of poker players who visit Sin City each year for the annual series. The excitement for the upcoming WSOP, like at most places globally, would have been at its peak back home as well. Many Indian players, pros and recreational ones alike would have already finalized their travel plans, and social media groups would be abuzz with player’s buying/selling action or discussing travel and hotel arrangements!

Unfortunately, none of it is happening this summer as the global health emergency arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the WSOP to postpone its plans, and the official word is that the 51st annual series will still take place sometime later this year. But for now, with Nevada on a complete shutdown, and international travel an absolute no-no, it’s going to be a non-WSOP summer.

The WSOP has tried to make up for this by announcing a new WSOP Super Circuit Online Series that kicks off on GGPoker on May 3. Nonetheless, even a record-shattering $100 Million guaranteed across 595 events cannot compensate for the delay of the annual live series that is the most-awaited poker festival for poker players the world over!

This is sadly a missed opportunity for us as well to report on our Indian players at the WSOP, at least these next two months. We have tried to fill in a part of that void by recounting some of the most prominent achievements by Team India at the WSOP in this feature!

There can be no debate that Indian players have been consistently setting a new benchmark at the WSOP with each passing year. Still, the last three years have been extraordinarily spectacular for Team India. The turnout of Indian players at the mega festival has increased drastically, and so have the results. Underlining this is the fact that Team India has brought back the gold bracelet without fail the last three editions!

Getting India its first gold bracelet was the dynamic duo of Nipun Java and Aditya Sushant in 2017. Nikita Luther won the shiny gold bracelet in 2018, with Young Gun Abhinav Iyer becoming the first Indian to win a solo WSOP bracelet last year.

There are more inspiring WSOP stories outside these bracelet victories as well. One of the most prominent of these has been scripted by poker veteran Aditya Agarwal, who has cashed the WSOP Main Event an incredible eight times already and boasts of 44 bracelet event cashes!

Nishant Sharma is another player who has done the country proud by becoming the first Indian to make a top 50 finish in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 34th in the prestigious tournament in 2018.

Here is a complete rundown of all the significant achievements of Indian players at the WSOP from recent memory!

 

Bracelet Wins

Winning a WSOP gold bracelet is on the top of the wish list for most poker players. Making that wish come true and also going down the history books as the first Indians to do so was the dynamic duo of Aditya Sushant, and U.S.-based Nipun Java, who won the $1,000 Tag Team in June of 2017 for $75,319 (~₹51.55 Lakhs) each. Java would go on to take down his second bracelet the very next month in the $1,000 WSOP.com ONLINE No-Limit Hold’em Championship.

Aditya Sushant & Nipun Java with their rail

 

It was Nikita Luther, who entered the elite bracelet winner’s club in 2018. Incidentally, she won the bracelet in the same $1,000 Tag Team as her fellow countrymen the year before, effectively defending the title for Team India. Sharing the victory with her was teammate Germany’s Guiseppe Pantaleo.

Nikita Luther & Guiseppe Pantaleo

 

Young Gun Abhinav Iyer is the most recent bracelet winner from the country. He won The Closer in 2019. Even though he is the third Indian to have won a WSOP bracelet, he still holds the distinction of being the only one from the country to have done so in a solo event (barring Java who won an online bracelet).

Abhinav Iyer

 

Biggest Single Score

And topping this category is none other than Abhinav Iyer! The Mumbai resident decimated a field of 2,800 entries at the 2019 WSOP Event #84: The Closer that included his heads-up rival, Sammy Lafleur. Iyer pocketed a windfall of $565,346 (~₹3.87 Crores) for the win, which continues to remain the single-largest score by an Indian at the WSOP!

Abhinav Iyer

 

Paawan Bansal is a close second behind Iyer in this category. Call it coincidence, but ironically Bansal`s score also came from The Closer. Bansal placed runner-up in the event after losing the bracelet fight to former World Champion Joe Cada in 2018, but a runner-up finish fetched him a very generous $378,765 (~₹2.60 Crores) in prize money.

Nipun Java (runner-up at 2015 WSOP Event 46 – $3,000 PLO 6-Handed for $270,509 – ₹1.87 Crores), and Nishant Sharma (34th at WSOP 2018 Event #65: Main Event for $230,475 -₹1.58 Crores) round out the other top Indian scores at the WSOP over the years!

 

Most ITM Finishes

The poker boy for Indian poker, Aditya Agarwal, tops the list of Indian pros for accumulating the maximum number of ITM finishes at the WSOP. Agarwal’s WSOP tally is as long as 44 ITM finishes that add up to a staggering $580,782 (~₹4.44 Crores*) in live winnings. One of the earliest Indians to represent the country at the prestigious series, Agarwal, is also known for regularly playing most of the NLH events (barring the High Rollers) on the WSOP schedule each year. He collected his first WSOP cash way back in 2007, placing 116th in the $2,000 NLHE for $29,883 (~₹20.71 Lakhs).

Aditya Agarwal

 

Running through his long WSOP scorecard, Agarwal’s best score to date remains his 71st place finish at the 2015 WSOP Main Event that fetched him a whopping $96,445 (~₹66.85 Lakhs).

 

Most Final Table Finishes (Including Bracelet Wins)

The Delhi-born California resident Nipun Java and Chennai`s Aditya Sushant share the distinction of having final tabled the most bracelet events – three each.

Nipun Java & Aditya Sushant

 

Java’s first WSOP final table finish was in 2015 when he finished runner-up in Event #46 $3,000 PLO Six-Handed for $270,509 (~₹1.87 Crores). He had a breakout 2017 that saw him taking down two bracelets in Event #10: WSOP $1K NLHE Tag Team for $75,318 and Event #71: $1,000 WSOP.com ONLINE No-Limit Hold’em Championship for $237,688 (~₹1.64 Crores), respectively.

Sushant, a former mentee of Aditya Agarwal, has been a great ambassador for poker in India. After winning the bracelet with Java in the $1,000 Tag Team event in 2017, Sushant came close to a second bracelet a few weeks later, finishing eighth in Event #66 $1,500 NLHE for $44,255. In 2018, Sushant placed ninth in the $1,000 WSOP.com ONLINE NLHE Championship for $20,969 (~₹14.35 Lakhs) for his third FT finish in a bracelet tournament.

 

Most Main Event Cashes

Dominating this category and by some margin in once again Aditya Agarwal. The former PokerStars India Team Pro has been a regular at the WSOP since 2006 and has made the annual pilgrimage to the mega-series for 14 years straight! While he has been eyeing the gold bracelet for well over a decade, he’s been consistently cashing in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event World Championship as well. With an incredible eight Main Event cashes, he is closing in on the current world record of 10 cashes presently held by Berry Johnston.*

Aditya Agarwal

 

The first time that Agarwal picked a score at the Main Event was in 2007, where he finished 450th for $29,883. The $96,445 (~₹66.85 Lakhs) that he won for his 71st place finish in 2015 is his best Main Event finish to date.

 

Deepest Main Event Run

Nishant Sharma was the biggest revelation at the 2018 WSOP as he went on to place 34th place out of a massive 7,874-player field in the $10,000 Main Event. This remains to date the deepest run by an Indian at the Main Event. In addition to the bragging rights, Sharma pocketed a life-changing $230,475 (~₹1.58 Crores) for his phenomenal deep run! The back-story to this win was equally inspiring. Sharma had won a Vegas package on 9stacks and converted that into the life-changing opportunity!

Nishant Sharma

 

While a top 100 finish in the Main Event was a distinction that only Aditya Agarwal (2015 WSOP – 71st for 96,445 – ₹66.85 Lakhs) enjoyed till then, the same year, Vivek Rughani (88th for $77,695 – ₹53.48 Lakhs) also joined this elite list.

Agarwal’s protégé and PokerGuru Ambassador Kartik Ved (128th for $57,010 – ₹39.24 Lakhs) was another standout performer at the 2018 WSOP Main Event. He did even better the next year as he finished 51st for a whopping $173,015 (~₹1.18 Crores)!

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