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Vivek Rughani (cover image) the gutsy young poker pro made his first live score in the ₹15,000 NLHE – Bounty at the Deltin Poker Tournament in 2016. There’s been no looking back since then for this lad from Ahmedabad!
Having participated in several international events such as the Asian Poker Tour (APT) in Macau, PokerStars Festival Rozvadov and European Poker Tour (EPT) Sochi, the 29-year-old has had a fantastic international exposure, but none of that compares to his dream debut at the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Rughani was part of #9stacksTeamIndia, the largest Indian contingent of poker players who won all-expenses paid packages to Las Vegas aka Sin City through the 9stacks #LFGVegas promotion. He certainly took full advantage of the opportunity at hand.
Not only did the young star cash in three WSOP events, he was also seen in action at a Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) event. Rughani’s ‘devil may care’ attitude was the driving force behind his dramatic Main Event journey and it was with the same zeal that made him proclaim that his inspiring run would cause a ‘Poker Boom’ in India. His 87thplace finish for ₹53.12 Lakhs was his moment of glory at the 2018 WSOP and has certainly made many heads turn his way.
Now back from the prestigious tournament series, Rughani plans to hit up the EPT Barcelona and Macau Poker Cup (MPC) next. Now in an exclusive interview, Rughani talks to PokerGuru about his maiden WSOP experience and unbelievable debut at the Main Event. Read the excerpts here.
Hey Vivek and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru. Congratulations on your deep run in the WSOP Main Event and you are one of the three players who have made it to top 100 from India. How does it feel?
Thanks a ton! The feeling is unreal, and I can’t describe it in words. When I started playing poker, to play the Main Event was an over-the-top bucket list thing. To make it to the top 100 is just unbelievable! Although when I busted it was the biggest heartbreak I ever had for a few days and it will still take a lot of time to sink in.
Please share your Main Event journey.
It was the most epic grind. I barely slept for 10-12 hours in total. For the 6 days that I played in the event, the anxiety and the adrenaline rush was unreal.
So, it started with the 4th or 5th hand on Day 1, the player in middle position opened to 400 and cut-off made it 900. I looked down at my hole cards of pocket rockets in small blind and made it 3,500. The flop is queen-queen-ace, which is the dream flop. But it was also scary though because I thought what if he had queen-queen and then I would have to go bust here. But I was never folding my hand since it’s the Main Event. But I felt sick to the stomach to bet river for almost 90 percent of my stack wondering if he would jam. But he gladly just called and mucked. I ended Day 1 with 111k and felt like I was king of the world!
Day 2 was a bit swingy but managed to book 234k. Day 3 was the worst day and I was down to 80k and after 2 more levels my stack declined to 47k. On the penultimate level of the day which was bubble time, I managed to survive the day and knew I was in the money and cashing the Main Event.
But Day 4 would be tough with 97k and 15 big blinds. On Day 4 I made a comeback and won the biggest flip of the event that came in the last level. My opponent and I bet 500k each and my ace-king held up against the opponent’s pocket queens at blinds of 8,000/16,000 and I ended with 1.07 Million in chips. A million in chips in the WSOP Main was unreal!
Day 5 was again a bit swingy, but I managed to hold to 1.5 Million which was 25 big blinds for Day 6. My dream run ended on Day 6. I lost five pots to start and was down to 7 big blinds on the feature table where I busted shortly thereafter.
How did you prepare for the Main Event?
There was not much preparation. I was just grinding everything after I reached there, so took a day off and planned to give my best.
You were on the featured table for a long time and the entire Indian poker community was railing you. How was the experience on the featured table? Were you cautious about the moves you were making?
The experience was great and there were a few famous and good regs on the table. I had like 8 big blinds to start the table, so there was not many moves to make. So, I stuck to the plan and had to go all in with eight-ten suited with 5 big blinds for the ‘Poker Boom’ scenario. Then had a standard small blind vs big blind spot where some might have folded due to the grandness of the event and the situation, but I just wanted to make the right decision which in that case was a jam. I was not convinced till I discussed it with a lot of good players and they said I had to get it in there and I was glad I had the balls to do it on the feature table with my Main Event tournament life on the line.
You said that there would be a poker boom in India when you won an epic hand where you clipped a four outer to double up. What was your thought behind it?
I just wanted to have some fun while I exit from the Main Event, but I gladly hit the 9ball and got the feature video from PokerGo because of that. Although if I or anyone else would have won the Main Event for India, it would surely be a poker boom.
Please share your overall journey at WSOP?
It was the best poker experience I have ever had. The feeling was unreal to play for life altering money every day. I cashed in 3 events apart from the Main and I couldn’t have asked for more on my first WSOP trip.
Please share your qualification journey for WSOP 2018 through the #LFG promotion on 9stacks.
It was a great promotion for everyone. I reached level 42 in no time as I was playing a bit higher and it was insane action on the site. I had to take a break for Poker Sports League (PSL) but after that it was a steady grind daily for 4-5 hours on an average. There were no roadblocks, but I ran pretty bad and lost a bunch. The experience was amazing and there were always tables running during the promos for double/1.5x points which was great and due to that it was easier to get the points. I wouldn’t have planned for the WSOP if not for the package, although my bankroll would have allowed it. So thanks to 9stacks for the promo and probably inspiring us to go for it.
Any fun or leisure activities you found time for in Las Vegas?
I grinded for like 26 to 27 days from the 30 days I was there and spent the rest of the time resting. So, the fun activity would be to find a good Indian restaurant and have some good vegetarian food with whoever was free. I will do all the fun activities next year. I had planned a few this time but unfortunately couldn’t make the time.
Nishant Sharma was another Indian who created history in the WSOP Main Event. How was it railing him?
Funny enough we were roommates and we kept motivating each other at the end of every day. The feeling was unreal for both of us to be in the same room and making it to top 100. I kept telling him and myself that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we need to make full use of it. After I busted on Day 6, I was shattered and went to sleep but kept waking up in the middle to check on his stack. It looked promising before he busted in the last few hours of the day. Congratulations to him on such a big score! He is probably the one who deserves it the most since he is one of the best players in India right now. He dominated a lot of players in the Main and played like a champ!
What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
I played a few events after the Main Event and now I am back home for a while.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
No set goals as I want to keep playing to the best of my ability and keep improving daily to close the year on a high. The plan would be to keep grinding online and PLO to build a steady bankroll. I will keep travelling for live tournaments and am planning for EPT Barcelona next, and then MPC in Macau later on. I will probably participate in EPT Prague at the end of the year.
Any words for the Indian poker community that was rooting for you throughout the Main Event?
Thanks to everyone who followed the journey of the Main Event. It was unreal to receive so much support. If you want to make it in poker, just work hard, dream big and never give up!