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The poker scene in India is about to spice up as the first-ever long-running poker league is about to take the country by storm! The Global Poker League (GPL) India, with PokerStars India as its ‘skill game partner’, will surely be one of the biggest and most prominent poker leagues of the nation.
With the GPL Bootcamp exactly a week away, the excitement has escalated to a whole new level with the race to build the most invincible team intensifying among the six managers vying to take home the coveted honours. One of them is the Team Manager of the Mumbai Jetsetters, high stakes cash games specialist, Kavin Shah (cover image).
A veteran who has not only mastered the mind sport but has also worked as an operator, Shah is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the Indian poker fraternity. The Mumbai-based pro may not be an active presence in the domestic circuit nowadays, but he certainly is a very visible feature in international tournaments. In the world’s biggest poker festival, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Shah has posted three scores for a cumulative $37,000 (â‚¹26.19 Lakhs).
Shah’s extensive experience in all aspects of the game makes him a tough competitor to beat. As he takes up the role of Team Manager for the Mumbai Jetsetters, his expertise and guidance will be invaluable for his team members, making them strong contenders for the PSPC Platinum Passes.
In an exclusive interview with PokerGuru, Shah talks about his introduction to poker, his experience in Las Vegas, his views on the legalization of poker in India and his role and plans as the Team Manager of the Mumbai Jetsetters.
Hello Kavin and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru! You are one of the most prominent old-timers in Indian poker. When and why did you venture in poker and how has the journey been so far?
I started playing poker quite a while back, maybe in 2005-06. While playing at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, I asked a dealer about the reason behind the huge popularity of card games in casinos. He then suggested ‘poker’ to me saying that it is a game wherein I would not be playing against the casino but against other players. That was how I was introduced to poker and it has gone really well since then.
You have been actively globetrotting this year, right from an eventful summer in Las Vegas. Tell us about your summer finishes and the challenges you faced in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.
Yes, I have travelled a lot and went to Vegas too. Fortunately, my trip to Vegas has gone well. My experience at the WSOP Main Event was invaluable as it was a deep stack tournament. I had been playing cash games for 5-6 days prior to it and the Main Event is something I would never want to miss. The structures are so well developed that you can bounce back in the event at any point of time even after you’ve had bad beats.
Outside of WSOP you were also seen in many side events at Las Vegas, and prominently finished 12th in the $3,500 NLHE MSPT Blind Ante event at the DeepStack Championship Poker Series (DCPS) hosted at The Venetian. How was the experience? Any interesting moments that you’d like to share?
I initially played in $3,500 DeepStack event because of the good structure which consisted of only one-hour blind level. I had made Day 3 but busted out. I finished in 12th place out of the 1,100 people who participated. It was very good experience since the structures are aptly suited for cash game players like me.
It was easily one of the toughest events I have played because lots of regulars were there. Justin Bonomo was seated at my table along with two more well-known regulars. So, for me it was a very tough table to play at on Day 3 but I did survive and gathered a great experience along the way.
You were again seen in the recent Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Manila. Tell us about your run in the series?
Poker is growing globally. It’s a skill-based game that requires lots of calculations, mental adjustments and proper decision-making abilities. APPT Manila was also a good experience for me. I don’t usually travel much for tournaments but have now decided that I will be travelling extensively for the next one and a half years.
As an active MTT player in the domestic circuit and having a prominent presence in live tournaments as well, which platform do you prefer more, live or virtual, and why?
I prefer live as compared to virtual because it is more interesting. One can assess and evaluate the other players, especially if they are amateurs. It is easier to figure out when someone is bluffing by gauging their body language or even speaking to them. Live tournaments also have a friendly environment because you play with several people and get to know them over time. However, both live and virtual platforms have their unique specialties.
Given the legal restrictions for poker in Maharashtra, what is your opinion on the poker scenario in Mumbai?
With regards to the legality, I feel like it’s just a matter of time that very soon, all forms of gaming and gambling, particularly poker is going to become legal in India. I hope one day poker gains a nation-wide popularity as a sport and is accepted in every house and family.
As one of the most highly regarded cash games pros in the country, an operator and an entrepreneur in different capacities, how have you managed to balance these different roles in your life? Kindly elaborate on each role.
I started my poker innings in India as a cash game player and began with playing for low stakes ranging from â‚¹100 to â‚¹200. At the early stages I also felt equally inclined to play tournaments but then I realized the enormous opportunity working as an operator offered, due to the high percentage of rake in India as compared to the world.
Then, I wanted to explore the different aspects of being an operator, playing cash games and fielding through tournaments. Balancing through these roles has been challenging but I have learnt a lot along the way. Since I have spent 10 years in the poker industry, I pretty much know everyone in the circuit.
How has PPPoker changed the High Stakes poker landscape in the country? Do you think its eating into the domestic poker site business?
I like PPPoker, JK Poker and so many other online apps that are entering the poker market and offer great platforms for players. I find PPPoker very competitive since it allows one to play with his friends in credits wherein all other sites you can never know who you’re up against, and there can be so many issues. Already a good number of people prefer playing on it. In my opinion, PPPoker is a long-lasting application and I’m sure it will have a big impact in online poker in all aspects.
As Team Manager of GPL India Mumbai Jetsetters, what are the criteria that you will focus on for selecting your team?
In selecting a team member, my criteria will be to pick someone who is a Poker enthusiast and has a very strong grip on the fundamentals of poker, so I can train him to become a better player. I will see how passionate he or she is, and if he dedicates at least 6 to 8 hours each day to poker. And obviously, I will make sure to choose someone who’s eager enough to learn, build upon his strong fundamentals and be groomed.
What are the strategies you plan to implement in the race for the title and the PSPC Platinum Pass?
There is no substitute for hard work which I strictly follow to improve my game on daily basis. The strategy is to keep the game simple and make sure that one does not get intimidated by the opponent and more importantly, make the right decisions.
Any hints on other plans, apart from GPL India, on your schedule this year?
GPL India is the main reason for my return to poker as a player as the league promises a lively and competitive environment. Apart from that, I have already decided that I will be travelling a lot for next one and half years, giving myself to all the poker tournaments travelling across the world.
Any parting words or advice for our readers and upcoming poker players?
Poker is not an easy game to play, as it may look like. Sometimes one can feel that he has got a bad beat despite having the right knowledge. My advice for the all the future and upcoming poker players is that they should do the right thing, work on making their fundamentals right and refrain from making any wrong decisions in haste.
And with that Shah signs off!