6 Mins Read
With the Bootcamp for the inaugural season of the Global Poker League (GPL) India less than a week away, tensions are running high. While all the six Team Managers want to build unbeatable teams, perhaps one of the most experienced in the art of mentoring is the manager of the Pune Alphas, Abhishek Rathod.
Rathod may not be the most active player in live tournaments, he is nonetheless, an accomplished online pro and a stalwart within the Indian poker industry. A mechanical engineering student, Rathod was entranced by the mind sport through the online gaming platform Zynga, and eventually decided to make the jump to real money tournaments. A gamer at heart, Rathod’s foray into live poker, though not extensive, is still laudable, even resulting in a title win at the India Poker Series – Chapter 17, Goa in 2012.
His transition from playing to coaching and ultimately staking is truly remarkable. Presently an entrepreneur, Rathod juggles his business necessities, while running a stable of players with precision and ease. And it is this vital skill that may make the difference between the Pune Alphas and the rest of the league.
In an exclusive interview with PokerGuru, Rathod talks about the various roles he has undertaken in the industry, his strategies for team management and the growth and development of the Indian poker scene.
Hello Abhishek and thank you for speaking with PokerGuru! From playing poker to running a stable for upcoming players and now, captaining the Pune Alphas in the Global Poker League (GPL) India Season 1, you have trailblazed a path of commendable achievements in poker. How and when were you introduced to the mind sport and what inspires you to continue?
I was introduced to poker like most other players, home games and online free games. I am a gamer by heart and the urge to learn and improve got the better of me. Slowly it transitioned into becoming the main source of income and somehow a full-time job.
You are credited with mentoring many top Indian players and playing a crucial role in developing the poker environment in India. As a coach, how has your experience been?
It’s been amazing, to see your students grow and become some of the best players in India, some even better than you, that is highly satisfying.
Apart from this coaching helps me in my own game as well, it helps me keep my fundamentals in check and up to date with new strategies.
How did your journey as a coach begin? What was the first stable you joined and how many stables have you been associated with?
Personally, I was lucky enough to be coached and stake by one of the best online MTT players Samuel who plays by the SN “European” this was the biggest boost to my career.
For staking and coaching other players, I am only involved with Indianpokerpros which I co-founded along with Anup, today we have some of the best players in India coaching and mentoring for the stable.
Tell us about your roles in these stables and the stable you are currently working with?
In Indianpokerpros I am mainly involved in recruiting new players and working with them initially while they need to work on their fundamentals and theoretical knowledge of the game.
Once the player crosses a certain level in poker I pass him under one of the other coaches in the stable.
There has been an exponential rise in the number of players who are taking up poker as a profession. What according to you has led to this?
Lot of factors, the thrill, ‘boss of your own’ lifestyle and the very fact that you can make a substantially good living playing a game you love.
Apart from this poker getting media attention, legalization and massive promotions by poker sites is playing a big role as well.
You have been a part of the domestic poker fraternity for a long time. How has the Indian poker scene changed since the time you were introduced to it?
I think the main difference I have seen is the number of young poker players these days vs. the old days. Poker is getting a lot more accepted and young players are making a career out of it. It has also gotten more and more competitive with time.
What in your opinion are the grey areas in Indian poker that need to be addressed for developing the mind sport further?
Taxes. It is one of the most painful aspect of current poker scenario. There is no correct legal frame work and if this continues poker won’t be a sustainable for long.
Tell us about your role as the Team Pro for PokerBaazi.
As a Team Pro I am currently working with them in tournament scheduling, structures, understanding what players want, etc. I am also working on a couple of interesting projects that we will launch in the coming weeks.
Though you live in Gothenburg, Sweden, you have been quite active in the Indian poker circuit. What was the reason for the move and how has it impacted your poker career, specifically the online and live tournament volume?
Playing tournaments on international sites from India meant playing all night due to time zone and having little to no social life.
During this time, my wife found a PhD position in a university in Sweden which was one of the best things for me since poker is completely regulated in Sweden while being tax free and having a comfortable time zone to play poker.
After coming to Sweden, I moved from playing SNGs to playing MTTs full time and my volume increased more than 300% of what I could put in when I was in India.
Before moving to Sweden, what domestic circuits were you a part of? With the recent increase in domestic guarantees, how do you manage your bankroll while juggling between international and domestic sites?
Before Sweden I used to try and attend every single live series in Goa. Unfortunately, after coming to Sweden I haven’t been much active in live poker either in Europe or in India simply because online was more profitable and a lot easier.
I have from 2018 started playing live, I went for EPT and WSOP this year and plan to go for all major events at least in Europe going forward.
You are known for your online SNG and MTT prowess. Have you forayed into the live poker action in Sweden?
Not much, I tried but honestly live poker isn’t my cup of tea. I am used to playing 20+ tables simultaneously and playing 1 table is way too boring, though I am actively working towards this and trying to play more and more live poker.
The GPL India online qualifiers are over and the bootcamp will soon be hosted. With an eye to the PSPC Platinum Pass, what are your plans as the team captain of Pune Alphas.
I have selected my team pros who are professional poker players and can fulfill their roles effectively, which gives me ample time to do what I do best, coach the qualifiers to perform better than their counterparts. I think our qualifiers would end up playing a key role for our team performance.
What are the qualities you will be looking for when selecting team members for Pune Alphas at the bootcamp?
I can tell you what I won’t be looking at all, and that are your past results. The thing with poker is winning 1-2 big tournaments doesn’t make you a winner, you need to have a good theoretical knowledge, and only then can you show consistent results.
I am going to look at players who have good fundamental knowledge of the game. I have prepared a lot of questions and that’s the only thing I will be looking at.
What are your upcoming plans for the rest of the year?
I have been on a break for the past few months due to personal reasons, so the rest of the year is going to be filled with massive volume online.
Any parting words or anything that you’d like to add?
Yes, this is to all aspiring poker players:
If you plan to take poker as a career, remember it no longer is fun/passion/entertainment, it is now your full-time job and work really hard to achieve your goals, in the end its your long terms results are directly proportional to how much work you put in.
And with that Rathod signs off!