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Poker is not just a sport; it is a way of life. Countries across the globe that have recognized it as a ‘game of skill’ understand the labors that a poker pro has to go through to make it a viable career option. India has struggled with the notion of wholeheartedly accepting poker as legal.
At PokerGuru, over the past decade, we have strived to dig deep roots in the small but growing Indian poker landscape as the voice of the industry. Yes, from the brands to players, the happenings to mishappenings, the excitement of live-action, to the sifting sands on the virtual felts, showcasing the efforts of our young challengers in the international arena – PokerGuru has been at the center of it all. We frequently reach out to industry people, players, and other stakeholders and bring their opinion to you.
It has always been our impetus to bring the up-and-coming players’ struggles and successes to the limelight. While ‘Young Gun’ is one of our most cherished features through which we highlight the young path-breakers of the industry, this brand-new feature will be slightly different.
Through our latest editorial feature, we aim to create a new and exclusive space for players who show immense potential to become the next superstars of poker. No – they’re not our Young Guns, but not far from getting there either! These are our Rising Stars of Poker, the newbies who are already trailblazing their way to turn heads.
Debuting as our very first ‘Rising Star’ is Aman Parakh. All of 28, this young player from Rajasthan currently residing in Mumbai has been playing poker professionally for only three years now. But if you look at his poker resume, Parakh already has more than ₹1.79 Crores in recorded online winnings! Armed with an MBA in Finance and work experience in digital marketing space, his calling ultimately was poker.
Parakh’s frequency of winning tournaments has been phenomenal. While his biggest score this year was the ₹4.09 Lakh that he pocketed for winning the ₹20 Lakhs GTD Mega Stack on Spartan Poker on July 28, Parakh has been very consistent in posting scores. COVID-19 led lockdown has pushed Parakh to amplify his focus. Moving to his hometown Nimbahera, Chittorgarh, during the lockdown, Parakh has been steadily building his bankroll. In May itself, he shipped no less than a dozen tournaments!
But there’s no dearth of thrill and drama in Parakh’s poker story as well – from losing all his money to cash games, to getting up from zilch and rising again, he’s really learned the ropes the tough way! Though he’s wiser for all those mistakes now, Parakh’s story is no less inspiring as his feats on the felts.
Without more spoilers from us, let’s hear it from Parakh himself!
Getting Into the Game
Parakh hails from a Marwari family where get-togethers were never complete without card games like Teen Patti (Flash). So when he was introduced to the game by his poker-playing friends during his Gurgaon days, he took to it like fish to water. “So when I was working in Gurgaon, I was living in a bachelor pad with my 4-5 friends…they told me about poker, and we started playing every night after our job. We all used to play cash games of ₹500 or ₹1,000 entry buy-in. Then I started watching poker videos, and soon I got into online poker,” Parakh said, remembering those early days.
He first started playing on Poker High. “I remember I used to play the ten-rupee tourneys, even cash games, but that too was small stakes.”
He continued this for nearly two years, but once his friends moved out, and Parakh started living alone, he began playing tournaments across the different online sites. “ I started playing in 2015 then played micro stakes for two-years. Then in 2017, when my friends moved out, I started playing more professionally and started playing bigger tournaments on different sites but initially, I played the most on PokerBaazi.”
Parakh began to perform consistently well in poker, and soon came the point when he realized he had to take a serious call. Would he follow the many talents who have sidestepped the conventional path to take up poker for a living?
“The moment I realized this was when I started making more money than my job. I was consistently doing decently every month. But one month, I made more than what I was earning from my job. That was the first time it struck me that I can do this professionally,” Parakh said.
He was already grinding 4-5 hours every day and making money, so he decided to step up the ladder and make the switchover to becoming a professional player. “I was happy, but I was not very inclined or passionate about my job, so I decided that if I put in some work and if I put in some study, I can definitely do better in poker than my job.”
More A Tournament Player
Parakh was always inclined towards sports and numbers, and poker offered the perfect combo of the two. Tournaments are clearly where Parakh is in his element, and he calls himself a “bankroll nit.”
“I only play tournaments. I hardly play cash games. I have taken a course in tournament poker, so I try and play tournament poker only. Tournament poker gives me that competitive feeling that sports give you.”
It’s the cash game arena where Parakh admits he tends to slip up. “Tournament poker has always been good to me. Though I’ve had some rash moments in tournaments I have always played under my bankroll in tournaments, so it has not impacted me. Mostly, my lows have come from cash games. Sometimes after a big score or even if you have some extra money, you think let’s play some Omaha cash games. Unfortunately, everybody has done that, so have I. And those are my lows mainly. So whenever I play cash games, I end up losing. My natural skill is in tournaments. I don’t have any professional training in cash games,” Parakh said.
He added, “I have busted my bankroll twice while playing cash games. I want cash games to be locked from my lobby!”
Not that Parakh’s tournament journey has been smooth, but he underlines that bad runs are a part of any tournament player’s regime. “I have gradually increased my buy-ins, and I have been a very stable tournament poker player. I started low. And once I started making money, I played bigger buy-in tournaments. Currently, I have the bankroll but I am still not playing the biggest buy-in tournaments like the high rollers.”
Now that Parakh is playing poker full-time, his grind begins at 8 – 8.30 PM at night, and he plays till the wee hours of the morning. “I play almost six days a week. I take only a day off. It’s mostly Thursday or Friday.”
On Firing 24 Bullets!
Yes, Parakh did just that – he went on and fired an astounding number of bullets – 24 to be exact in a PokerBaazi flagship a few months back! Isn’t that what poker pros are supposed to avoid?!
“I am not proud of it. It’s not a +ev thing to do,” admits Parakh.
He explained, “It’s not the right thing to do. It was a combination of a lot of things going wrong. It was a tough Sunday. I was having a bad day, I just lost every all-in, every flip, So, it was a mix of tilt and a bad run.”
That fateful Sunday done and dusted, Parakh concedes he’s wiser for it. “I don’t advertise it. I am not proud of it. But it’s ok. It’s a part of my journey. It’s a part of what I do. That’s my game, and I am ok with it.”
Honing Poker Skills
Parakh began with self-study, checking out poker videos and other study material on the internet, but soon realized he had to get his basics right if he had to move forward in poker. Raise Your Edge offered the perfect learning standpoint for Parakh. “Ya, I have taken the Raise Your Edge subscription. I have not taken any formal coaching other than the subscription.”
Gathering Stardust Along the Way
Parakh has been indubitably a rising star, but one of his first milestones, one that’s special for him, was when he won an iPhone 10 on PokerBaazi. “PokerBaazi was running some leaderboard promotion, and I chased that. You needed to win five daily leaderboards out of seven in that promotion, and I won 1 Lakh and an iPhone 10. I gifted that to my younger brother. It was during my early days, and it was a big thing back then. An article was published on it, and I was thrilled that time,” Parakh remembered.
Another time was when Parakh shipped two IOPC tournaments. Having played mostly on PokerBaazi, he’d started playing on Spartan Poker only recently, and the wins boosted his confidence and bankroll significantly. “I had like ₹10,000, and I deposited on Spartan (Poker), and I was playing the IOPC for the first time. Long hours, long tournaments, and I shipped two back-to-back IOPC tournaments in two days. It was quite memorable to me since it boosted my bankroll. Money-wise it was a decent score, but shipping tournaments back-to-back and from a zero bankroll back to a boost is really memorable. It helped grow my confidence and quit cash games rather, playing these tournaments.”
Parakh admitted the COVID-19 lockdown has turned out to be good for him since he’s been able to devote more time to poker. He has reason to say so as he went on beast mode in May and ended up shipping over a dozen tournaments that month!
“This lockdown, especially May, has been a good one rather, the biggest month for me. I shipped around 12-15 tournaments in a month; hence, that was a big month for me and it boosted my bankroll.”
Parakh has a small family comprising his mother and young brother, and unlike most Indian families, they have rallied behind him firmly through his decision to play poker professionally.
“This was one thing I was always blessed with. As I told you that in 2017 I shifted from Gurgaon to Mumbai, I have a small family with my mother and younger brother, so there are just two people in my family. I just called my mother and said that I will shift to Mumbai and do this. She was in Mumbai at that time, along with my brother. She told me yes if it makes you happy and if legal, then it’s a yes. I said it is (legal), and she said ok, do whatever you want to and whatever makes you happy. Hence, family support has always been there.”
The Rising Star Gets Inspired By…
“Internationally, Daniel Negreanu & Phil Ivey since I started watching YouTube poker videos in 2016/17, these two have created an impact, and they are my all-time favorites. I also really like Jason Koon and his mindset towards the game,” admitted Parakh, adding that from the Indian scene, though he personally doesn’t know many players, he feels inspired by Romit Advani. “I have seen some PokerBaazi tourneys like MoneyMaker live from The Pride. I really like Romit Advani’s play.”
For Parakh, the road ahead is simple, really. All he wants is to continuing playing poker and improve as he plays. “I want to do good in tournaments, and I want to be the best tournament player in India. Plus, winning a WSOP bracelet is on every poker player’s dream list.”
So far, he has limited himself to playing online poker, but live poker experience is something he wants to add to his poker checklist. “I haven’t played any live tournaments yet, and I was about to go to the BPT that was supposed to happen in April, and that would have been my first live series but, everything went wrong due to lockdown. I want to start playing live tournaments, but the most important thing is that I want to grow in tournaments. There is a lot to learn and get better at, I want to improve my mental game.”
In just a short time, Parakh has emerged as a player of immense promise and potential. His journey of discovering, uncovering poker, and getting better at the game is an inspiration to many, and we wish this rising star the very best for his future poker endeavors!
Keep following PokerGuru for more such inspiring stories!