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This year we saw an exponential increase in the number of Indian players traveling abroad to represent the country in international tournaments! The result was that Indian challengers raked in humongous scores throughout the year. From winning the much-talked-about World Series of Poker (WSOP) solo gold bracelet in Las Vegas to running deep in big-ticket events all across the globe, Indian pros well and truly put the country on the international poker map.
In our latest series of year-end features, we have been listing down the landmark developments and achievements of the domestic poker community. In today’s feature, we list down the top five live tournament scores by Indian pros in 2019.
Young Gun Abhinav Iyer Becomes 1st Indian to Claim Solo WSOP Gold Bracelet
Finish – Winner
Prize Money – $565,346 (~₹3.87 Crores)
Event – The Closer – $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em (#84)
July 16, 2019, was a red-letter day for Indian poker. One of the most promising names from the domestic circuit, Young Gun Abhinav Iyer, barreled through a field of 2,800 entries in Event #84: The Closer – $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em of the 2019 WSOP, bringing home the most-prestigious honor of the poker world – a solo WSOP gold bracelet, along with a life-altering $565,346 (~₹3.87 Crores) top prize.
Though India is no stranger to the gold bracelet, with Aditya Sushant and Nikita Luther having won the coveted prize in 2017 and 2018, respectively. However, both bracelets had been won in Tag Team events, with Iyer becoming the first Indian to claim the gold in a solo event.
The Mumbai-based pro had been in phenomenal form since the start of 2019 as he won the VND 8 Billion GTD Main Event at the Asian Poker Tour (APT) Vietnam January edition for a mouth-watering VND 2,269,092,000 (~₹69.51 Lakhs) payday.
In fact, the young pro has picked up a total of 22 live cashes throughout 2019, raking in nearly ₹5.53 Crores in tournament earnings!
Read about Abhinav Iyer’s remarkable WSOP bracelet win right here.
PokerGuru Ambassador Kartik Ved Cracks the Top 100 in the WSOP Main Event
Finish – 51st
Prize Money – $173,015 (~₹1.18 Crores)
Event – $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em MAIN EVENT – World Championship (#73)
PokerGuru Ambassador Kartik Ved was another Indian pro in blistering form at the 2019 WSOP. One of the early birds to arrive, Ved played the full schedule, picking up a total of seven scores at the summer series, banking a cumulative $215,107 (~₹1.48 Crores) in the process.
Ved got off to a flying start by finishing in the top 30 (29th for $34,279 – ₹23.77 Lakhs) in Event #3: BIG 50 – $500 No-Limit Hold’em, however, his most notable performance at the series came in the 50th-anniversary special WSOP Main Event.
Ved had made his WSOP debut in 2018, where he had scored $57,010 (~₹39.20 Lakhs) for a 128th place finish in his very first Main Event appearance. A year later, he successfully improved upon his previous finish, placing 51st for $173,015 (~₹1.18 Crores).
Though a total of 10 Indians cashed in the Main Event, Ved was the only player to make Day 6. He started the day with the 43rd biggest stack of 5.085 Million. He had a somewhat swingy day on the felts and ultimately lost the battle to Nicholas Danias, bringing home his career-best score till date.
Read about Kartik Ved’s stellar run on Day 6 of the 2019 WSOP Main Event right here.
Kanishka Samant Claims His 1st International Live Title
Finish – Winner
Prize Money – ₱6,956,000 (~₹95.05 Lakhs)
Event – ₱200K High Roller
Poker pro and coach, Kanishka Samant has been a part of the industry for quite some time now. With about 30 live tournament cashes to his name, Samant has made numerous deep runs worth a cumulative ₹2 Crores in total live earnings. His personal-best live score thus far came in this year’s Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Manila PokerStars LIVE ₱200K High Roller.
The Mumbai lad had made Day 2 of the ₱33,000 Saturday SuperStack. Still, following a quick exit, Samant jumped straight into the ₱200K High Roller and eventually obliterated the 175-strong entry field to capture his first-ever international live title. According to sources, Samant struck a heads-up deal with eventual runner-up Ruihong Tao, which resulted in the former banking approximately ₹87 Lakhs in winnings. However, according to official reports, Samant got ₱6,956,000 (~₹95.05 Lakhs) for his win, while Tao received ₱4,695,000 for his runner-up finish.
Read about Kanishka Samant’s incredible run in the ₱200K High Roller right here.
Jai Saha Final Tables EPT Barcelona National & Banks His Career-Best Live Score
Finish – 7th
Prize Money – €95,100 (~₹76.44 Lakhs)
Event – €1,100 EPT National
Young talent Jai ‘Joey’ Saha had a memorable run in the €1,100 EPT National event at the 2019 European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona. The lone Indian to advance to Day 3, Saha eventually finished seventh for a career-best €95,100 (~₹76.44 Lakhs), falling only six places short of clinching his first-ever live title.
The budding talent entered Day 3 placed 14th in chips among the 46 remaining players. Despite getting off to a rocky start, Saha quickly found his footing and even knocked out Malaysian superstar Michael Soyza, to reach the final table with the sixth most massive stack. His run finally came to an end at the hands of Barry McGovern, as he became the last player to be eliminated on Day 3.
Though Saha still has a long way to go, even in a short time, he has managed to rake in ₹1.18 Crores in recorded tournament winnings. His most recent deep run came in the WPT India Main Event, where he finished third for ₹27.53 Lakhs.
Read about Jai Saha’s EPT Barcelona final table run right here.
Nikita Luther Narrowly Misses Her 1st WPT Title; Finishes Runner-Up After a Brutal Beat
Finish – Runner-Up
Prize Money – $109,300 (~₹75.32 Lakhs)
Event – Zynga Poker WPT500
There is no doubt that Nikita Luther is one of India’s most talented female poker players. A former bracelet winner, she started the year with a bang by taking down the ₹15K Deep Dive NLH at the DPT February edition for ₹6.80 Lakhs. She carried her fierce form to the 50th annual WSOP, picking up two scores and cumulative winnings of $5,187 (~₹3.70 Lakhs).
However, her biggest score of the summer came in a non-WSOP event, i.e., the Zynga Poker WPT500 Las Vegas. In 2017, she had final tabled the WPT500 Las Vegas event, finishing fifth for $65,000. This year, she came extremely close to capturing her career-first WPT title but missed out following a brutal beat.
Luther bulldozed her way towards a maiden WPT title after entering the final table with the third largest stack. She was well ahead of her competitors until she reached the heads-up against Ben Farrell. The hand that saw the tide turn against her happened when she raised to 650,000 from the button and Farrell 3-bet to 2.4 Million from the big blind. Luther jammed for 22 Million, and Farrell called with his last 16.47 Million. Luther’s ensured that she was a near 70% favorite to win the title against Farrell’s . But the runout saw Farrell hit a pair of queens on the turn, giving him the much-needed double up. Luther failed to make a comeback and eventually finished runner-up for $109,300 (~₹75.32 Lakhs).
Read about Nikita Luther’s near-miss at the Zynga Poker WPT500 right here.
While these were the top five live scores of Indian poker players in 2019, there were a few other breakout performances by Indian-origin players that certainly deserve mention.
Vivek Rajkumar Returns From 4-Year-Long Hiatus
One of the earliest breeds of India’s poker superstars, Vivek Rajkumar, made a thrilling comeback at the ‘Triton Million – A Helping Hand For Charity’ event – the most expensive poker tournament to-date. Rajkumar, who was last seen participating in tournaments in 2015, put on an electrifying show on Day 2, eliminating numerous players, as he entered the eight-handed final table with an overwhelming 18 Million stack. Nevertheless, his nail-biting run ended in fifth place, and the poker phenom collected a jaw-dropping £3,000,000 (~₹25.41 Crores) for his efforts.
Ankit Ahuja Wins the Venetian DeepStack Championship $1.1K MonsterStack
The WSOP was undoubtedly the star attraction for a majority of the players who were in Las Vegas this summer. Still, many runners were seen participating in numerous poker tournaments running alongside the WSOP in other establishments. Indian-origin Ankit Ahuja was among the lot who ventured outside of the WSOP events, and the decision bore fruit as he amassed the biggest non-WSOP score of $266,824 (~₹1.84 Crores) by taking down Event #75: $1,100 NLH MonsterStack at the Venetian DeepStack Championship series.
Kully Sidhu & Balakrishna Patur Score Big in the EPT Barcelona Main Event
The record-smashing 2019 European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona €5,300 Main Event saw a total of four Indians scoring in the event, headlined by Young Gun Sahil Chuttani (41st for €25,650 – ₹20.25 Lakhs). Two Indian-origin players, Kully Sidhu and Balakrishna Patur, did even better. While Patur missed the final table, finishing 11th for €101,820 (~₹80.42 Lakhs), the more experienced Sidhu finished ninth for €121,760 (~₹96.17 Lakhs).
Nipun Java Finishes Runner-Up in WSOPC Harrah’s Las Vegas Main Event
The two-time WSOP bracelet winner Nipun Java was seen gunning for his second WSOPC ring in the 2019/2020 World Series of Poker Circuit Harrah’s Las Vegas $1,700 Main Event. In the end, he lost the fight to Anthony Spinella and finished runner-up for $118,764 (~₹84.51 Lakhs).
We will continue to bring you many more such end-of-the-year features discussing the pathbreaking progress that the Indian poker community has achieved in 2019, so stay tuned!