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For more reasons than one, the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) turned out to be a special series for Indian poker players who reached Las Vegas in the biggest group ever and made record-breaking scores along with setting new benchmarks for years to follow. The power-packed team included the likes of WSOP bracelet winner Aditya Sushant, India’s poker icon Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal alongside top pros Paawan Bansal, Raghav Bansal, Nikita Luther, Muskan Sethi, Nipun Java, Kunal Patni – the list is endless. Joining them were 25 strong contenders who qualified online through 9stacks’ #LFGVegas contest and other online qualifiers, most of whom were attending the mega extravaganza for the first time!
Team India`s WSOP 2018 campaign culminated in splendid runs, and many firsts were achieved, one of the best of which came through towards the end when Paawan Bansal juggernauted his way to the top in The Closer $1,500 NLHE (30 Min Levels) $1M GTD event, finishing runner-up for $378,765 (~₹2.58 Crores). Bansal not only picked up his own career-best score but also took home the biggest prize money won by an Indian at the series till date.
Nikita Luther’s bracelet win in the Tag Team event with German pro Guiseppe Pantaleo and Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal’s deep runs including his career’s seventh Main Event score that has brought him closer to the world record of 10 Main Event cashes presently held by Berry Johnston, were the other top highlights at the series.
Another historic feat was when 9stacks qualifier Nishant Sharma broke into the top 50 of the $10,000 Main Event World Championship, breaking the previous best finish by Team PokerStars India pro Aditya Agarwal (71st place in WSOP 2015). For 9stacks qualifier Vivek Rughani and another fresh face at WSOP – Kartik Ved, their 88th and 128th place finish in the Main Event made for a debut unlike any before by Indians at the WSOP Aditya Sushant and Raghav Bansal’s deep runs were the other big spotlights this summer.
There were some, who scored in one event only, but made it worthwhile. Srinivas Balasubramanian final-tabled the PLO Giant-$365, where he was leading the way coming into the penultimate day and eventually finished in ninth place.
The Indian challengers scored well in side events too. The title winners were Yudhishter Jaswal and Kalyan Chakravarthy even as notable runs came from 9stacks qualifiers Mayank Jaggi and Nishant Sharma, WSOP bracelet winner Nipun Java, Kunal Patni, Shashank Jain, GPL India Mumbai Jetsetters manager Kavin Shah and Harshil Dhingra. Jaswal won the DCPS $1,600 NLHE Bounty for $109,443 (₹74.91 Lakhs), while Chakravarthy captured the top spot in the Deepstacks $600 NLHE MonsterStack for $147,233 (~₹1 Crores).
Top 10 Indian Performers At 2018 WSOP
We take a look at the Indian performers and their scores at WSOP 2018 and other side events.
After a smashing run in WSOP 2017, globetrotting pro Paawan Bansal was the most consistent player from the Indian camp at the series. He pulled in an impressive seven cashes and made a deep run early into the Colossus $565 NLHE event, where he finished in 13th place and pocketed $35,087 (~₹23.51 Lakhs). He then gave former Main Event champion Joe Cada a serious fight for the bracelet in The Closer $1,500 NLHE (30-min levels) 1M GTD event, eventually finishing runner-up for a career-best score of $378,765 (~₹2.58 Crores).
Young Gun Nishant Sharma who has been running strong in online tournaments in the domestic circuit made his maiden trip to Las Vegas via the #LFGVegas contest hosted by 9stacks. Sharma set a new benchmark at the WSOP Main Event by cracking into the top-50 with his 34th place finish for an impressive $230,475 (~₹1.57 Crores). His other notable run came in The Closer and he made the most of his stay in Vegas by scoring well in side events at the Venetian.
Nikita Luther was an active Indian face at WSOP and her pair-up with German pro Guiseppe Pantaleo in the Tag Team event won her maiden bracelet and the third for India, while she defended the title for the country successfully. She managed to multi-table as well as she played the Big Blind Antes $3,000 NLHE event simultaneously, finishing 17th for $18,495 (~₹12.64 Lakhs).
9stacks qualifier Vivek Rughani was another star debutant at the series and the second Indian to enter the elite top 100 spot in Main Event Championship this year. He stole the limelight at the Main Event feature table in a live-streamed hand that saw him get an epic double up. Rughani eventually finished in 88th place for $77,695 (~₹53.12 Lakhs). He also played several side events at The Venetian and scored in Event #75 at DCPS – $1,600 MSPT.
Team PokerStars India pro and the poster boy for Indian poker, Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal was one of the first Indians to score at the series in Big Blind Antes $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘em and went on to pick up another eight cashes at WSOP this summer. This was Agarwal`s 13th year at WSOP and the seasoned poker star played exceptionally well through the entire schedule, right up to the Main Event where his run ended at 717th place, and then at the Closer event where he finished in 73rd place towards the culmination of the series. With 7 Main Event cashes till date, this poker star is India`s most consistent player in the most prestigious tournament in the world.
Known for his aggressive and unique playing style, Raghav Bansal scored early at WSOP with his run at the Colossus event and ran deep at the Millionaire Maker bringing in his best performance this WSOP. He scored in five events at the WSOP and played well in The Wynn Summer Classic $500+500 NLHE, where he finished in 5th place.
Though he failed to repeat last year’s feat in the Tag Team event despite pairing up with his WSOP 2017 team partner Nipun Java, bracelet holder Aditya Sushant performed well at the Little One For One Drop event where he fell short of the final table. He however, made it to the final table in the $1,000 WSOP.com Online NLHE Championship, where he finished ninth for $20,969 (₹14.33 Lakhs). He also final tabled the 2018 The Wynn Summer Classic $1,025+75 NLHE with a fourth-place finish for $26,513 (~₹18.25 Lakhs).
A protégé of Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal, Kartik Ved made his maiden trip to the WSOP this year after his mentor offered to pair up with him in the WSOP Tag Team event. Ved’s best run was an impressive 128th place finish in the Main Event Championship as he also jumped into various other side events.
While he still holds a spot in the top 10 Indian performers at 2018 WSOP where he made eight cashes, Nipun Java’s performance at the WSOP this year was modest when compared to his twin bracelet wins last yeat. Java did perform well at side events in The Wynn and The Venetian and even final-tabled the DCPS $1,100 NLHE DoubleStack event.
Jaideep Sajwan’s first score at WSOP came through last year while he’s been playing poker since 2014. This year, Sajwan made a single score at WSOP, finishing in 589th place in Main Event Championship, a feat for which he banked $23,940 (~₹16.36 Lakhs) and has grabbed a spot in the year’s top 10 Indian performers at WSOP.
Other Notable Indian Scores at WSOP & Side Events
At a time when most Indian challengers were busy chasing bracelets, Kalyan Chakravarthy was getting on with scoring big in other side events. His breakout score this trip came in Event #99 – Deepstacks Championship Poker Series (DCPS) $600 NLHE MonsterStack, which he won for a whopping $147,233 (~₹1 Crore).
Yudhister Jaswal made a serious run for the bracelet in several big WSOP tournaments, cashing in two of them. He compensated with a huge win at The Venetian where he won Event #96 – DCPS $1,600 NLHE – Bounty for $109,443 (₹74.91 Lakhs).
Another 9stacks qualifier on his maiden WSOP visit was Mayank Jaggi, who reached the final table in the 2018 The Wynn Summer Classic $1,020+80 NLHE to finish in sixth place. At WSOP, Jaggi scored in three events.
Kunal Patni may have scored in one WSOP event but the majority of his earnings came in side events, headlined by a deep finish in the Aria 2018 Poker Classic $500+65 NLHE, where he finished 16th.
Sriharsha Doddapaneni’s first live tournament score came in April 2018 in the Baadshah Gaming Live Tournament while his career-best score came a few days later at the DPT Colossus Super High Roller Series 2018. Making his maiden trip to Vegas, Doddapaneni’s prime score at WSOP was his 1,057th place finish in the $10,000 Main Event World Championship for $15,920 (~₹10.88 Lakhs).
An online poker regular at the domestic circuit, Harshil Dhingra’s scorecard at 2018 WSOP has two cashes coming in the Little One For One Drop and the $365 NLHE Giant event respectively, but he picked up a commendable score at the $500+65 NLHE – WPT500 -Aria 2018 Poker Classic event where he finished in 12th place for $16,450 (~₹11.32 Lakhs).
Akash Malik cashed in four WSOP events with his best-run coming in the $3,000 PLO 6-Handed where he finished in 38th place for $9,172 (~₹6.27 Lakhs).
Apoorva Goel was part of the huge Indian contingent that competed in the $10,000 Main Event World Championship, but his run ended early in 1,148th place for which he banked $15,000 (~₹10.25 Lakhs).
For fashion photographer and 9stacks qualifier Sanjay Taneja, his first WSOP trip proved fruitful as he scored in two events and his performance was highlighted by his 29th place finish in The Little One For One Drop NLHE for $15,042 (~₹10.31 Lakhs).
Shashank Jain scored in two WSOP events while his top score came in Event #89 – DCPS $3,500 NLHE – MSPT-Big Blind Ante where he finished in 69th place.
CEO of PokerBaazi, Navkiran Singh scored in three WSOP events this year, his best performance coming in the $3,000 PLO 6-Handed event.
Another Young Gun from the domestic felt seen in Vegas was Mumbai-based Abhinav Iyer, who was equally active in both the WSOP and side events. Iyer managed to score in three events.
PokerBaazi Team pro Abhishek Rathod entered several tournaments in Vegas and raked in two scores at the series this summer.
PokerStars India Pro Muskan Sethi had entered several WSOP events but had a tough series and made it in the money in only one event i.e. The Closer $1,500 NLHE (30 Min Levels) 1M GTD, where she finished 453rd for $2,242 (~₹1.53 Lakhs).
Single Scorers At WSOP
Many of the top Indian performers this year scored multiple times at WSOP, and there were some who pulled in a solo score, headlined by Kartik Ved’s 128th place finish in the Main Event Championship.
Indians At Side Events
WSOP was not the only tournament series in Vegas where Indian challengers were displaying their prowess. While Kalyan Chakravarthy and Yudhishter Jaswal top the list of Indians who crushed the other side events in Las Vegas, cashes were recorded by many others as well.
Overall it was an action-filled summer for the Indian runners at WSOP and side events in Vegas, where veterans and newcomers alike came out all guns blazing with many surprise wins and deep runs. There were disappointments too, but Team India set a new benchmark this year that has certainly put Indian poker on the international map!