6 Minutes Read
In many of our recent ‘Young Gun’ features, we have brought you stories of IITians-turning-poker professionals. Diverting from that trend a little, in today’s feature, we have a fourth-generation lawyer, who gave up the comforts of a conventional profession to tread the unorthodox path of becoming a professional poker player. Meet our latest Young Gun, Anmol Mehta (cover image)!
Mehta’s story is similar to that of another rising poker star, PokerGuru Ambassador Ashish Ahuja. The Chandigarh-based pro is also a lawyer by qualification, but choose to pursue poker as a career, and has been quite successful thus far.
Mehta, too, comes from a family of lawyers and even studied to become one himself. Still, after being introduced to poker while he was pursuing his BA, LLB Hons from Jindal Global Law School, the up-and-coming pro was hooked. Though he did practice law for a while, in the end, he came to the realization that poker was his true calling.
The Delhi lad decided to turn pro in December 2019. Claiming that the ‘psychological warfare’ aspect of poker is what interested him in the game, Mehta’s successful transition to a poker pro is in large part due to his hard work and his family’s immense support.
Turning pro was most certainly not a bad call, as the 25-year-old has been crushing the online MTT’s ever since. With almost ₹1.5 Crores* in recorded online winnings, Mehta boasts of a personal-best score of ₹14.91 Lakhs that he won in PokerBaazi’s PPL#43 Highroller 6-Max ₹50 Lakhs GTD on March 13.
In April alone, Mehta made an impressive 11 final table finishes, which includes shipping Spartan Poker’s ReCharge ₹18 Lakhs GTD on April 20, finishing runner-up in the SSS#47 Destiny ₹45 Lakhs GTD on April 15 and also placing second in Adda52’s Godfather ₹25 Lakhs GTD on April 16. Incidentally, he has also appeared multiple times in our ‘Online Rankings’ feature, which just goes to prove that Mehta is undeniably a budding talent destined for poker stardom.
While he is a beast on the virtual felts, his live poker career is still in a nascent stage. His biggest recorded live tournament score was in the 2017 DPT September Edition Main Event, where he finished 10th for ₹1.04 Lakhs. However, with the Goa government extending the lockdown and casinos expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, Mehta’s opportunity to improve his live poker resume could take some time coming.
I had a candid tête-à-tête with the lawyer-turned-poker pro, where we talked about his poker journey, family, and role models. Here is his poker story in his own words.
Finding Poker in Law School
Many of our former Young Guns discovered poker while pursuing higher educational or vocational degrees. Mehta was no different. He was introduced to poker in law school by a friend.
“I was introduced to poker back in my first or second year of law school itself when me and my roommate Vedant were sitting idle in our hostel room, and he told me about this card game, and I was like sure let’s give it a shot. I immediately gained a keen interest, we formed a group and started playing a lot after that, almost daily after our classes.”
He also explained that it was the psychological aspect of the game that attracted him to poker. “Like other Delhi-ites, I used to play a lot of cards in the Diwali season and always had a keen interest in strategy games like chess. When I learned poker is a combination of both being a skill-based card game, I immediately fell in love with it. I loved each and every component of the game, be it the psychological warfare with your opponents or calculating odds on the spot. My interest in the game kept growing each day to the extent that I even wrote a paper about poker being a skill-based sport in my sports law course, which was really appreciated by my peers and professor.”
Choosing Poker as a Career & Having a Supportive Family
Deciding to take up poker as a full-time profession is not an easy choice to make. Mehta had all the qualifications of becoming a successful lawyer, and coming from a generation of lawyers, that was the more conventional choice to make. But in the end, he decided to walk on the road less taken and became a poker pro.
“So immediately after law school, I was perplexed as to which direction my path was headed because I had given both pursuing law and poker some fair amount of thought during the final year of my law school. But fearing that no one would understand my passion for poker and that it could be more than just a hobby, I decided to give practicing law a shot while playing poker on the side. So, from 2017-19 I practiced law and played tournaments once I got back from work starting from 9 PM. But two years of doing both really left me exhausted, and I felt that I wasn’t doing justice to either. So I decided to muster up the courage and talk to my parents in the last month of 2019, that I want to give poker a fair shot. To my surprise, they were extremely supportive about it and said that it’s your life take as much time as you need and that they want me to be happy in the long run. Since that moment onwards, I had decided to go all out.”
While a lot of parents and family members are unsupportive of their children playing poker, much less pursuing it as a career option, Mehta was fortunate in this regard. His parents were incredibly understanding, and as he confesses, his sister played a pivotal role in his poker success!
“Initially, being the 4th generation of lawyers in my family, its but obvious that they wanted the legacy to move forward and for me to pursue law, but as I mentioned above, my heart was elsewhere, and they could see it as well. So when I had the talk with them, they were really supportive of my decision, to the fact that now my mom even keeps a snack for me during the night when she knows I have a long grind ahead, and the next morning without fail she asks me ‘how was last night beta, did you earn or did you learn?’ (subtly asking if I made a profit or not that night :p). My younger sister played a pivotal role in encouraging me when I was down and out, being a constant pillar of strength. I feel it’s really important for us to make them understand the intricacies of the game and how it works and not always blame the society or the ‘Indian mentality’, after all, change in mindset just doesn’t happen in a day!”
Trailblazing Online Run
Mehta is undoubtedly one of the rising stars of Indian poker, and with almost ₹1.5 Crores* in recorded online winnings, he is unstoppable at the moment. When asked what the secret behind his success is, he shared, “Honestly, it’s truly the love for the sport and the drive to learn and keep getting better. It’s such a complex game that even the best of the best learn something new each session, so that really motivates me to keep pushing harder and being better than the day before. I used to get really angry at myself for making mistakes earlier on, but I’ve become better at it now and just mark the hand/concept for later, which I think needs work. I also practice Nichiren Buddhism (a life philosophy), which has really had a positive impact on me over the years and greatly improved my mental toughness.”
He also credited his friends and poker tools like training websites and solvers, in helping him improve his gameplay.
“I’d say that my game still needs a lot of work, but a combination of training websites, solver tools, and having a good set of people to discuss strategy with has been key. One of my old poker buddies, Prateek Singh, decided to create a WhatsApp group called ‘Team crushers’ (4 of us) two years ago. That was the starting point when we started discussing strategy with each other, helping each other through the emotional downswings, and patting each other’s backs when one of us got a big score. Like Neel very rightly mentioned in his post after his massive win in the EndBoss, it may seem like an individual sport, but it’s really not, we all need each other and must stick together as a community.”
Talking about the mistakes the poker players usually make, he said, “Leaks that I commonly see people do is play too tight, especially during the later stages of the tournament out of fear. Also, Indian players don’t handle emotional swings very well, and their game drastically worsens after they make a mistake in a specific spot. Also, bankroll management is key, which very few players follow to the tee.”
Mentors & Role Models
Mehta, like many up-and-coming players, is also of the opinion that having a poker mentor is essential.
“Although I haven’t been a part of any stable or have had a formal coach ever. Still, one name that stands out whose content and advice I’ve always appreciated and tried to emulate is the great Bencb, who even did a webinar with Nikita Luther a week ago exclusively for the Indian players (kudos to Nikita for setting that up). For those who may not know, Bencb is one of the best, if not the best poker coach and MTT crusher in the world. I’ve followed his content throughout and always try to follow his approach towards the sport and the right kind of mindset that we need to have to do really well. It’s crucial to have a role model for us to really do well in whatever field we choose, for us to be motivated and keep doing better each day.”
“Having training sites and tools really help in improving your game in a very short time (especially when you don’t have a coach), and RYE content has helped me the most by far. I recently subscribed to RIO, and also purchased PIO solver as one of the senior players advised me that learning theory and the best lines to take is super important in the ever-growing competition. I’ve also been using a HUD, which allows me to track opponent statistics and react accordingly, which really helps when I’m multi-tabling. For the newer players who want to start off playing poker with a minimal bankroll, please don’t be scared, I would advise that there is so much free content out there on YouTube, covering almost every concept. So I would urge them to really splurge if they want to get better at the game, as it’s much easier to get better at the game today than it was maybe five years ago. I would also advise beginners to take their time in watching a video to really grasp and understand it, if the video is an hour-long, you should take at least two hours watching it and before moving on the next one!”
Talking about the pros he looks up to, Mehta said, “There are so many good players that I look up to, especially in the domestic circuit. Senior players like Nishant Sharma and Sriharsha (Doddapaneni) whom I really look up to and trouble them with whatever doubts I may have, and they’re always quick to respond as well, which I’m hugely appreciative of. Players like Gaurav Sood and Neel Joshi who’ve helped me a lot during my poker journey, and have been a great source of motivation for me to keep growing. One name that stands out whose been my constant rail and support is Deepak Singh, and our constant banter on and off the tables truly makes the journey an exciting one. Internationally, like I said, Bencb, Phil Galfond, Dnegs (Daniel Negreanu), who, apart from being the best players in the world, are also true ambassadors of the sport, and I really enjoy following their content.”
Grind Routine & Impact of Lockdown
Sharing his daily grind routine, Mehta mentioned, “I usually mostly play NLHE tournaments, start at around 8.30 PM and sleep by whatever time the tournaments get over, and try to study as much as I can during the day. But if I get the time to play cash games, I like to dabble with PLO just for a change.”
While the deadly COVID-19 has significantly impacted many industries and businesses, poker players have remained mostly unaffected, especially those who were able to compensate for the loss of live poker opportunities with online play. Expounding on the fact, Mehta said, “Well, the COVID-19 lockdown has not affected the poker players much, as there has been a drastic spike in the number of online tournaments and the guarantees being crushed daily, but I’ve really been missing going out with my friends. I also had a routine of going swimming right before my grind session, which I miss a lot. Of course, live tournaments have been canceled/postponed, which used to be a good change from the online grind routine.”
Wrapping up the interview, Mehta left us with some wise words from his father, “Like my dad always says to me, ‘nothing comes easy in life’, so keep grinding it out and enjoy the process, don’t worry about the results, they’re bound to come! Cheers!”
*This figure reflects the total cashes accumulated by the player and are not to be considered as the net profit