6 Minutes Read
As we look at the world around us, things are looking gloomier as the days pass by. The global count of positive Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases has already crossed the 2.2 Million mark, while the death toll has breached 150,000. In India, too, the situation is quite grim. With over 14,000 confirmed cases and more than 450 deaths, the Indian government had little choice but to extend the nationwide lockdown till May 3, and chances for a further extension are looking bright.
Under such circumstances, a natural outcome for poker players was to starting playing more online. This has been aided by the fact that leading poker sites have been consistently dishing out massive guarantee tournaments and lucrative cash game promotions. Among the poker players who have been making the most of the value on offer during this lockdown period is the promising young talent, Devang Yadav (cover image).
This 26-year-old, like many of our past Young Guns, is an IITian. He graduated with a BTech in Mechanical Engineering from the prestigious IIT Delhi. Yadav was introduced to poker in 2014 while he was still in college, and after three years of honing his skills in the game, he finally took the plunge and decided to turn pro in 2017.
While Yadav’s interest in poker was piqued due to the intricacies of the game and, of course, the money involved, his interactions with the likes of Sajal Gupta and Akshay Nasa during this time, also helped further grow his interest in the game.
While these are still early days for his professional career, Yadav has already worked up quite an online repertoire of winning flagships like Spartan Poker’s Destiny and The Elite, and even Adda52’s Mega Suites Finale. His breakout performance, however, came in January this year, where he posted his career-best score at the BPTO Highroller for ₹12.07 Lakhs. He followed that up by taking down his first-ever live title in the ₹25K MegaStack at the 2020 BPT just a few days later for ₹12.65 Lakhs.
While his live MTT scorecard is still growing at ₹18.74 Lakhs, his online record stands at an impressive ₹1.64 Crores with lifetime profits of over ₹50 Lakhs. He is presenting ranked 70th on the 2020 profit leaderboard with over ₹11 Lakhs in profit.
I had a candid chat with the talented young pro, where we talked about his poker journey so far and future aspirations. Here is his poker story in his own words.
Poker Journey Begins
Yadav was introduced to poker in 2014 while studying Mechanical Engineering at IIT Delhi. Discussing what lured him to the game, Yadav said, “It was so enticing, multiple levels of thinking, the money involved. I use to watch WSOP deep runs a lot in the beginning, and the gravitas of each decision people took was really catchy.”
In a previous interview, Spartan Poker’s SSS#61 Millionaire ₹1 Crore GTD champion, Saurabh Rohilla, had told us that Yadav was one of the people responsible for getting him interested in poker. When we asked Yadav about his influence on the Millionaire winner’s interest in poker, he said, “Oh yes, Rohilla sir was my senior at college. I was talking to a few of my batchmates who had started playing the game with some seniors who were already into it. Shrey Maheshwari, Sajal Gupta, Akshay Nasa, Sanket Jain, Mohit Mittal, and Yash Dalmia are a few of my hostel mates I played a lot with back then.”
Talking about his professional poker career, Yadav said, “Yes, I’ve been playing poker full time for more than two and a half years now.”
Convincing the Family
While the game has seen a meteoric rise in the country over the past few years, there is no doubt that many still view it with skepticism as a career option. Yadav’s family, too, was not on board with him becoming a full-time poker player, and instead wanted him to pursue a career in the Civil Services. He did manage to win them over in the end.
“Well, it took a ton of effort and time for them to come to terms with it. They wanted me to go the road more taken as in appearing for civil services etc.”
Secret Behind His Success
Yadav credits his constant willingness to keep learning more about the game as his biggest strength.
“I’ve always had the willingness to learn the game. When I’d be out of the tournaments or not running well in the cash games, I’d open up the tables and just sweat other players who were better than me at the game. What hands do they showdown, what are the population tenancies in certain spots, etc. Moreover, personally, I feel I’ve had excellent control over my tilt, whenever I feel emotions are taking over me – I take a deep breath and restart. I’ve seen people first-hand losing their months’ worth of earnings in a single session when on tilt – so yeah having that virtue really helps.”
Talking about the mistakes that MTT players commonly make, Yadav said, “No one is perfect. Even I make a ton of mistakes. We all try to be good at playing GTO or be really good at exploits, but we can never achieve perfection. I see a lot of players just mimicking common sizings and lines in certain spots because they see them fairly commonly used without putting in work and thought in as to why it is the right play. For, e.g., everyone nowadays is using the 30% sizing on Ace high flops, but I doubt if most of them can explain the theory behind it.”
Yadav’s first live score came in the 2018 WPT Main Event, however, that was not his first tryst with live poker. “I’d played a couple of DPTs before that. But didn’t cash any event.”
In fact, his transition from playing online to live was rather smooth.
“The transition has been fairly good. I’ve only played live tournaments in Goa and have never been there without winning a satellite for the same. Even this time around, I had ₹5.6 lakhs of buy-ins covered in the form of online satellites for BPT and IPC. So that enables me to go there and play stress-free as the avg. buy-ins in live tournaments are appx 4/5 bigger than their online counterparts.”
Mentors, Subscriptions & HUDs
Talking about the importance of mentoring in poker, Yadav said, “Mentoring to me has been huge. Discussing spots with coaches and fellow players, listening to their stories, mistakes, and experiences really have come in handy for me personally. I’d recommend everyone who looks to make a career in poker to be open to having a mentor or a group where you have a healthy, constructive discussion, which helps all. No matter how good a player you are, you can always find someone better or someone who works harder than you do – get in touch with them and brainstorm.”
He also highly recommends training subscriptions for players looking to improve their gameplay. “I have subscriptions to RIO (Run it Once), RYE (Raise Your Edge), and Upswing Poker. This is the best investment any poker player can make to get better. Getting on the tables and punting is easy – hitting the lab and studying is really underrated.”
He also believes that tools like online solvers can be very beneficial to poker players.
“They are a boon. A good friend once told me to make PIO my best friend. These tools are insane. They help you accelerate your growth so much in such a short time.”
COVID-19’s Impact on His Grind Routine
While the near undeterred spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is alarming, with the nationwide lockdown in place, online poker has seen a tremendous rise. Yadav believes that the increase in online traffic is temporary, and things will go back to how they were once the pandemic subsides.
“It is unfortunate and disheartening to see what our planet is going through. As for the online poker boom – it is very temporary and unsustainable. It may bring more people into the scene, but you won’t have the guarantees crushing on a Monday or a Tuesday as they are now, say six months down the road. But in fairness, it allows us, poker players, all the more time to study more and hone our skills and put in more hours on the tables.”
Talking about his present routine, he disclosed, “I also play 50/100 100/200 cash a lot, and at least 5/6 tables are running across multiple sites even at 5 in the morning. So that’s good.”
Wisely pointing out the need for people to expand their horizons, Yadav said, “To part off, I’d like to say poker for all of us is just a part of our lives – it is not everything and shouldn’t be that ways. Each one of us who is into this game can be so much more other than being a poker player. There are other avenues in life we should explore – like learn music, learn to paint, learn a different language, learn mediation – it’ll not only help one enhance their personalities but also prove in handy to deal with tilt.”
“Moreover, all of us, whether winning or losing, should really be grateful that we are in a situation to play a sport that involves big money and enables us to live a certain lifestyle, which is very much in contrast to the average out there.”
“A harsh reality check – If your average monthly household income is north of ₹50,000 – which I believe is true for the majority of us in our poker community – we belong to 0.33% of the richest households in our country! Let that sink in.”
“So, don’t stress the next time you don’t ITM,” were Yadav’s parting words before signing off!