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A WSOP Hopeful For Whom, a Poker Tournament is Like Life Itself!
Hailing from a small town is certainly no downer for being a poker success. One may have to look no further than Nitin Jain for confirmation. He comes from a small town, Katni, and then moved to Haldia, another small town, yet when he found poker, his background never proved to be drawback. All it really takes is steadfast determination and the grit of never settling for anything less.
It was in his third year of engineering that Jain was introduced to poker. His initial participation was through those small 100 INR buy-in games. After dropping out from his degree course due to poor attendance, Jain joined his brother’s software business. It was while working with his brother, who also is a poker player, that the urge to indulge with the game grew stronger.
His biggest inspiration came when he accompanied his brother to one of the poker tournaments in Goa. “I think it was India Poker Series organized by Bharat Agarwalla”, he said trying to recall the occasion. It was his first time visiting a casino. Though he didn’t participate he did lend his keen eye on his brother’s play. By the time the tournament ended he was aware of all the poker rules. More importantly by then he had felt, “This could be done”.
PokerGuru chatted up with Nitin to learn some more of his exciting journey and his passion for poker. Some excerpts….
Though the poker tournament in Goa, set you up in your present path, you didn’t pick up the game immediately, isn’t it? And, why so?
That’s right. I didn’t start playing online for maybe another year after the Goa tournament experience, even though after I had eventually left working with my brother. When I started playing poker with some money I had saved, I did it on this website called royaltilt.com owned by Vikram Verma. It went pretty well for me and I got decent cashouts playing cash games. But I couldn’t make it happen completely for me primarily because I lacked discipline. It’s the most necessary aspect if you want to become a good poker player. You need the discipline. Any money I would make, I would spend it all during that time. I used to play on and off and still I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to pursue this completely. That went on for about one and a half year while I was still working. I used to play for a bit and work a bit.
When did you become to take the game seriously?
Things changed over the past one-year where I really had to decide to pick up a line I wanted to pursue. Meanwhile, a good thing happened. Kanishka Samant got me introduced to a Canadian poker coach Ryan who used to play on PokerStars. He’s an MTT specialist and used to back me for playing on PokerStars for 20 big blind capped cash games and I would have regular sessions with him during that period which was about one and a half years back.
At the point of time I started improving my game and had regular discussions with him. Another thing is that you should always be connected to players who are better than you and keep discussing hands or poker with them – that helps a lot. The second good thing that happened was that Abhishek Rathod approached me to join IPP (India Poker Pro’s) and he asked me to play cash games on Indian sites and that was the time when I was freelancing for a couple of projects and I had to now make a decision of whether I wanted to go down the software path or the poker path as I couldn’t do both things.
Playing a little bit under Ryan was working out together with the software projects but if I had to start playing cash games on Indian sites too, it would be too much on my plate and I would not be able to do it. So I decided and thought that I might become very good in poker in the future but I can never become that good in software and I certainly didn’t want to be average in anything I do. So I decided to give everything to poker and told my brother that I will be going this route. I made sure that I become more disciplined and did everything to improve my game like regular learning sessions.
How did the things shape up after you joined the India Poker Pros?
After I started playing with IPP I was playing mid stakes No Limit Hold’em on Indian sites and within three months I was playing the highest stakes for them. They then asked me to be a coach for the junior players so I took in a few sessions with IPP students every month and right now act as their coach.
That was another experience as when you have people looking up to you, you got to make sure that you don’t lose discipline as don’t want to disappoint the people looking up to you. It’s another thing that keeps you motivated. When you are playing, you know that people are rooting and that’s another motivation to perform well. I enjoyed being a coach a lot as I have always enjoyed sharing what I know, it’s always been there in me that I want to share and part the knowledge I have.
In poker, it might turn out to be a negative thing but I think I am good enough to balance that and still impart my knowledge of the game. Some players might suggest that you should not reveal or teach your style of play but if it doesn’t affect your game that much you can do it.
How often do you play and which variant of the game do you prefer playing?
I always prefer cash games as tournaments and prefer only live events if they have a big guarantee. I don’t play tourneys on a regular basis so if they have a series coming up, I consider playing those which have deep stacks. That’s where I think my edge is as I am primarily a cash game player and I think tournaments definitely is a variant which requires a lot of efforts and skill to be good at but cash games are still tougher according to me. If a player excels at cash games, he can be good at tournaments as well but I don’t think it’s the other way around. Cash games at the start you might have 100 big blinds and slowly you move to say 500 big blinds whereas in tournaments you start at 100 or 200 big blinds and slowly come down to 20-30 big blinds as the tournament progresses. The complexity of the game is because of deepstacks as its No Limit, the more stack you have the more complex.
Where and how often do you travel for poker?
For live poker in the past 4-5 months I have been travelling a lot. I like travelling for tournaments mainly because it gives me an opportunity to travel and explore. That’s the incentive – say if there was a tournament happening in Mumbai itself I probably will not participate in it. Otherwise, I travel for cash games as well, like if there is a game in Gangtok, Kolkata, Ahmedabad or in Delhi I would travel for it.
What’s your family’s understanding for the game?
My brother understands the game completely as he himself used to play and has even participated in the WSOP main event once. My Mom and Dad have recently come to an understanding about my poker indulgence. They always knew that I was doing something in this space and they are chilled out. Like my Dad is very chilled and even after me being a dropout I never really asked anything from them and always managed myself and my expenses. They had the trust in me that I can do something. Now once they see that I am getting successful in what I am doing they are satisfied. Of course they wanted to know how the game works and it took me 2-3 hours to make them understand it and now they are fine with it. She considers it as a sport like any other sport though there is a high-risk level in poker but they understand it completely. Not all of my family understands it but those who matter does. My dad even tracks what’s happening online and like to know how I am doing so that he can keep himself updated.
How much time do you devote to improve your game and how do you do it?
I can list probably three things. The first is to constantly review your game so I make sure that I am recording almost all the sessions I play so if I am multi-tabling I will make sure to record those sessions and review them twice a week. It’s difficult on Indian sites to get the data and hand history so I prefer recording everything. I have a bunch of software’s which help me understand the moves which are right/ wrong and profitable or not.
Secondly, whatever I have recorded and the hands I need to, I discuss it with players who I think are better than me like Sahil Agarwal, Kanishka Samant and Abhineet Jain. I just call them up and they have been really helpful in my journey. Everyone is more than happy to help and discuss the hands. It helps them also and helps me too.
The third thing I do constantly doubt myself. I am not sure if that’s the right thing to do but it definitely helps you improve. For the past 1 year, I never felt that I am too good and always felt that there is room for improvement and keep working on it. A move might be profitable but I will try to improve it to make it more profitable. You can’t just stop at a time and need to keep on working to improve.
What’s your grinding schedule like?
I play 5-6 days per week right now if I am playing online. I try to put in at least 5 days a week. It takes me like 2 hours to get settled after I wake up, so after a good breakfast I get ready to grind for the day. Because of the travelling I have not been able to workout more often but I try to maybe go for a run or train a bit even if I know I am staying in a place only for a month.
I start the grind and it continues till the game is on. Like for a cash game player you always have to be on the edge. Whenever there is a game, you have to be there. With the traffic being not that much on Indian sites there are specific hours where you find the game. So probably after 3-4 pm the game starts picking up and it goes till morning. On Sundays, I might play a few MTT’s so I would prefer playing the Sunday Million or big events happening. Usually on Sundays the cash action is not that much as compared to the other days so that’s the day for MTT’s. And in live poker you can’t help it as you have to be on the tables till the game is on.
Any tips you want to share for upcoming poker enthusiasts and people who wish to travel for poker?
For online, I can suggest one thing, like I have been a part of a stable for quite some time now and I have seen players repeating their mistakes. A student who starts at the junior level of school has to be taught everything from scratch but in poker this is not the case. Here a player learns the game and then they start playing according to what they think is correct which might not be the right way to play. They don’t have the understanding of the game to that level. So, whenever you decide to start improving your game and developing a learning approach towards the game, they got to unlearn everything they know till now and start from step 1. They should always listen to what other players are saying and try to take that in, not necessary that you follow what they think is right but just evaluate it yourself.
Mental stability is another thing which is very important in poker, a lot of good players are not able to play their A game most of the time due to this and are not able to make it big in poker. You need to understand that it’s a game and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Bad beats or losing a hand should not impact your game. You have to accept that it’s a part of the game and continue playing solid. Never assume that a move is right until and unless you have a mathematical or logical reasoning behind it.
I’ll be honest to say that I don’t think that live MTT’s in India are profitable due to the 30% TDS application and I don’t think it makes sense for new players to travel in India for tournaments. Only if you have the appropriate bankroll for it then sure it is OK but not until then. Bankroll management is the most important thing. Results might make a player overconfident so one should never think that they have it all or have that edge over others. They think they know the right way and will keep on making the same mistakes, which should not be done. These are things I have come across in my journey and it happens to us all.
Who are the players you look up to?
When I started playing poker, it was of course Aditya Agarwal who was my role model. ‘Intervention’ was the one guy who I always dreamt of meeting someday and got the opportunity a few months back. Apart from him, the other Indian players I look up to are Sahil Agarwal, Abhishek Rathod, Kanishka Samant & Shravan Chhabria. They have been of a huge help in my poker journey.
What are your plans for future? Any set goals?
I am just looking to grind cash games as much as I can and I will be travelling to Vegas for this year’s WSOP, which is like a dream for any poker player. But I intend to stick to cash games and if I make some good money then might play a few events or the Main event but as of now I think I will stick to the cash games there. I want to see the life over there and meet some good players and probably talk to them. I am not sure about playing the Main Event this time but definitely next time for sure.
Any parting words?
I would like to wish good luck to everyone who would like to pursue poker and would like them to spread positives about the game, as it’s such a beautiful sport and competitive game. It brings out all the possible emotions in life. A poker tournament is like life itself, you have to save your chips to save your life. Playing poker teaches you a lot of things about life and how one should live it.