8 Minutes Read
26-year-old Rajnish Kumar is our latest PokerGuru Young Gun, and like many of his peers was introduced to poker during his college days. Rajnish hails from Patna, and studied at Bengaluru, were while staying at a hostel he made friends with Nitish Gupta (another PokerGuru Young Gun).
The duo was so taken up by the sport and the drive to go pro that they contacted top Indian pro – Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal, hoping he would show them a way out of college and into the world of professional poker. Aditya advised them to complete their studies first and then pursue a career in poker, but neither friend was in any mood to wait.
One day a PokerGuru freeroll awarding the winner a trip to Goa and a meet & greet session with Aditya Agarwal was won by Nitish. The two friends came to Goa and the trip was the turning point for both, giving them the first glimpse of casino life. Rajnish went on to win the opening PGT ₹5K event for a payday of ₹1,60,000 and finally revealed to his family his intentions to take up poker as a full-time job.
Later, on Aditya’s advice, Rajnish moved to Goa and under his tutelage and staking began the life of a regular poker player, grinding online and live MTT`s. It was a tough time initially, one that caused Rajnish to return to Patna for two months and rebuild his bankroll, even as Gupta was already playing high stakes under the stake of PokerGuru Team Mentor Raman Gujral.
Rajnish returned back to Goa and began playing under the mentorship of Gujral. He soon found more senior players who were helpful, especially Shashank Siddharth, even as he and Gupta continued to live together, discussing the game.
Today, Rajnish lives the life of a pro, travelling for high stakes cash games, irrespective of the stakes. In this edition of our PokerGuru Young Gun series, check out Rajnish’s poker journey, in his own words – his battle to convince his orthodox family, his take on the Indian poker scene, his future plans and how poker has taught him so much more that has helped him in other areas of life. His advice for aspiring players is especially relevant, considering the large community and regular camaraderie that exists in this sport.
For the benefit of our readers, tell us about yourself.
I am 26 years of age and originally born and brought up from Patna, and a product of Kendriya Vidyala. After that, like a common middle class home, my family wanted me to pursue Engineering. So in 2012, I shifted to Bangalore to study engineering in PES College. Till first year, my aim was to complete graduation and get a good job with a handsome annual package just like any other student, but I really wasn’t happy pursuing it.
To be frank, I never enjoyed my college life. From the start I wanted to do something different in life. I used to feel that I was running with the breed, which I didn’t like.
How and when did you come across the sport of poker? Please take us through the journey.
I was not living in the hostel during my first year at college and all my friends at that time were doing jobs. In the second year, I shifted to the hostel and met my now good friend Nitish Gupta. We were room mates in hostel and one day I saw him playing some $5 DON’s (double or nothing) online. So I asked him about what he is doing and then he explained me everything, right from the basic rules. Soon I jumped into the bandwagon by depositing $50 on 888Poker.com but all didn`t go exactly as planned, as in a single night I was down to $2.5.
I started playing 1c/2c games from that and I played continuously for like 17 hours and turned that $2.5 into $300. I played everything from cash games to DON’s etc. It was then that I thought this could be done more regularly, so long with Nitish I started grinding online. Since our bankroll was very less, considering we both come from middle class families, I continued playing $2.5 DONs but this was affecting my studies and I realized that both things can’t be managed together.
At the same time I searched online about poker names in India and came across Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal. So we messaged him about how we were planning to quit studies and pursue poker full time. For the first 8-10 days he didn’t reply but then said that we should first complete our degree and then pursue poker professionally, but nevertheless we continued playing poker. After grinding for some days I had now converted that $300 into $1000 all by playing DON’s. Obviously given the time and commitment we had for poker, our studies were ***cked up and one fine day both of us decided that we were going to pursue poker full time.
This was in 2013 when I was still in my third semester, suddenly one day there was a PokerGuru freeroll online with a package to Goa and an opportunity to meet Adi (Aditya Agarwal). Nitish shipped that tournament and got the package and both of us planned to go. By this time I was doing good online and had moved up the stakes. I was comfortably grinding 5-6 tables at a time and was ranked fourth on the world leaderboard which was all very motivating for me at that time.
And as planned we came to Goa and experienced the casino world for the first time which was very mesmerizing. I met the entire PokerGuru team and registered for the 5k tournament which I shipped! I was so thrilled that the very same day I told my parents that I wanted to play poker professionally. Thankfully Nitish also placed third the very next day in the 10k Event.
We stayed in touch with Adi asking for suggestions and he said if you seriously want to pursue poker in this country then shift to Goa. I started playing under Adi’s staking and eventually moved to Goa two years back. Even that’s an interesting story as the day I shifted to Goa my luggage got stolen right at the railway station, so I was completely broke when I moved there. I started off by playing a couple of tournament, which was all going great for me. By then I had started playing on different websites like Titan Poker and other websites.
You initially started playing DON’s and then the transition to other formats happened. Please tell us about that.
The expenses there were too much which were getting difficult to manage by just playing DON’s, so I started looking for ways to get started playing cash games in Goa. Nitish was already playing high stakes at that time backed by Raman Gujral but things were not too bright for me. For almost one year after moving to Goa, I was still stuck playing DON’s. I wanted to build a bankroll first and started playing cash games but then downswings hit and I went completely broke. I had no choice and decided to move back to Patna for two months to start work on building back a bankroll.
I spoke to Raman about staking and coaching me to which he agreed – this was a life-changing opportunity for me. I came back to Goa and started playing cash games on Raman’s stake and the best part of the deal was that he used to mentor me too. I used to continuously discuss hands with him and in two months I was doing very well in cash games. Raman coached me for 2-3 months and at the same time I became friends with the regular high stakes cash game players like Praz (Praz Correa), Shashank Siddharth. They were all high stakes players and I used to wonder what I was not doing to be playing like that. Obviously a couple of good months in terms of scores, gives a motivational boost and that helped a lot. Then due to some reasons Raman and I split and Shashank started staking me.
I credit Shashank for helping me move up in stakes. He provided the most opportunities and exposure.
Living with Nitish was great as we used to discuss a lot of hands and most of our discussions used to be about poker. In the last one and a half years I have quickly moved up the stakes and have managed to do well in cash sessions on nearly all online websites.
Four months ago I also entered home games in Kolkata and at the start it was a struggle to make adjustments in my game but I eventually came out a winner. I even travelled to Bangkok for a good poker game recently.
Tell us about your family’s understanding of the sport. Do they support your decision to pursue poker as a career?
When I told my family that I wanted to pursue poker, they took offence at my decision; for them I was a student turned gambler and they did not approve of that. They did not talk to me for around 18 months but then slowly and gradually I made them understand. One day I went to my dad and showed him the graphs of my poker progress – all my graphs starting from my fourth place world leaderboard position. I started sending money back home and even started contributing so it took time, but slowly now they have accepted my career choice.
Where and how often do you travel for poker?
Yes I travel a lot. Wherever I hear a good game is going to be hosted, I try and play that irrespective of stakes. I am used to playing high stakes now.
What do you think about the current scenario of poker in the country?
The current scenario is not that great in India and there are a lot of reasons behind that. First being the rake structures, then there have been very few big names in the sport in the country, also the legality issue for the game is another big problem. We used to think that a big boom is coming for India. The only good thing is that in the past couple of years, many players have started playing the game and are taking it up seriously.
What are your plans for future? Any set goals?
Now the next set goal is probably play more Omaha. I am still a Hold’em player but I feel Omaha will be the bigger thing in future probably because of the swings. I want to concentrate and improve my Omaha skills. Also I plan to make more international trips to play some big games.
Any parting words or anything you would like to add?
I just want to add that I have not only made money from poker but the game has been a key factor in my personal growth also. You go to so many new places and meet so many new people and learn and develop skills like how to talk and behave in a professional manner. The game has certainly evolved me as a person too.
I want to advice all the young players that the group you hangout with is the most important thing. I have learnt that the best way to improve your game is through discussions and if you are a high stakes players and your group is just playing mid stakes, you will not be able to grow with them, so the group influences everything.
In my poker journey, I have been able to learn a lot from Raman, Nitish and Shashank. I always ask them about making adjustments.
Improve you game and the monetary benefits will follow.
Thank you Rajnish for sharing your poker story with us!