4 Minutes Read
The past year has been an exceptional one in recent times for poker players in India, with a resurge of tournaments and a blazing poker scene in India. This in turn saw many new faces claiming a place of their own and one such name was Sahil Chutani (cover image), who among his other achievements final tabled the IPC December Main Event at fifth place for ₹5.1 Lakhs.
Sahil is a 25-year old Delhi lad, with both his parents working for the Govt. He majored in Electronics and Communication Engineering, before moving on to poker full time. Sahil plays under the online moniker $lim$hady19.
Here, we have Sahil speaking about his poker journey in his own words. The software professional, who soon quit his job for the love of poker, is extremely candid, while sharing his early college days, the struggle to go pro and his problematic state of mind.
If one thing comes across clearly in this edition of our Young Gun series, it is Sahil’s passion and drive for poker and his willingness to take the rough with the smooth.
Here is his poker story in his own words.
I have an engineering background and I picked up the game during my undergrad years at college. I had a friend who used to play online poker (Zynga poker) and used to ramble every day about suckouts (bad beats). I was fed up with the talk, and told him there is no way you can lose daily and still keep playing the game. Finally I sat down with him on a Zynga poker table with the hand ranking charts to my left. I sat down at 11 pm and stopped at 6 in the morning, I had turned 10k chips to 1.5 million and I had so much fun doing it.
I cheekily said to my bud (buddy), see that’s how it’s done and he laughed at me so hard, saying how big of a donk I am at poker. And yada I lost all the chips the very next day.
But what stayed with me was the game. It was amazing maths, strategy, psychology clubbed into one. At that time I never knew that people could actually play poker for a living. I was just so happy getting back from my college, sitting down and playing poker (grinding).
Sahil then speaks about his difficult times as a youth and how poker helped.
Like 90 % of Indians I have an engineering background and this is what 90 % (or perhaps more) engineers do during their college days in India- flunk exams (I had a total of 36 backlogs during my graduation, its still termed a miracle that I passed my degree with zero backlogs), alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, porn and worst of all watch every season of every sitcom out there:
P.S. I have had a tough childhood as I don’t get along with my parents and went into total social alienation during my first two years at college. I dropped a lot of weight, avoided talking to anybody and I was happy to be alone and on my own. This is when I found poker and it helped me a lot just to get my mind focused and slowly start working on myself again.
It is not easy accepting one’s problem habits and weaknesses, but Sahil does just that and remembers how he completed his education, even as he continued with poker.
Finishing my undergrad
I started playing daily online; my schedule started revolving around poker. My drug usage went down, as I had found a better thing to do at that time. But quitting as they say is not easy and I started experiencing serious insomnia and headache issues. I sought out medical help and was diagnosed with clinical depression and mild insomnia. This is when I realized I had a problem and needed to focus on my health. I started taking my prescription medicines.
Meanwhile I had moved from playing on Zynga poker to PokerStars, where I lost a bunch of money (around 1k usd) playing cash games. Playing on stars changed my perspective on poker completely; I was bombarded with words like position, range, 3 bet (what the hell is that), bankroll management, regs. This was for the first time I really started reading about the game, studying it and watching videos. During the last year I played no poker at all, as I had a lot of backlogs to clear but started studying the game religiously. Somehow I managed to finish my engineering degree.
The transition from recreational to pro is never easy and Sahil too faced similar issues. He did begin with a job, but soon quit to follow his dreams.
Working in an IT job
I have had serious issues with my health and till date I suffer from stress and anxiety disorders coupled with mild insomnia. I have never shied away in admitting two things – I play poker for a living and yes I suffer from mental health problems; I fight on a daily basis and as with poker it has its ups and downs but along with proper medical care and the will to fight it can be overcome. To offset the need for a daily schedule and the fact that I could not make poker my living, I worked as a software engineer in an IT firm.
But I used to fire away games whenever I had the time and started grinding sit n go’s on stars (45 mans and 180 mans). I quit 9 months into my job, not because I had made enough money in poker but coz (because) I hated my job.
Finally, Sahil went pro and shares the experience.
I had no plans, I had zero bankroll and I remember clearly I had an unpaid 20k credit card bill. In simple words I was broke, but I was quite confident. Most people would shudder with the prospect but all I had to do was what I had always done in my life to this point #fight.
I took a 25k loan from the same friend who had introduced me to the game, and deposited on stars. I grinded the micro stakes sngs on stars. Two months later, I returned back my friend his money, paid my credit card bill and tore off my credit card, I said to myself I am never using that again (till date I have no credit card to my name). The most important thing that I learned during that period was grinding. Let me clarify one thing grinding does not mean playing for 12-15 hours at a stretch. Grinding is preparing yourself for something, having the proper ammunition (study and bankroll) and sticking to it come what may, knowing eventually this is the right thing to do, you are putting in your money good and this is the best play. I hear a lot of people complain about variance, bad beats especially in Indian poker where I feel the game is nowhere close to what the game is in Europe- both in terms of perception and knowledge. Variance is noise, tune it out. You are not as good as you think when you win and you are not as bad when you lose..”
Sahil takes pride in his choice of poker and says,
I want to make it clear- I play poker for a living proudly and I don’t gamble. I have started turning the other way and stopped responding to people, who say I gamble partly because it is convenient to do so, but I am a very passionate and emotional guy and I hate anyone who tries to demean my profession. I love the game, for me it’s a sport. I have always told the same thing to anybody who has asked me for help or guidance and would continue to do so.
Going on to talk about the game and its aspects, Sahil adds,
Coming back I quickly realized that poker is a game of incomplete information, whoever has the most information wins, and it’s that simple. Information in poker is not readily available, as with other things and I heard about staking coupled with coaching. Well the investor puts 100% of his money in, gives coaching, does hh reviews and we chop 50-50 profit. Sounds like a win win deal for the horse (a term used in poker meaning you are staked by someone, you are the backer’s horse). It sounded good and I was first staked by ‘abhi147’ (abhishek rathod) for low to micro sngs on stars. I joined in with like 6 or 7 people. I was the only horse that made it through the grind. Abhi still mentions that shady (me :D) is the best horse he has had, not in terms of the money I have made him but for the amount of study I put in. I still don’t understand what he means, I love grinding period.
Sahil then goes on to explain his foray into live events.
2015 was my first full year as a pro poker player. One of my aims was to give live tournaments a go. I love competing, I always have (I used to play tennis competitively till under 16’s).
Grinding teaches you one important thing Bankroll Management. Being broke also teaches you to appreciate and value the hard worked money you make. In fact to a certain degree, I agree that everyone should try going broke at some point in your life, pain teaches you a lot more, gives your life a new perspective.
Playing live (especially if you plan on being a tournament pro) is tough. Going to live series, booking flights, hotels and spending additional 100k on buy ins in like 4 tournaments where 85% of the time I will brick the entire series does not sound positive and neither is. I am not saying don’t play live, but be wise with your bankroll. Don’t play a buy in unless you have like 20-25 buy ins (poker bankroll not your savings). Anyways I played like 4 or 5 live series in Goa and it was fun. The cherry on cake was my 5th place finish in the 50k main event for 510k.
I love playing live, but even with a sound bankroll prefer to sell for a live series. I still love playing online, for me it’s the same, probably I prefer online just because I can put in a ton of volume online which I can’t in live. I don’t like taking shots, I have always played poker as an analytical game and would play within my roll or till I get some sort of sponsorship for live.
The future is truly unlimited in its scope and a confident Sahil adds.
The year has started off well. I am backed online by BBZ staking ( the best stable there is online). Plan is to go hard his year, print and hopefully sit at top of p5’s India leaderboards. Adi (Aditya Agarwal) has just shipped a TCOOP event for a massive payday (I really thought he would slow down a bit after marriage), so I have a steep ride ahead. But as usual I am quite confident. It’s a long year and if you work hard enough, we will get there. Me and keenyle (sharad) plan on shifting to a grindhouse by February end, so that should be fun.
I can say looking back it’s been a fun journey, but the truth is I am just a tad better than an average poker pro atm and miles to go before I can look myself with pride in the poker world.”
Talking about the current online scene in the country, Sahil remarks,
Just would like to add it`s great that Spartan Poker has upped its game and got a revamped tourney schedule. The IOPC January series was a good online series (came in 4th in the high roller for 100k+ and just shipped the 1.1k FO for 20k to boost my bankroll). So you will be seeing me a bit more at Indian poker sites, doing what I do – grind it out.
Giving thanks to buddies, he adds,
A last minute shout out to everyone who has helped me so far in my poker journey abhi147, jdsaz, saby (infusion_leo), keenyle, anup (rmanasa), BBZ ( jordan, jay,raph, dando and 80 others lol) and one of my closest friends both in poker and real life who introduced me to the game imgrt (he won’t like me taking his name so let’s stick to online son’s). Also, a big thumbs up to PokerGuru, which has always taken the game forward in India professionally.
Frank as ever, Sahil concludes with,
As usual I’m always available for any kind of help or guidance, I just have one problem I am blunt and honest about most things in life and it’s the same with Poker. You have to love grinding, to really love the game and better still respect it.
That’s it from shady for now, see you at tables.:)
PokerGuru wishes Sahil all the best and hopes to see him at many more final tables in the future.
Image courtesy: India Poker Championship (IPC)