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Today, our ‘Young Gun’ feature tells the story of one of India’s most promising poker talents. In fact, the player in question may well be considered one of the ‘big guns’ of the domestic circuit and a ‘Game Changer.’ Yes, you guessed right. We are talking about Siddhanth Kripalani (cover image)!
The 26-year-old has wreaked havoc on the virtual felts over the past year. Name any online marquee tourney, and chances are Kripalani has won it more than once, or at the very least, final-tabled it. From clinching the Game Changer 3.0 to winning the IOPC The Millionaire United, Kripalani has a pretty impressive online scorecard.
Kripalani’s poker journey started when he was in his teens, on the popular Facebook poker game Zynga Poker. However, it was almost six years later he jumped into playing real-money games on Adda52.
Kripalani holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media from MMK College in Bandra and has even worked in influencer marketing for a digital marketing agency, Blowfish Digital. It took just a couple of months of working at a conventional career for Kripalani to realize that he wasn’t cut out for a 9 to 5 job.
Soon enough, he quit his job and became a full-time poker pro. But sadly, even though he had potential, because of his lack of discipline, by 2018, Kripalani had busted his entire bankroll. Not once, but close to 20 times! Not one to give up easily, he started from scratch again every time.
There is no denying Kripalani is a gifted poker player and natural at the game, but talent alone is not enough to make it BIG. With the guidance of more experienced players like Samay Modi, Kripalani began working harder to improve his gameplay. Around this time, Abhishek Jalan swooped in to stake the budding player and exposed Kripalani to a different side of the industry.
By the time the nationwide lockdown rolled around in March 2020, Kripalani was close to busting his bankroll AGAIN. Down his last ₹6,000, he deposited the entire money on Spartan Poker and struck GOLD! The Mumbai-based pro went on to win Spartan Poker’s Destiny in consecutive weeks and also took down PokerBaazi’s PMVS Main Event, banking a ₹30 Lakhs windfall in under a week!
“And after that one week, I was pretty speechless, to be honest, like I didn’t know what happened. It just happened, and I didn’t know how to react. It definitely took like a month or two months for the magnitude of what happened to kick in. I just decided to play my best poker,” says Kripalani of that career-defining week.
And there has been no looking back since. Today, Kripalani is ranked #6 among the year’s top winners, boasting a whopping ₹1.38 Crores in annual earnings and an equally impressive ₹60.42 Lakhs in net profits. With ₹3.69 Crores in tracked online earnings (₹1.85 Crores in net profits), he is fast approaching the ₹4 Crore milestone.
PokerGuru caught up with the emerging poker star to find out more about his poker journey. Here is his story in his own words (edited excerpts).
Introduction to Poker
Kripalani was first introduced to poker during his early teenage years through Zynga Poker. What started out as a fun pastime grew into a serious interest when he started playing cash games on Adda52 in 2.
While he started strong and even managed to accumulate a commendable ₹2.50 Lakhs in winnings, he ended up losing most of what he had earned within three years. And the cycle repeated almost 20 times. Each time Kripalani managed to lose his entire bankroll, forcing him to start from scratch – all because of his lack of discipline.
“I started to play poker when I was 14 or 15 on Zynga Poker. That was when I initially got introduced to poker, and then I continued playing for fun till 2016. That is when I started playing online. I mean, before that, I used to play cash games for around ₹500-₹1,000 with friends. That gradually escalated to ₹2,000. Then in 2016, I started playing online cash games on Adda52, and I managed to build up my bankroll to a good amount.”
“Then, within a span of three years, in around 2018, I busted my bankroll. I had built a bankroll of like ₹2.50 Lakhs. But I ended up either spending my bankroll or playing higher stakes and losing. I never really put in any effort starting the game, just played and continued playing. Around this time, I was working in a digital marketing agency (Blowfish Digital). I decided to quit my job and pursue my dream of becoming a tournament poker player. I decided that I’m going to build a small bankroll and then start playing tournaments. And to build that bankroll, I started playing live cash games of ₹10K, ₹25K, and under stakes.”
Turning Pro Without Coaching & Consistency at the Lower Stakes
Most players who decide to turn pro usually look for a poker coach to guide them or seek professional training. In Kripalani’s case, his poker skills were developed by discussing hands with friends and other players on online forums. The majority of his poker learnings were primarily from his own experiences.
“I mean, I wasn’t getting coached exactly. I’ve never been coached. I used to discuss hands with so many people. I have a couple of friends in the cash game circuit, so I used to discuss a lot of hands with them. I used to discuss hands with the people who were staking me at the time and asked them what was right and what was wrong because they were much better players than me. So, that’s how I’ve always studied. Just talking to people about hands and watching videos on YouTube and watching streams on Twitch. I have never studied a course, and I’ve never used a solver.”
Though unorthodox, his method of studying poker proved effective, making him a consistent winner, especially at the lower stakes.
“I was playing tournaments for about one and a half years, but I did not play every day. I used to play the Knight Riders on Spartan Poker and also a ₹1,100 buy-in tournament called Last Chance. I used to play Last Chance almost every night and ended up winning the tourney like 10-11 times. So, I used to be a good player at the low stakes. That’s how I learned a little more about tournaments.”
Talking about the people who have helped him along the way, Kripalani revealed that he received assistance and advice from players like Samay Modi and Abhinav Iyer. During this time, Abhishek Jalan began staking Kripalani, exposing him to the professional side of the industry.
“I have a friend who has been like a mentor to me, Samay Modi. He was a semi-pro tournament player. He plays under the moniker ‘Limitless’ on Spartan Poker. He used to play on PokerStars India and all, so he really knew a lot about tournaments. I built my basic poker foundation and understanding of tournaments from him. Then when I was playing under Abhishek Jalan, I got a chance to meet Abhinav Iyer, and I just absorbed a lot of information from them, especially Jalan because I was under his stake for six months. I really got to see what the industry was all about because I didn’t really know before then. I just knew that you can play poker professionally, but I didn’t know that there is a flourishing industry, and there are so many people playing the game professionally. So, that kind of exposed me to everything about poker, and that is also where I learned a lot.”
Striking GOLD: Going From ₹6,000 to ₹30 Lakhs in a Week!
Perseverance is a key trait to have for any professional poker player since downswings are part and parcel of any player’s life. Tournament players call it variance, but most folks know it’s not always bad luck that keeps you down.
After making up his mind about becoming a poker pro, Kripalani busted his bankroll almost 20 times. Nonetheless, he kept on persevering and rebuilding his bankroll from scratch by going back to grinding the small stakes cash games. With Abhishek Jalan staking him in 2018, Kripalani the financial support he needed to take shots playing the higher stakes tournaments and cash games.
“I played under stake, and then in 2018, I met Abhishek Jalan, and he decided to stake me for tournaments and cash games. We had a good six-month ride, and after that, he moved back to his hometown. So, somehow staking didn’t work out. After that, I continued grinding cash games for another six months to one year, you know till 2019’s end basically.”
By the time COVID-19 hit the country, and the nationwide lockdown was announced, Kripalani had just ₹6,000 left in his bankroll. And just then, things started to look up for the young star. He decided to deposit his remaining bankroll on Spartan Poker, and the rest, as they say, is history!
“Around the time COVID-19 started to impact on a global scale, in December 2019, I was still playing cash games. Then, the Indian government announced the nationwide lockdown in March 2020, I only had ₹6,000 left. I deposited the money on Spartan Poker and started playing a couple of the small tournaments. I came sixth in the Night Rider and banked about ₹19,000. Then the next day, I won the Destiny for ₹13.5 Lakhs.”
Kripalani’s luck changed within a week, and it continued to get better.
“That same Sunday, I won the PMVS Main Event for ₹8.5 Lakhs, and the following Wednesday, I won the Destiny again for ₹12.5 Lakhs. So, within one week, I managed to go from ₹6,000 to ₹30 Lakhs!”
Impact of the COVID-19 Lockdown
Like most online poker professionals, the nationwide lockdown turned out to be a boom for Kripalani, who decided to double down and put all his efforts into becoming a better poker player. Though he had decided to turn pro a while back, the discipline and seriousness needed to succeed in the sport were lacking. His newfound success brought with it a renewed sense of determination and control over his skill. He also began to take inspiration from more established players, imbibing their practices and discipline.
“The lockdown started on March 31, 2020, in Maharashtra, and Destiny was on April 1. The moment the lockdown happened, the next day, I won Destiny, and I decided that I would make the best use of this lockdown, and for the next three-four months, I was going to work on building my bankroll. And after that one week, I was pretty speechless, to be honest, like I didn’t know what happened. It just happened, and I didn’t know how to react. It definitely took like a month or two months for the magnitude of what happened to kick in. I just decided to play my best poker.”
“I didn’t have a grind routine before. Whenever I felt like I played, I played, and whenever I didn’t feel like playing, and I wanted to chill, I used to go chill. So, I didn’t really have any sort of discipline before lockdown. I wanted to turn pro, but I didn’t have the discipline or knew what it took to be a professional poker player. When lockdown happened and I won these tournaments, I started to follow these other MTT players, and I saw that these guys are playing every day. I saw how much volume and effort they were putting in, and then I could see the direct comparison with their success rate. That is when I understood that I needed to dedicate my life to this. I finally understood what was required to succeed in poker.”
“Throughout 2020, during the lockdown, my schedule was just waking up at 3-4 PM, eating something, then relaxing for a bit, maybe getting in a workout, and then begin playing poker by 9 PM. For most of 2020, that’s what I did. Just wake up, eat, play poker, and go back to sleep. My schedule changed a bit in 2021. I skip certain days now. I don’t play on Saturdays and Mondays. I don’t play when I’m not feeling good. I will go to the extent of skipping a Sunday also if I’m not feeling great. I have skipped two Sundays till now, I think in 2021. So, it depends on the mindset that I’m in. I definitely only play when I’m feeling good, but I try to play four days a week. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday are definite days. Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday are negotiable.”
Kripalani’s mother, like most parents, wasn’t initially accepting of the idea of her son playing poker professionally. But, with time, she came to see not only was her son successful in the path that he had chosen for himself but that he was happy playing poker as a full-time job.
“I stay with my mom right now, and she is 100% supportive of me playing poker. Initially, of course, she wasn’t happy. Like five years back, when I had told her that I was playing poker online, her reaction was like any other parent. She was like, ‘Oh my god! You’re gambling!’ It was as much a learning curve for her as it was for me. She didn’t understand why I wanted to quit my job to play poker. But she knows that I have to be happy with what I am doing in life at the end of the day, and she gave me full freedom to pursue whatever I wanted to do. She told me, ‘if you want to pursue poker, then go for it. I’ll give you one year. If anything happens in that time, then you can continue. If not, then you have to do something else with your life.’ And I don’t blame her for giving this condition. If you are pursuing something for 2-3 years and it’s not working out, then maybe it isn’t the best thing for you. She gave me the time I needed, and she, too, eventually understood my passion. So yeah, she’s very understanding.”
Dealing With Downswings
For a player who experienced downswings pretty early on in his poker career, Kripalani is somewhat self-aware of what the reason behind his downswings are and how to deal with them.
“Most of my downswings are self-induced. They are mainly due to playing badly more than running bad. You can say tilt issues or lack of discipline. So, all these minor issues prevent you from playing your best, and just dealing with these is not as easy as people think. You know it takes a mind of steel to just ignore all this and just power through.”
Elaborating on the steps he takes to overcome downswings, Kripalani adds, “I just meet my friends and take my attention away from the game. I spend some time with family to get some perspective on what I am really doing at the end of the day. While I am dedicating my life to playing poker, it’s not the be-all and end-all of everything. Sometimes it’s important to take a break from the game, and when you do that, it will be your family and friends who make you feel more grounded and relaxed. So, that is what helps me. Just sitting down and thinking and being aware and realizing my mistakes is the main thing. Because if you play for 20 days continuously and don’t realize your mistakes, you’re going to keep making those mistakes day after day. But if you have a little hindsight, if you just sit down and reflect on your mistakes, evaluate the hands you have played, you’ll come out a much better player. I think that helps irrespective of whether you’re on a downswing or upswing.”
Memorable Poker Moments
The life-changing week that saw Kripalani go from ₹6,000 to₹ 30 Lakhs undoubtedly tops the charts of cherished memories. However, since then, Kripalani has added several other poker achievements to remember, including flagship titles like the Game Changer 3.0, the WPT India Super High Roller, and his career-first IOPC The Millionaire United.
“The first memorable moment was that one week where everything happened. That was the most life-changing. And after that, I won the Game Changer 3.0 for over ₹40 Lakhs, and that’s the biggest prize money I have ever won – so that tops the list. Then one of my favorite moments was when I won the WPT Super High Roller since it is such a prestigious tournament. Since I was 15 and 16, I’ve been watching WPT videos, and even though it’s only in the Indian circuit, it’s still a big achievement for me. So, yeah, that was a nice moment, and then winning the Millionaire in January was definitely my favorite tournament win because The Millionaire is my favorite tournament.”
Improving His Gameplay
When asked how he intends to continue enhancing his poker skills, Kripalani says, “I play across all sites, so I probably know almost 90 percent of the players playing on the Indian field, and I know their tendencies. I have a lot of information on them which I can use against them. I watch all the top Indian players who are doing well today when they make it to a final table. I see what they are doing, and I try to absorb as much information as I can from them. I use all the free information from sites like Raise Your Edge and GGPoker.”
On the matter of poker coaching and using a solver, he says, “I know that to play on sites like GGPoker and Natural8 and to travel to Las Vegas for the WSOP and play in High Roller and Super High Roller events, I have to be on the same level as the top players. And for that, I will need to study a course or use a solver because that level of information is needed to compete with the best in the world. So, it’s not something I’ve thought about yet, but we’ll see. It’s open-ended at the moment.”
Live Poker Experience
Kripalani may be an online beast, but he does enjoy live poker as well. Though his live tournament poker resume is lacking currently, with just one final table finish in the 2018 WPT India ₹25K Big Bounty – fourth for ₹2.17 Lakhs. Nevertheless, he has played a lot of live cash and does look forward to expanding his live exploits once the COVID-19 situation normalizes.
“I have played in tournaments, and I have played cash games. I love the atmosphere of live tournaments. Like the who’s-who of the poker community, all turn out to play live tournaments. It’s such a good feeling to be around so many players that understand the same thing that you’re going through because you know you can’t really speak to a layman about poker. After all, they won’t understand what you’re talking about. Whether it’s the game or its mental aspect, whether you speak about the discipline or anything else that requires you to be a poker player. So, just being around poker players, in general, is a good feeling, and yeah, especially in a live tournament series, it’s probably the best feeling.”
“One of the reasons I chose poker as a profession is because it gives you the freedom to travel. And I love traveling, I love seeing new places, a new place, especially places with a lot of nature. So, I’ll definitely be going to play some live tournaments once the COVID-19 situation is over.”
Role Models & Poker Aspirations
With Indian poker players thriving on the domestic and international circuits, there are many established and upcoming players to take inspiration from. For Kripalani, Sriharsha Doddapaneni, Young Gun Gaurav Sood, and Raghav Bansal are the ones he aspires to be like.
“I look up to players like Sriharsh (Doddapaneni). Definitely Gaurav Sood, for what he’s done and what he’s doing. Raghav Bansal because that guy is one of the top players in India.”
When it comes to his poker aspirations, Kripalani doesn’t have long-term plans for poker yet. He is content just taking it one day at a time.
“I haven’t thought about any long-term plans for poker. I’m not sure if I want to crush on the international sites. It takes something else to do that. You have to dedicate 14-15 hours a day if you want to do that. So, right now, I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I’m happy with the results I have. I’m happy with the reciprocation it is giving me. Right now, my main goal is to just play my best every day and be better than I was the previous day. So, that is my immediate short-term goal.”
“If anyone wants to be a poker player, then just understand that it’s a lifestyle, it’s not a game. Anywhere or any profession in which you can lose money at the click of a button is not a game. You have to move fast and move beyond that aspect of it being a game. It’s much more than that. So, if you want to play poker in today’s world, you have to be serious about it. That’s it,” Kripalani signs off.