8 mins Read
The poker-landscape in India is evolving at a rapid rate, gaining popularity, with increased accessibility of the game thanks to the several online platforms that offer great value in both tournaments and cash games.
28-year-old Anujkumar Kodam (cover image) from Bengaluru is a man who can’t stop smiling these days and with good reason, as he has been on a dream poker run recently. He is one of the big winners to emerge with the ongoing boom in poker, and his latest exploits include a historic win at India’s biggest online poker tournament till date. Yes, we are talking about the recently concluded PokerBaazi’s ₹1 crore GTD “The MoneyMaker” which literally shattered all previous records with a turnout of over 1,200 entries. Kodam has been increasingly making inroads in big tournaments and this time, he collected the biggest score of his poker career banking a cool ₹30.47 Lakhs.
It has truly been a breakout year for Kodam who seems to have discovered the secret sauce to binking big-ticket tournaments. His other big victories also include a title at the Adda52 Million High Roller event (final 9 handed table played live in Deltin Royale, Goa during DPT September). His maiden visit for the Macau Poker Cup further exposed him to international events and there too he made waves by cashing in the Baby Dragon Event.
On the poker table, he likes to be in “The Zone”, and he has recorded plenty of notable finishes in many tournaments and rightfully so, the man has taken the prime spotlight for which he is our next “Young Gun of Poker”.
These scores aroused PokerGuru’s curiosity and we decided to learn more about the man who goes by the moniker ‘aatmaan’ on domestic sites. He is truly a shining star on the Indian poker horizon, and is living proof that effort never goes waste!
Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview-
Hi Anuj, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 28 and currently stay in Bengaluru. I’m originally from Hyderabad. I passed out from IIT KGP & IIM Calcutta. I was working at OLA for the past two years and a few months ago I left my job there.
How and when did you come across the sport of poker? Please take us through the journey.
After graduation, while I was working in Bombay, I went to IIT Bombay to meet a friend and discovered a hostel game that was going on. I learnt the rules before that, but I started playing thereon. From that hostel room to Goa to Joka (IIM Calcutta) to Bangalore to online poker. That’s been my poker journey.
How was your experience playing PokerBaazi’s “The MoneyMaker”?
I was super exciting to play the biggest tournament till date in India. About the game, it was a weird one to be honest. When I started I was already in a good zone, I was playing and ran deep in another event and when I busted that I was pissed off as I made a mistake, and switching from late stage to early stage game was frustrating and boring.
I started playing some random hands and stacked off Ax Jx < Ax Kx on a small board. I then rebought at around 20bb stack. Blind into blind, I gave a suck out to Sharad ‘keenyle’ Rao. I was like, let me just chill and play, so I started watching Rick and Morty. I completed the entire season 1 and 2, meanwhile playing a pretty solid game, mostly just nuts. Once near the bubble, I plugged in ‘Primed Mind’ and started playing more focused. I kind of got into a zone as the game progressed, which is an almost no thought zone.
Please tell us about The MoneyMaker final table journey. Any key hands or takeaways?
Overall, the final table and then the 3-handed play was a combination of a lot of fun, some very interesting spots and really good players, Vaibhav Sharma and Paawan Bansal continuously put pressure, I adjusted a little tighter and wanted to maintain the chip lead and picked good spots.
There was a key hand 3-way, I opened Jx Jx from small blind, Pawan in big blind flatted. Flop was 10 high (all diamonds), I didn’t have a diamond, I bet around 1/2 -2/3 pot, he called, turn was , I checked, he bet 1/2pot +, I called, river was , I checked and again he bet around 60-70% pot. I was blocking straights, didn’t have diamond blocker, more likely he has some, a Q or K is probably not betting given the lines. Either he had with a pair, which now is 2 pair or for a missed flush draw and of course some flopped flushes and thin value from sets & other 2 pairs. I called and I was good. He had missed the nut flush draw. This was a crucial hand from a game and mindset perspective.
You made several exploits and notable finishes recently. Please share some key scores and experiences.
My first big score was finishing 11th in SCOOP for around $5,000, which kind of built the confidence in me to play. Later I shipped and ran deep in many events and then shipped the Adda52 HR (online + live). Recently, I finished ITM in Baby Dragon in my first international tour to Macau.
The experience from each is really deep, as we all know; tournaments are really a cruel game. Most of the times you lose, sometimes it’s your mistakes, sometimes its variance, sometimes you don’t know which one it is. It can get really frustrating. I was trying to figure, what are the parameters that affect my game. I experimented with different combinations and figured what works.
If I have to say one thing that has been common among all of my winning tournaments, I got into this zone of complete silence within. The more I let go of myself, the more clear, fearless and honest I became, in turn that improved my decision making.
How much do you play & which variant of the game do you prefer playing? What’s your grinding schedule like?
I don’t really have a schedule. I love tournaments; I love heads-up Sit N Gos. I made my first bankroll from an HU SnG on PokerStars, that’s a huge benefit when I’m playing MTT’s as when we reach the top pay spots, I have a lot of play experience. I can mentally see what all routes this game can take and have a better game plan.
What’s your family’s understanding for the game?
They are very supportive, my mom loves it, and she has played a few live tourneys too. My Gf and now Wife is an avid player herself. I’ll not be surprised if you see her ship something soon.
What live events are you planning to attend later this year? Any set travelling plans?
I’m just beginning my live grind. I have played the last two Deltin Poker Tournaments and even went to Macau Poker Cup recently. I plan to play WPT India and have a few international trips on my radar.
How do you go about improving your game?
I think more than how, first one needs to establish ‘why’. Once you figure that for yourself, it’s just a matter of time, you’ll find ways.
I have a very fundamental approach, poker is a mind game for which you need a proper vision to see things clearly, then a proper mental code and then a balance within to be able to execute that code without any biases/impulses. I’m constantly working on all these aspects, for vision through yoga, for the mental code through – RaiseYourEdge, UpSwingPoker, Gripsed, a lot of podcasts/YouTube videos, hand history analysis, discussion with other players, feedback on plays etc.
For the balance again yoga, various audio tools like – podcasts on mindset, guided meditation tools like Primed Mind and I am constantly looking at my decision-making process, its biases and trying to improve.
Any tips you want to share for upcoming poker enthusiasts and how to approach things in the start?
A lot of people ping me about how to approach the game, especially when I’m vocal about yoga and its impact on my game. I would like to say again, first understand WHAT is the GAME.
This is where a lot of people fall. For example: If you see the best players, they are not really playing hands, but playing the game of navigating levels. This is a game changer literally! Once you realize and understand what the game really is, you are no more thinking in the structure that has been inorganically imposed upon you by reading bits and pieces of information, but a more holistic complete – personal understanding. This is imperative for you to become truly the best, look at any sport, any business, anything. You’ll find this across. Getting into that mindset is a journey, embarking upon this lifelong journey is the first step.
Then you figure what your weaknesses are, by talking to people, how they think about the game and seek sources from where you can get better. Obviously, you’ll get some bad advice along the way, but as you are figuring what is bad advice, you are learning. It’s a slow process, slow is relative. It takes an X amount of total knowledge, understanding & Y amount of application. It’s up to you how quickly you can put in the X & Y.
Who are the players you look up to?
There are many who inspire. Not necessarily only from poker. Floyd Mayweather with his 50-0 and a killer mindset, Fedor Holz for his approach, M.S Dhoni for his composure, Rafael Nadal for his intensity and many more.
Knowing about these players and many other legends through the Internet I realized, the true killers have the game below them. They see the game of life in the games they play. That being said, the player that inspire the most are the ones who truly play the game of life – Sadhguru, Osho and many other enlightened beings.
What are your plans for future? Any set goals?
No goals really. Just get up and do what I love.
Any parting words or anything you would like to add?
“Winning is not a goal, it’s a side outcome of your work ethic. Getting better at ‘Doing’ needs getting better at ‘Being’. Embrace the losses more than winnings; they are your true friends, who will build your character.” Much love!
Anuj signs off!