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Streaming in poker is the latest trend and many of the top pros have taken a shine to it. While Jason Somerville has a platoon of over 220K Twitch followers, Doug Polk himself has 235K YouTube subscribers. Lex Veldhuis, Jaime Staples and Arlie Shaban have all created strong streaming personas for themselves and have an ever-growing number of followers and subscribers.
Even though India has a mature and keen poker audience, poker streaming has not yet made its mark on the domestic circuit.
PokerGuru Young Gun Sharad Rao (cover image) is trendsetter-early streamers on the circuit today who came out with an interesting and insightful bankroll challenge that he streamed from January 30 to February 6. The main goal of the challenge was to try and spin up a starting bankroll of ₹2,000 to ₹10,000 playing ₹1/₹2 and ₹2/₹5 stakes cash games on domestic online sites.
Explaining the reason behind taking up the challenge Rao said, “There’s a real lack of content which is tailored for us Indians. I want to put content out there for each player class. With this challenge I wanted to address and show how with discipline and dedication you can turn ₹2,000 into ₹10,000 in a week. I played for 3 hours a day. So, if someone serious takes this up, you’re looking at ₹50,000-₹70,000 a month just playing ₹1/₹2 and ₹2/₹5 which is a pretty big deal in India.”
The young pro successfully played 12,043 hands of micro stakes cash games in a span of 7 days to complete this goal. Discussing his strategy for achieving his goal, Rao said, “My strategy going in was simple. Follow BRM [Bankroll Management], take calculated shots with profits, play 3-4 hours a day. I played my A-game and tried to capitalise on the mistakes my opponents made in their strategies.”
The Bankroll Challenge
From January 30 to February 6, Rao live streamed (with small delay) his cash game sessions (all part of his self imposed ₹2,000 to ₹10,000 bankroll challenge) on Twitch and YouTube showcasing his day-to-day progress in the challenge including both upswings and downswings.
While he made a slow start in the challenge with little progress in the first two days, by Day 4 he had almost doubled his starting bankroll. He really got going in the last three days where he surged through, completing the challenge fairly easily in the end.
He started off on Day 1 with ₹2,000 and was simultaneously streaming his online grind on both YouTube and Twitch.
On Day 2 he started off with ₹2,454 and played four tables of ₹1/₹2, ₹200 buy-in, while also running deep in the PokerStars India HighRoller NLHE ₹10 Lakhs GTD.
Day 3 saw Rao start off with ₹1,830, which was ₹130 less than the previous day’s starting amount. Throughout the session he held his ground and ended with ₹2,954.
By Day 5, he had consolidated to ₹3,704 in the bankroll challenge.
He was halfway to reaching his goal on Day 6 and started off with ₹5,513.
The final day, i.e. Day 7, he began with a bankroll of ₹8,833 and by the end of the session, he had successfully completed his challenge and achieved his goal of ₹10,000!
Throughout his streams, Rao constantly kept explaining the reasoning behind the moves he was making, even commentating and reacting to the online action in a candid and lively manner.
Rao streaming the successful completion of his bankroll challenge is an inspiration to all budding poker players. His love for poker is clearly visible as he feels that absolutely anyone can take up poker as a profession if they simply have the passion for it. “A college kid, a house wife, maybe just a random person who wants to make an extra buck, if you treat poker as a profession and give it your utmost dedication, it could be your way to an early retirement or financial freedom.”
Sharad Rao’s Poker Journey
A rising star of Indian poker, Rao, has achieved a lot in his young career. What had started as a means of buying a bike, has ultimately converted into a profession and a profession that Rao is doing really well in.
Reminiscing about his Young Gun feature that was posted by us in 2016, Rao said, “I remember the first PokerGuru feature fondly [laughs]. It actually changed my life. Danish [Shaikh] referred me into Pocarr after he read about me and I learned everything I know today there [smiles].”
His exploits on the virtual felts are well-known, nonetheless, he has also delivered power-packed performances on the live felts. Starting from his first live score which came in the IPC Main Event in 2015 where he finished 6th for ₹2.75 Lakhs, Rao has participated in several domestic and international events, posting scores in the 2017 The Wynn Summer Classic, Rio Daily Deepstacks, 48th World Series of Poker (WSOP) and 2018 WPT India.
“I have played the WSOP Main Event, won the SHR in goa, took 2nd in Sunday Million, played the PSPC. A bunch of good stuff,” he said talking about the highlights of his poker journey.
But like any other sport, poker too requires dedication and hard work, Rao certainly understands the level of commitment and perseverance needed to succeed, “Lost a lot of friends, made a few on the way to all of that. Guess that’s a trade-off you’ve got to do if you want to chase something big. Put your head down and grind. Gottta say no to everything else and be in the lab studying!”
Rao had previously stated that he used to play a lot of freerolls in the early stages of his career and that he “never deposited a single rupee for poker ever”. Confirming that the online phenom said, “Yeah, I run good in big spots. Have been spinning my first freeroll till date [laughs]!”
The freeroll maestro now has his very own poker staking stable, Alpha Grinders. “I stake and coach a small group of players who I feel have the qualities needed to be a crusher in the tough games we have today. If you play 10/25 and above and would be interested in working with us shoot me a DM and we could chat.”
The PSPC Experience
Though his live poker career is still nascent, he is undoubtedly a beast on the online felts and a master at winning freerolls! In fact, that is how he punched his ticket to the biggest $25K buy-in tournament in the history of world poker, i.e. the 2019 PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC). He was in fact the second Indian to get his hands on the much sought-after PSPC Platinum Pass when he took down the freeroll event at the PokerStars India Diwali Rush series in November last year.
Meet Sharad Rao, a 24yr old poker player from Pune.
In last year’s Diwali Rush Series, he won a #PlatinumPass to play the $25,000 PokerStars Player’s Championship in The Bahamas.
Can he start out 2019 with a big win? Watch the film: https://t.co/RV6aa9QFd8 #PSPCTeamIndia #PSPC pic.twitter.com/lbcLxAXylE
— PokerStars India (@PokerStarsIN) January 3, 2019
Rao was among a group of eight Indians to win the coveted PSPC Platinum Pass, along with Sumit Sapra, Nikhil Segel, Kavin Shah, Raman Gujral, Vivek Singh, Saurabh Sindhwani and Aneesh Nair. He had even bagged the biggest stack among the Indian contingent at the end of Day 1 and though he failed to make it in the money at the historic event, it was an incredible experience for the youngster.
“Bahamas was pretty sick. Playing in a really tough line-up and being able to hold your own gives you a lot of confidence boost. The event was exceptionally structured and managed too which added to the experience!” Rao recalled.
When asked what is next in the cards for him, Rao replied, “I haven’t actually planned what’s next in store for me. I might stream more or do a challenge which addresses the 2nd tier of players [intermediate level ones]. For now, I’m just taking things slow, back at my routine, chilling with dogs, streaming a bit. I’ll hopefully plan something and announce it in a couple of weeks!”
He even shared tips for up-and-coming players playing micro stakes. “Keep things simple. Play ABC. Play strong hands. Never slowplay. Be positionally aware. Treat it like your business. If you treat it like an amateur, you’ll likely have amateurish results. Bring the best you’ve got to the table and you shall do well.”
We wish Sharad good luck for his future endeavours and we will surely be keeping an eye out for his next challenge!