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Gracing this Monday Motivation feature is Dhinesh Kumar, the winner of Spartan Poker`s ₹1 Crore GTD WCS#40 – United! The 26-year-old trounced a 1,468-entry in the first of the two ₹1 Crore GTD events on the Winter Celebration Series schedule on Sunday for ₹18.16 Lakhs, bagging the second-best payout of his online career!
The Chennai-based MTT pro is a well-known name on the domestic online circuit with several big scores to his name, including multiple seven-figure scores.
We got on a video call with the latest poker sensation to find more about his poker journey! As it turns out, his story is an incredible one, and his first tryst with poker was when he was just 15 years old. The former Full House Finale champion self-admittedly was always more drawn towards sports than academics. This pushed him to pursue other sports like cricket and badminton. This encouraged him to take cricket coaching as well! Although it didn’t work out, Kumar soon found the right sport for himself!
Like many others, Kumar, too, discovered poker on Facebook playing Zynga Poker. After completing his graduation in Electronics and Communications Engineering in 2017, Kumar did not even appear for a single job interview and straight-up deep-dived into poker. The rest, as they say, is history!
Recounting the early days of his poker journey, Kumar said, “I entered poker when I was in my 11th grade. My entry into poker was completely different. I used to play lots of video games. PC games, not online games. I remember one such game that had poker in it. I kept losing in the game, but I still liked it. There was something unique about the game. So, I straight away went to Google to search about the rules and procedure of playing the game.”
Kumar admits he was not the best student in school and tried his hand at Badminton and Cricket but quickly realized some players were far better than him.
He had a few vacation months before college, and he upped the hours he was spending playing poker. “After I finished college, there was a three-to-four month gap between joining a job. So, I was very much free at that time. So, then I started playing poker. I said to myself, I have a natural potential to play poker. So, then I started playing online a lot. Free money only.” Kumar remembers.
He shared how his mother deposited ₹1,000 in his account, which was roughly $20 at the time. He deposited the money into one of the foreign sites and started grinding at the micro-stakes. “I told myself that if I lose this money, I’m not getting back to poker. But I lost the money in two days!”
Poker was beckoning, and Kumar continued to widen his game knowledge. He watched many YouTube videos of players like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey and decided to take another shot. “I used to grind at the stakes of $0.5…I grinded my way to making $3. I entered a $1 game and won $40. I didn’t want to lose this money, so I was disciplined in my approach. Then I won $150 in a game which was my biggest win at the time.”
Kumar even applied at many international staking stables but wasn’t taken in. Finally, a UK-based stable agreed to back him. He played under the stable for over a year and honed his grasp of the fundamentals from some of their coaches. However, the stable closed down, and in between, Kumar completed his Engineering.
He had a big decision to make after graduation, continue playing poker or take up a job. He applied to several Indian stables, and finally, after months of chasing, Abhishek Rathod from the Indian Poker Pros (IPP) stable took Kumar in. Kumar has been with IPP for nearly four years and has found solid support in Rathod. He was also all praises for his other coach, Danish Shaikh! Today he considers joining the stable to be the most significant turnaround of his poker career.
Talking about his experience of being mentored by Shaikh, Kumar said, “Everyone knows Danish. He is like more than a brother to me. From the day I joined IPP, he has been trying to personally help me. Even today, when I talked to him about the scores, he told me to keep going; it will work. He still coaches me, and he has full confidence in me. That I am becoming a better player.”
In fact, Shaikh’s confidence in Kumar was so strong that from the very beginning of coaching him, Shaikh had said that within six months, Kumar would notice vast improvements in his game. Lo and behold! As the six-month deadline approached, Kumar won Spartan Poker’s The Millionaire Lite for ₹10 Lakhs!
Kumar also has a solid support system in IPP, with stablemates like Anurag Srivastav and Aayush Arya always ready to review hand histories or discuss spots with him. “I sometimes do my hand reviews with others like Ayush (Arya) and Anurag (Srivastav). They are my friends from IPP. When you consult with other players and get their opinions, instead of studying alone. If you study along, you will get the answer, but if you consult with other people, you will get an idea of their thought processes. If they are not available, I contact Danish or Abhishek.”
Despite a topsy-turvy poker journey, Kumar has over the years established himself as a standout winner. While his career-biggest score of ₹25 Lakhs had come in Adda52’s Full House in August last year, his runner-up finish in The Millionaire in October, and his recent ₹18.16 Lakhs score has given his poker bankroll a significant boost.
Talking about his winning run in Spartan Poker’s WCS#40 – United, Kumar said, “Winning over ₹18 Lakhs is obviously big in my career, but it is still not my biggest career score. Last year, I shipped the Full House for ₹25 Lakhs. This is my second-biggest score, so yeah, it was a good amount, but I didn’t feel as excited as I had been for my Full House victory. Having said that, my friends and players were railing me on the FT, so it was all good to win it in the end.”
Kumar also shared some insight about his downswings, mentioning that downswings are as much a part of poker as winning. “People only know about my winnings, but I have also had a huge downswing in my poker career a couple of times. The first poker downswing happened like two years back when I lost ₹12 Lakhs. Then I covered that. My most recent downswing happened like a year back. It took me a year to overcome the downswing. It was almost ₹14 Lakhs. During that time, I was not making any money from poker. I was playing from my savings. So, people should know that poker is not just about winning. It’s also about the downswings. I may have won ₹18 Lakhs, But I have also experienced downswings.”
Interestingly, while Kumar was chasing the WCS#40 – United title, he played on other tables that weren’t going well for him. Digging his heels, he still managed to pull off the win. Sharing the details on how he kept a level head through the arduous Sunday grind, Kumar revealed, “I was mostly focusing on 6-7 tables, but it turned out to be a terrible day for me. I was playing on seven tables, but by 11.30 PM, I was on only two tables. I was joking with my friends on the group chat that I was getting bored since now I only have two tables. But then I decided to focus and try making good of the opportunity at hand. I knew that the tournament would not be very deep structured, so you will be the chip leader if you have like 25-28 BBs. So, whoever played their short stack at the right time is going to win. I had been waiting for the right time, studying the spots on how to counter and exploit the players, so it was pretty much experience that worked for me.”
Given his calm temperament and poker prowess, it comes as no surprise that Kumar has already accumulated ₹3.93 Crores in online winnings, with ₹1.69 Crores in net profits to his name. He is presently ranked 35th on the annual leaderboard with ₹1.74 Crores in yearly earnings (₹65.98 Lakhs in net profits).
However, Kumar admits that he is not a strong live player, claiming he has difficulty controlling his emotions. “I haven’t played a lot of live games. I have only attended two-to-three series like IPC and BPT. I am a very bad player playing live. I am not able to control my emotions. I have to calculate the stakes. I am not good at it. I do play from time to time, just for a change and to meet up with my friends.”
Kumar’s poker goals are relatively simple; he just wants to “keep grinding!” As for his poker mantra, he says, “Poker is all about adjusting to players.”
A BIG shoutout to Dhinesh Kumar and how far he has come in the game!