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Heads-Up With Sahil Nair – Winner of PokerBaazi’s ₹1 Crore GTD #BB2 MoneyMaker
Taking the hot seat in this Champion’s Speak interview is this week`s ₹1 Crore GTD #BB2 MoneyMaker winner Sahil Nair. The 34-year-old from Gurgaon has been playing poker for 15 years and only last year decided to go pro. And what a start he has had to his poker career!
This past Sunday, Nair navigated through a stacked 942-entry field in PokerBaazi`s BB2 MoneyMaker, becoming the 15th player to win the flagship title and a career-best ₹14.79 Lakhs in prize money.
For the most part, Nair’s life has been a conventional one. After graduating from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, he attended HEC Paris to complete his MBA. After that, he returned to India and went to work in his family’s garment manufacturing business.
Nair was first introduced to poker while in college in the US, and over time his passion for the game kept growing. He followed poker intimately, watched numerous videos, and even kept tabs on event coverage online. After playing poker seriously for four years, he finally took the plunge last year by deciding to become a professional poker player.
A new father, Nair, says his family is exceptionally supportive of his decision to play poker full-time. And while he says that he doesn’t have a big poker circle of friends, he credits PokerGuru Ambassador Laksh Pal Singh and Shagun Jain with helping him with his game.
His short-term goal is to enhance his poker skills and provide for his family. Well, it seems that he is already off to a great start! His latest MoneyMaker win, which ended a nearly eight-month-long title drought, boosted his online winnings to ₹1.25 Crores (₹48.13 Lakhs in net profits).
Winning PokerBaazi’s #BB2 MoneyMaker
Nair triumphed over a 932-entry field in the wee hours of April 4 to become the 15th MoneyMaker champion, ending an almost eight-month-long title drought.
Talking about his Sunday win, Nair said, “My Sunday Grind started early because I play on all the sites, and I try to play the satellites to the bigger buy-in tournaments when I can. Overall, I’ve been getting decent scores in MTTs, but never something as big as this. I was super happy and relieved to have finally won a big tournament. I don’t put in as much volume as the other players do. I play just twice a week, so I was just really happy to win the MoneyMaker.”
Recapping His MoneyMaker Run
Talking about his run in the #BB2 MoneyMaker, Nair recalled, “There was one standout hand, in particular, that I was telling a couple of my friends about this morning. I think it was during the final two tables, so there would have been like 15 people left, and I think it was a standard shove. I’m not sure I’ll have to check, but it was blind vs. blind. I was in the small blind. I think I was down to less than ten bigs. So, I shoved with King-Deuce offsuit, and I got snapped by the big blind who had pocket nines. I think the flop went King-9-X, King-9-3, or something. I was pretty sure I was dead. I was ready to put my computer off and go to bed. That was probably less than 1% probability for me to win the hand, I guess, and it came runner-runner deuce King, so I had a better full house at the end of it. That was the turning point. I would have been out of the final table, like 15th, if it wasn’t for that. I got super lucky. That was the biggest spot that I got lucky in. And then there were a couple of key flips, and you have to win your flips in the crucial moments, which I was fortunate enough to win.”
“The final table was tough. There were some amazing players there. I was just trying to be patient. I don’t have that much final table experience. I’ve been working a lot on my game but not that much on my final table play, so I was a little nervous going in, but I just stayed patient. And again, I won key flips at the final table as well. And when it came down to heads up. I’m not sure who my opponent was. I don’t think I’ve seen him much on the felts, but we were both very happy to make a deal. It was a big chunk of money for both of us, and we were happy to chop. I think when there were four people, we were the only two who were looking for anyone interested in making a deal. As soon as we reached heads up, I think we played one hand or two hands, and we decided to chop,” added Nair about his heads-up deal with Manmeet Oberai.
Introduction to Poker
Sharing his poker journey, Nair revealed that he discovered poker while studying at the prestigious Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“When I was in college in the States, I discovered poker during my second year. This would have been 2007 when I was introduced to online poker. Tom Dwan was all the rage back then. High-stakes poker was very popular. And being on the East Coast, we started going to Atlantic City, where the casinos were. I went with a few friends there. I became quickly obsessed with the game and followed the televised coverage of WSOP and WPT tournaments, and watched cash game shows like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark regularly. These shows were more for entertainment, but I was still hooked on the strategy aspect of the game. I was fascinated by how some of these top players (Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, etc.) would consistently keep winning. I found this very intriguing. Soon I realized that the type of thinking that poker requires is something that sort of fits me. I’ve been so passionate about the game ever since I was introduced to it, and today I feel very grateful and lucky to be able to play the game.
Nair correctly pointed out that only a fair few people get the opportunity to turn their hobby into a full-time job, and he considers himself to be part of that small but fortunate group.
“Not everyone can turn their hobby into a full-time job and enjoy it while they do it. I started back in 2007 and went on to play online just for fun. I was a complete fish, obviously. I didn’t know the proper strategy at all. I was just doing it because I liked it. I was playing on and off for a few years for fun but began taking it more seriously when I moved back to India after my MBA. I’ve always been in touch with what’s going on in the poker world, and when solvers came out, that fascinated me. For the last couple of years, I’ve been taking the game more seriously, trying to have a more structured approach to the game. It’s such a vast world, and there’s so much to learn. And I still have a long way to go. I know that.”
Given all the stories we hear of how families are not supportive of up-and-coming poker players, many even hide their passion from their families; it always brings a smile to our face when we learn of supporting families. And Sahil Nair is indeed a lucky man to have a family who encourages him in his career as a full-time poker player.
“My family has been extremely supportive throughout. They’ve always known that I enjoyed poker. I love the game, but I don’t think it’s a very conventional career. So it took a decent amount of convincing. It took a few conversations – that this is what I’m thinking. And at that point, even I wasn’t sure. Like, you’re also nervous. I was thinking – should I take the plunge? Should I do it? It’s not easy. It’s a risky proposition. But yeah, I think they were really supportive. My wife has been unbelievably supportive. She was the one who pushed me to go for it. Our son was just a few months at the time, so it was definitely not the easiest time to make the decision! Overall, my family, my in-laws, and everyone is very supportive. And again, I’m just so grateful for that because if it weren’t for that, I would not have been able to do it the way I’m doing it. So absolutely, I thank my stars every day to be in this situation.”
All Praises For PokerBaazi
Nair had some great things to say about the gameplay experience on PokerBaazi, and he was all praises for their upgraded software.
“I really like the site. I think they had made some big changes a few months ago on the software, and it’s become a lot better, a lot more user-friendly. I think it’s my favorite site to play on. I play tournaments on Thursdays and Sundays, and I play cash games the rest of the days. I play both. I do cash and tournaments. The tournaments give that peak in the graphs, and the cash games keep the scoreboard ticking a little bit, which helps. But yeah, it’s been great on PokerBaazi, and they’ve had a great series. I was in Goa for the BPT that just happened. That was also amazing. It was so good to play live after a couple of years, and it’s been great. The range of tournaments they have offers something for everyone, from the smaller buy-ins to the bigger buy-ins. Absolutely excellent. Really good. No complaints at all.”
Balancing Poker Grind & Family Life
While poker is an unconventional career and it’s not easy to balance the poker routine and family. Especially with an infant in the house, Nair has learned to balance the two worlds by playing tournaments only two days a week and grinding cash games the rest of the time.
“Mondays and Fridays become a little difficult for me because Sundays and Thursdays are late nights. So Mondays and Fridays, I sleep in a bit. But generally, how I do it, I go to the gym from 7-8 and then from 9:30- 10 in the morning till about lunch, I devote myself to studying—just working on my game, whether it’s going over some hand history reviews or working on specific spots. After lunch, I play a little cash. I do it so that I’m done with my workdays, usually by 5:30. So after 5:30, I’m with my family hanging out or meeting up with friends. So this is the basic structure, but sometimes diaper emergencies happen with a little baby around the house! I have had to rush in and change his diaper in the middle of the poker grind a few times! And again, poker is something that has given me the flexibility to still be able to spend time with my family.”
Poker & Life Goals
Nair turned pro about a year ago, and his immediate goal, for now, is to improve his game. He acknowledged that his life goals are interwoven with his poker goals, as he wants to provide for his family by playing poker.
“Well, ever since last year when I decided to go full-time, I guess my short-term goal, meaning for the next two to three years, was to be able to do this full time. In a sense, I want to provide for my family and have a good work-life balance, which I’ve been trying to achieve. To continue working on my game, improve the game because the results will come eventually. And I’ve seen this first-hand. I’ve been working hard on my game for the past six to seven months. So, I see the results coming. My immediate goal is just to continue to improve my game. I’ve given myself like two to three years of doing this full-time. And this is my first goal. To be able to provide for my family.”
“And another reason I was drawn to the game was the flexibility it would give me for work-life balance – to spend time with my son and my wife and family and travel.”
Like many other poker players, Nair has discovered how poker situations often imitate real life.
Elaborating on the life lessons he has learned from the game, he said, “The biggest lesson poker has taught me is to stay humble. Poker is a game, and there are a lot of parallels to life. It’s like a metaphor for life in so many situations because no matter how much you strive for excellence, it’s something that you need to continuously work hard towards. Like in life, there are so many different, unique situations that arise in poker. You need to be wary of so many nuances in poker. You need to keep working on it. And it’s a brutal game. The variance hits you hard, so you need to keep your head above the water, and keep fighting and grinding. And it helps if you enjoy the process. You have the moments of tilt and frustration that, ‘Oh, my God, I busted. My Aces got cracked etc.,’ This is all part of the game. You have to keep going and trust the process. The long-run is what matters in poker.”
Words of Advice
Sharing some valuable advice, Nair underlined the importance of taking breaks from the game.
“Breaks are really good for the mind. It’s good if you’re grinding seven days a week for months at a stretch, but it’s important to take a break for three or four days and do nothing poker-related. It gives you that fresh start that your brain needs to recharge.”
Sahil Nair’s short-term poker goals seem to have kicked off with a bang, and we wish him many more such wins (both online and offline) in the future!