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In this week`s Monday Motivation feature, we canvass the poker journey of a well-known player in the poker circuit Siddharth Pandey.
Pandey, a sports entrepreneur by the day and a poker player most other times, won PokerBaazi`s Sunday flagship BSS SuperStack for the second time last month, where he outlasted a 519-entry field to collect an impressive ₹4.37 Lakhs payday. We are mid-way through March, and Pandey has already won four marquee tournaments this year, pushing his tracked online winnings north of ₹3.79 Crores!
For someone who calls poker a side hustle and claims to have never taken professional coaching, Pandey boasts of an impressive poker scorecard littered with several flagship titles like Iron Man, Battle Royale, ReCharge, The Bout, La Luna, Trending Thursday, Sixth Sense – to name just a few. He also made the FT in PokerBaazi’s The MoneyMaker in October 2020 and won a career-best ₹5.30 Lakhs in Adda52’s The Ballers last month.
Winning His 2nd BSS SuperStack Title
Talking to us after the eventful Sunday, the 40-year-old player who co-owns the sports management company LEH LEH Sports and Engagement Solutions said – “It feels great; it’s always a good feeling to win a tournament!”
Battling through a crowded field, Pandey came up against Nathaniel Fancon heads-up. The duo decided to chop the top prize, with Pandey taking home the title. He talked about a memorable clash with Fancon during the heads-up. Both players were neck-to-neck when the hand played out, but Fancon held the chip lead. He was predictably aggressive, and Pandey won a big pot off Fancon with pocket jacks to snatch the lead that ultimately bagged him the title!
“The board opened low cards and did not only make a straight but was paired as well. After the river, I thought Falcon would now jam, and he did. I snap-called with pocket jacks to grab the chip lead.”
Pandey hails from Allahabad but has lived in Delhi, Sydney, and Mumbai and only recently shifted to Dubai. Narrating his poker story, the SRCC graduate, Pandey informed how he was introduced to poker in Sydney and then played a few home games after returning to India in 2011.
Pandey moved to Mumbai and joined the renowned student organization AIESEC. He went on a year-long internship in Sydney and picked up a job there with Electrolux. Ironically, despite living in Sydney for six years, Pandey only played poker a handful of times with friends, never once stepping into any of the famous casinos there!
In 2011, Pandey decided to pack his bags for India, with the dream of starting his own sports company. Once in Delhi, he started giving more time to playing poker.
“Running a sports company is super fun, I came back to India 10 years ago, but somewhere along the way, I became an amateur poker player and got deeper and deeper into it.”
Adjusting to the Highs & Lows of Poker
Winning can surely hook anyone to poker, but you have to take the lows in your strides too. Pandey admits he got a jolt during the demonetization period when he went on a downswing in cash games. That`s when he realized how important it was to focus and make the right decision at every step of the game.
“Now, a few years down the line, I found my sweet spot, which is tournaments. You know I still occasionally get sucked in by the lure of cash games and PLO5 in particular.”
Building His Sports Management Company
Pandey is a co-founder of a company that works to make the earth a sportier planet. The firm has three verticals: community and corporate sports and a pay-and-play facility called SPADA Arenas in Gurgaon. Clearly, poker plays a central role for this die-hard sports enthusiast, and Pandey, who has been teaching sports management in a few institutes, has been passionately chasing the goal of promoting poker. This is why LEH LEH added a third vertical – promoting poker and other skill-based games.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve organized, hosted, and run several leagues and tournaments, events for corporate clients, co-working spaces, alumni institutes, colleges, including a number of IIMs and IITs, and others. There is latent demand and interest in the sport; by and large, every single one of those events has been well received. We do freeroll tournaments, and people have loved it.”
Along the way, the company also struck a partnership with a top poker operator that sponsored offline and online events.
“They sponsored a couple of our events, and we got a partnership going, and we helped them get people onboard their platform,” Pandey explained, underlining that he has dabbled in live-streaming in the past that helped him engage better with the young audiences during these events.
Poker Memories & Idols
While Pandey calls himself an amateur player, he diligently plays poker four to five nights every week.
“My comfort level is six tables at a time, and 90% of my volume is in tournaments and the remaining 10-15% in cash games.”
In recent years he has been devoting more time to studying the game. While he predominantly plays online, one of his favorite poker memories is when he went on a holiday to Europe in 2016 and shipped a €110 buy-in tournament in Casino Barcelona, Spain, and won the prized trophy after a heads-up deal. Pandey banked approximately €2,000 in prize money, the trophy, and a goodie bag that he gifted his wife, effectively making his entire trip free.
“It was around 8 AM when I walked back into the hotel room with the trophy and the goodie bag…I woke up my wife and told her our Europe trip expenses were covered! It was a fun win because of the live setting, the language issue, and making a deal!”
Among the Indian crop, Pandey looks up to PokerGuru Staking’s Aditya Agarwal, PokerGuru Ambassadors Ashish Ahuja, and Laksh Pal Singh, along with MPL Team pro Dhaval Mudgal, Young Guns Gaurav Sood, and Arsh Grover, Muskan Sethi, Anant Purohit. According to Pandey, Niharika Bindra is one of the best live cash game players in Delhi.
Poker is a Mind Sport
Pandey feels poker as a mind sport has immense potential in India and is glad to see sports stars like Vishwanathan Anand and MS Dhoni endorsing the game.
“I think it’s the responsibility of every poker player to educate others about the skill and strategy aspect of the game.”
As for his poker plans, Pandey intends on putting more effort into studying. Since he’s never been coached in poker professionally, he plans to train his guns on that soon. He has cashed out once at the 2020 Baazi Poker Tour (BPT) but no, live poker and attending the upcoming BPT is not on the cards for Pandey, who just a month ago moved to Dubai.
Pandey’s advice to others interested in making it good in the game is simple – start putting in more time to study the game away from the tables. He re-iterates how easy it is to get sucked in by the lure of winning, but one should never play beyond their means.
A BIG shoutout to Siddharth Pandey, and we hope to see him winning many such tournaments in the future and wish him all the best for his passionate endeavors to promote poker in India!