Gracing this edition of our Champions Speak is 28-year-old Haider Madraswala! The Chennai-based poker pro went on a rampage earlier this month as he won his first-ever Final Table Series title in the FTS #2 – Friday Special on Spartan Poker, banking a personal-best ₹9.74 Lakhs. But that’s not all! Madraswala came incredibly close to shipping his second FTS title in the FTS #8 – Sunday Special just days later but ultimately settled for a runner-up finish worth 7.38 Lakhs. However, he did take down PokerBaazi’s The Big Show on the same day for ₹1.65 Lakhs.
In the week between September 8 to 14, Madraswala was the only player to collect over ₹25 Lakhs in online winnings, ₹25.72 Lakhs to be precise, earning himself the “PokerGuru Star of the Week” title!
Talking about his stellar weekly run, the affable pro said, “Naturally, it feels great! I ask myself, while you have to be grateful no matter what happens, if you play as a professional, sometimes they ask you not to be results-oriented. You can have big wins, but you still feel the need to be accountable to yourself in terms of how you think you played. Because there is a bit of element of luck involved. It comes in waves, and you have to question that. So, if you ask me how I felt. I think I ran really good, but I feel like I am satisfied because I think I played decent as well. That’s where I get my happiness from. I treat this as a profession. I have got to be objective about it.”
Madraswala reflected how online poker sites have been dishing out one MTT series after another since the lockdown, which has been draining for most poker players. He shared how taking a break from the game helped his performance immensely. “We’ve had series since May. So, from May, June, July, every site, they were like series after series because of the lockdown. So, naturally, the sites choose to take advantage of that. By the end of August, I was drained. So must have been a lot of people who have been playing regularly. I took like a 10-day break. I traveled out and enjoyed my time. Took some time away from poker, see what was happening in the world again. Then I came back, and the minute I came back, I just started. I went on a tear, like a mini heater. I have been posting results every day for the last week. So, that was super cool.”
An old-timer, Madraswala, has been playing poker since his college days when he was studying B.Com at Loyola College. In fact, WSOP star Abhinav Iyer was the one who introduced him to the game. “Technically speaking, I was introduced to the game 8 or 9 years ago. This was my first year of college, in fact. So, actually, my journey started with Abhinav Iyer. Funnily he came down to Chennai for college, so we both were doing the same degree and were in the same batch. He had made a bunch of friends through whom he learned the game. I became friends with him and got introduced to the game. It was instantaneously gripping.”
“Interestingly, I had a huge taboo on card games or anything like that. Even if I go to a casino, I don’t touch anything else. It’s only poker. I don’t like Blackjack; I don’t like any other thing. They are also interesting games. But I just don’t seem to prefer it. It’s quite ironic for me to actually have gotten into the game, and now I am playing professionally.”
Reliving the memories from his early poker days, Madraswala shared, “We found ourselves bunking college to go to someone’s house and play. Then we’d be playing through the night. This was the theme until we realized that we could actually make some money by playing amongst friends. So, we started traveling to Bangalore. We grind it out hard at the small cash games throughout the 2nd and 3rd year of college. So, the more we played, we started developing a small bankroll. Then we started looking out for more games. We used to primarily play only cash games. Online hadn’t even really kicked off that much yet. We started looking for games in Chennai. We realized that there was a small scene. Two-three good games were going on. So, like proper Rounders. Like trying to fish out games and trying to work on our craft. We were just thinking poker, talking poker. Aise karte karte, you just get so possessed with it. It encumbers you. That’s how it started, and then eventually, I kept doing better, kept getting better. Moving up stakes in cash games, just naturally. I don’t there was a science to it back then.”
After completing his graduation, Madraswala worked at his family business for a year-and-a-half before working at HDFC for around a year. He then went to Australia to pursue his Master’s in Business Analytics from La Trobe University in Melbourne. While Down Under, he played poker to earn money, and by the time he got back to India, he had decided he wanted to become a poker professional. “After I came back from Australia, like two years ago. Australia was pretty draining also. I was actually just playing poker and surviving. It was quite taxing, being a student, living alone there. It was pretty expensive, and by the time I came back, I had this big goal that I wanted to become a big poker player, and then I barely had the money for it. Because the game is getting tougher, and people are getting better. People are now studying. They are more informed, more driven. I did not have the resources enough to do really well.”
However, he quickly realized that simply having the desire to be a pro is not enough. There is a lot more at stake. Luckily, he was accepted into the India Poker Pros (IPP) stable and understood the game’s intricacies better from some of the top minds in the industry. “So, two months after I came back from Australia, I was fortunate enough to get through IPP (India Poker Pros), which is a stable. I think they liked how I approached the game. They thought they could see me as a potential horse in their stable, and that’s what gave me the nurturing that I needed to learn the game properly.”
Having started playing live in Australia, Madraswala A$350 NLHE Wednesday Night at the Melbourne Crown Casino Recurring Tournaments in 2017. He has also run deep in domestic tournaments like the Baazi Poker Tour (BPT) and presently boasts of ₹7.53 Lakhs in live tournament winnings. His online resume expectedly is a lot more impressive with ₹2.24 Crores in earnings and 60 Lakhs in corresponding profits.