Mohammad Azhar is the name that has been resounding in the poker alleys today. Why? Well, of course, for his outstanding performance at the inaugural National Poker Series (NPS) on PokerBaazi!
The 23-year-old became the first-ever NPS Main Event champion on Sunday and was the only player to win three NPS Gold Medals at the series. He also topped the NPS Series Leaderboard and the NPS Podium Leaderboard! Yes, you might want to read all that again! He did it all! Phew! His out-of-the-world performance helped him secure a whopping ₹72.35 Lakhs at the NPS. Take a bow!
For Azhar, his run at the NPS has been the grandest success he has had in an MTT series. However, even more than the Main Event victory, he is happy about making it big through the entire series. “I won three golds, I topped every leaderboard, I won three seats in the ₹10 Lakhs-added SnG. So, coming out of a series like that is surreal!”
Azhar started playing tournaments in 2016 and then gravitated towards cash games, taking shots in high-stakes MTTs on the side. We saw Azhar at the Baazi Poker Tour in October 2019, where he posted an eighth-place score at the 15K NLHE Kickoff. It may look like Azhar has been preparing for this moment to glory for long, but as Azhar informed us, he primarily plays mid to high-stakes cash games and has only recently got back to tournaments.
So what now? Azhar has been preparing for the CAT exams and played the NPS to fulfill his “poker quota” before diving into his studies. “I came to NPS with an exit strategy, and basically just to fulfill my poker quota so that I can then devote myself to my preparations. I thought, this series I will give my best, after this, I planned to move back to high-stakes cash games in a recreational capacity.”
As far as MTTs go, he loves the social feel of playing live games but advises online poker is where the profit lies. And like most, he has busted his bankroll several times in the past. “I will be playing poker, but I’ll end up spewing a bit more on the high stakes,” he says.
He now has a trip to Las Vegas to look forward to, especially after winning a ₹10 Lakhs package for topping the NPS Podium Leaderboard? “Obviously, I’ll play some events, but I’ll play not exactly in a grind mindset,” he adds, talking about his Vegas plans.
His advice to upcoming players? Azhar feels a lot of people are trying to play out of their bankroll. “You can watch a lot of high-stakes games to learn from them, but before you try to become a part of them, you need to be honest to yourself and introspect whether you are really that skilled, else you will be only burning money.”
We asked him for a winner quote, and he simply responded – “Just trust the process.”
Azhar also gave a big shout-out to the people who have been instrumental in his growth as a poker player. “Chandlerbing says I love you Sogani22!!” says Azhar, for former MoneyMaker 2.0 champion Shagun Jain. He also added that he was eternally thankful to Raghav and Simran for supporting him in poker. Raghav was the one who introduced him to the game in college, where, as he describes, he was the “Teen Patti pro.”
At just 23, Azhar has achieved what few dream of, crushing one of the biggest online tournaments in India. We spoke to the man of the moment after his arduous run, and his words will surely give you all the motivation you need on a Monday to kick start the week! Watch the complete interview below.