Who doesn’t know Sumit Sapra? The 42-year-old MTT pro is one of the most recognized names in the country and is a prominent presence in the Asian tournament circuit.
The IIT Delhi – IIM Lucknow alumni hit a new career milestone on August 20, when he crossed the ₹8 Crore mark in recorded lifetime winnings, joining an elite club of top MTT crushers in the country! (Only six players on our tracked database have achieved this milestone to date)
“It’s good to know that you’re in the company of 5-6 people who have been able to achieve some sort of significant milestone in terms of online poker in India,” Sapra says.
Although elated on the achievement, he insists it’s not something he would attach a lot of significance to. “I would say these numbers are slightly misleading because it says ₹8 Crores in winnings, but it’s just cashes – it’s not profit. But yeah, some of the guys who are part of this group are doing really well in the online space in the last couple of years, so it feels good to be part of this group.”
Sapra has diligently scaled up his results in the last two years, successfully transitioning from a live tournament grinder to an online specialist during the pandemic. In August alone, he posted nine FT finishes, including runner-up finishes in the APT #22 Championship Event (₹8.46 Lakhs) and more recently in the WPT India High Roller (₹13.60 Lakhs).
He remembers the turning point in the WPT India High Roller – a hand during five-handed play. “There was this hand where two people went all-in, and I had queens, and I ended up calling and busting both of them. I was initially one of the shorter stacks, then I managed to become the chip leader.”
He admits to being somewhat disappointed that he finished second since he had a significant chip lead going into the heads-up against Vishal Bajaj. “I was actually 3-to-1 in the chip lead. So I played three hands against him pre-all-ins, and I lost all of them. That’s how I ended up finishing second! But it was an interesting experience. I have played a little against him in the past as well, but I actually didn’t know it was him when we were playing heads-up.”
The Chandigarh-born player spent the first 18 years of his life in “City Beautiful.” Armed with a Chemical Engineering degree from IIT Delhi, he completed his MBA from IIM Lucknow, again joining an elite circle that can boast such an academic pedigree. Sapra worked in the financial sector for 10 years until 2015. He was introduced to poker in 2009 through a couple of friends when he living in Mumbai and soon started making trips to Goa to play tournaments.
Talking about those early days, he says, “At that time, the fields used to be very small, and there were not too many online options, so mostly played live.”
In 2016, after only a year of running his start-up, Sapra decided to take up poker full-time. It’s been around five years now, and his hunger to excel in the game has only grown in this time.
Sumit Sapra’s key achievements include
Largest Online Score: ₹32.20 Lakhs
Lifetime Online Winnings: ₹8.09 Crores
Lifetime Online Profits: ₹2.98 Crores
Annual winnings (2021): ₹1.66 Crores (so far)
Annual profits (2021): ₹46.04 Lakhs (so far)
Recorded winnings on Spartan Poker: ₹4.34 Crores
Recorded winnings on PokerBaazi: ₹1.67 Crores
Recorded winnings on Adda52: ₹1.60 Crores
Recorded winnings on PokerStars India: ₹49.91 Lakhs
According to his Hendon Mob profile, Sapra has $265,841 (~₹1.94 Crores) in live tournament winnings, including 11 scores at the WSOP worth a cumulative $45,071. He was also one of the early attendees in live domestic tournaments. Back in 2012, he won the PokerGuru Tour Season 2 July Edition ₹50K High Roller. Sapra has numerous FT and deep finishes at various APL, APT, WPT, and other stops in Asia and even won a $550 PLO Deepstack event at the 2017 WPT National Cambodia for $5,530.
Sapra has been known to coach other up-and-coming players and even staked a bunch of them over the years. He emphasizes that he never really formally got to coaching or backing anyone, just ran into players or agreed to work with them on being approached.
“My experience was good. Obviously, some of those guys have gone on to become crushers, so I am really happy for them. And the experience also teaches you a lot about yourself as a player, about human interaction, and how you can transfer knowledge to other people. It is an enriching and learning experience for me. It’s definitely something I do enjoy at some level, but I don’t have any plans of anything on that front, at least in the immediate future.”
In what may be news to several regs, Sapra lived in Vietnam for a year before the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been living in Goa for the past year. So how hard was it to transition to online poker during the lockdown? Not very, according to Sapra, who has been playing online poker regularly over the past 3-4 years. “It wasn’t really a switch for me from live to online, but yeah, how Covid panned out it kind of put a stop to everything live, and in the last 18 months, it’s been only online.”
Is he looking forward to playing live tournaments? Though he has been mulling over traveling to the US for the WSOP, he hasn’t really made up his mind yet. “I am not 100% sure where it’s going to happen. Might be at the WSOP, somewhere in Europe, or maybe in India, but I am definitely looking forward to that and really excited to be able to play live events.”
In 2019, Sapra was roped in by APL as their brand ambassador with a sponsorship deal to play live events in Asia. But then COVID happened. “The contract was initially for six months, and then we were supposed to review and decide whether to renew it or not, but due to COVID, the entire arrangement has kind of been on hold. So, when live poker comes back again, we may look at it, but there is no deal or sponsorship anymore.”
Earlier, Sapra’s poker schedule was scattered because of travel – something he enjoys thoroughly. However, over the last 18 months, his poker pursuits have primarily been online. He usually takes a couple of days off in a week, usually Mondays and Tuesdays, and plays all the way to Sunday. “I have been able to put together a more sustainable routine where I start my online grind only around 9 – 9.30 PM in the evening.”
Even outside poker, Sapra is big time into sports and stays active despite the long grind hours. “I actually play some sport like tennis, or badminton or squash before my daily grind, come back, eat and then start playing online.”
Given his tall academic credentials and his financial background, Sapra spends a fair amount of his time in investments and trading and has recently started exploring the cryptocurrency space. Poker apart, Sapra also loves to travel. “Poker allowed me to travel and work at the same time, seeing new places.”
Who does he admire in the poker fraternity? “When we were coming up, Aditya Agarwal is one of the guys all of us looked up to, and all of us were trying to learn from as well, so he’s one of the original poster boys of Indian poker.”
He also admires Gaurav Sood, the top-ranked player in the country today. Sapra met him first during PSL and has seen him grow from an upcoming amateur to an MTT beast. He also finds Sreeharsha Doddapaneni’s poker journey inspiring and has all the admiration for his long-time friend and poker buddy, Raman Gujral, who introduced him to poker.
What does Indian poker need at the hour? According to Sapra, a body that protects player interests. He feels strongly about poker operator’s efforts to project poker more as a sport and a profession to break the misconceptions surrounding the game. “I would really like to see some content which is made around it and tries to project poker as a career option. Like the recently broadcasted Poker Mantra, which was really impressive.”
He feels India as a market is massive in terms of the potential it offers, and it’s great to see most international operators interested in gaining a foothold here through associations with Indian operators. He cautions that it is up to the operators to ensure their platform is up to the mark without glitches.
While a lot of work is happening, there’s still a lot to be done on this front. “I hope in a few years, these platforms will be able to give a run for the money to the international operators, so it’s exciting times for them as well.”
His advice to Indian players is to play within their bankroll., stay mentally positive, and be active. Spoken like a true champion!