Welcome back to another #ThrowbackThursday post! July 16, 2019, was a red-letter day for Indian poker, and the man who brought glory to his country was Young Gun Abhinav Iyer!
In today’s feature, we’ll take a quick trip down memory lane with Iyer and relive the moment from almost two years ago when he won India her first solo World Series of Poker gold bracelet.
While several Indians have won big at the WSOP, with Nipun Java & Aditya Sushant winning bracelets in the Tag Team Event in 2017 and Nikita Luther & Giuseppe Pantaleo repeating the feat in 2018, Iyer’s win was by far the biggest score by an Indian at the series. He broke the record previously held by Paawan Bansal, who had finished runner-up in the same event, The Closer -$1,500 No-Limit Hold ’em, for a whopping $378,765 in 2018.
With ₹6.51 Crores in live tournament winnings and ₹5.90 Crores in online earnings, Iyer is a force to be reckoned with. The Mumbai-based pro started playing poker in his undergrad days in Chennai. By the time he moved to Australia to pursue his post-graduation degree, Iyer had climbed up in stakes, with regular trips to Crown Casino forming a prominent part of his routine.
“Once I moved to Australia, I went to the Crown Casino and started playing over there. I used to play 2-3 days a week initially, and then I used to play a little more when I had some off days. The good part about university over there was that I didn’t have to attend classes every day, so it gave me some spare time in my hand. So, that kind of became my exploration into poker.”
It was also in Australia where Iyer was introduced to online poker on PokerStars.
“Slowly, I started playing on PokerStars over there, and that was my first step into online poker. Since then, I have just carried on playing poker and never stopped.”
2019 was a memorable year for Iyer, or as he calls it, the best year of his life so far. Towards the end of 2018, Iyer was on a bit of a downswing but started 2019 on a winning note by championing the APT Vietnam Main Event in January for an impressive ₹69.51 Lakhs. He carried that form all the way to Las Vegas, where he was part of the largest-ever contingent of Indian players to attend the WSOP 2019.
Being one of the early birds to arrive at the series, Iyer played the full schedule and collected a total of eight scores, amounting to ₹4.03 Crores in winnings (most of it from his bracelet win).
“2019, luckily for me, started really well. I managed to win the first live tournament I played, which was in Vietnam. It was a big boost for me because I had a long year planned ahead. I had planned to go to the Aussie Millions. I wanted to go to the WSOP again since I did not have a great series in 2018.”
Talking about his 2019 WSOP experience, Iyer shared, “I planned my whole schedule. I played a lot more events than I was supposed to play. I did so because somewhere or the other, I kept busting or fired an extra bullet. Vegas is like a candy shop, as a lot of poker players will say. There are just multiple tournaments available to play every day. You just keep going from one casino to the other and playing from one tournament to the other. So, we were just tirelessly playing poker throughout the summer, and luckily it paid off on the last day!”
Iyer trailblazing run through the 2,800-entry field in Event #84: The Closer – $1,500 No-Limit Hold ’em to clinch the much-talked-about solo gold bracelet, and banking a personal-best ~₹3.87 Crores, became the stuff of legends. It’s all anyone in the domestic circuit talked about for months.
In fact, Iyer revealed he still gets goosebumps thinking about the day. “It’s something obviously thrilling. I got an overwhelming response from everyone in our community and a few of my friends from outside. They were just very supportive. I received so many congratulatory messages. That’s when I felt like I have made an impact in our community. It was only on the next day that I realized that there were so many people who were railing me.”
When quizzed on the players he looks up to, Iyer clarified he favors the younger generation of poker phenoms and, not surprisingly, Young Gun Gaurav Sood and PokerGuru Ambassador`s Ashish Munot & Laksh Pal Singh feature prominently on that list. While he was all praises for Sood and the hard work he has put into the game, he also acknowledged other poker veterans like Aditya Agarwal, the WSOP 2017 bracelet winner Aditya Sushant & Sreeharsha Doddapaneni.
Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, Iyer has been concentrating on online poker like most other pros. In this time, Iyer has proved once again that he is as adept on the virtual felts as he is on the live ones with a litany of big wins. Iyer netted a career-best online score of ₹20.73 Lakhs in PokerBaazi’s APT Super Highroller in January 2021. In November 2020, he also claimed his first-ever WPT Online title after shipping the WPT India High Roller for ₹17.55 Lakhs.
With the WSOP annual series set to return after a 26-month hiatus, Iyer plans to attend the series depending on travel restrictions. If the pandemic situation improves and the travel bans are lifted, we are sure to see Iyer back in action at the big stage in Las Vegas!
Here’s to hoping he brings home another gold bracelet or even two this year!