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The first steps…

Posted by Rakesh Sharma on 2012-10-25 at 12:00 AM

Like many, I found poker on facebook. I’d just been felled by a truant vertebra, the dreaded L5S1. I had finished counting all the cracks on the ceiling, run through all the crime thrillers in my library and watched DVDs @5-a-day till my eyes had glazed over. 3 months of being horizontal led to another serious anxiety about the brain turning into a vestigial organ.

Fearing an early onset of Alzheimmers’, initially I turned to crosswords and word jumbles but that’d take only an hour! I’d read that the dreaded A could be delayed maybe even thwarted by math – a month of equity trading online ensued, followed by commodity and currency futures – and I found myself totally bored and uninterested once the novelty value wore off.

A friend on a visit to commiserate asked to check email – an hour later I found the said friend still missing. Rousing self to hobble across, I found the friend immersed in a strange card game – something called Zynga Poker. A quick introduction to the game and ‘hand observation’ followed. I soon realized that my friend, though an addict, was clueless about poker.

Next day, I read up basics like hand ranking and launched myself on my poker journey with 1000 free chips! Over the next few months, I accumulated a few million chips and began to nurse ambitions of at least trying out a live game one day.

The big day, still firmly etched in my mind, was July 19, 2011 when I entered CR as a guest of a highrolling blackjacker, who also lent me a 10K chip to try out poker. I sat through the first 2 orbits trying to figure out basic live game protocols. I basked in the warm welcome extended to me by the seasoned players sitting on what I later realized was the main table. Many of them seemed keen not on the game, but on the snack menu – most of them oddly fixated not on chicken or veg starters, but on fish. Even pros from the other table joined the main table waiting list – and even they seemed to echo the snack choice – fish!

I played my ‘online’ tight game, unfazed by the reality of the ‘live’ table. 2 hours later, I decided I’d fulfilled my wish of someday playing a live game. Some of the really warm-hearted people seemed distraught at the prospect of me leaving the table – I came away feeling very warm and fuzzy, with a profit of 35K on a single buy-in of 10K.

Over the next month, I returned twice to the tables, each time greeted warmly by regulars, all still fixated on the same snack – fish! The profits were more modest – 14 K and 12 K respectively in these sessions.

It was only on my 4th visit that I realized I was the snack, when a pro pointed me out to another pro with the remark – “only one fish on this table”.:). It is quite another story that the said pro ran into my nuts twice and moved off the table in disgust!

Then followed a string of cash table sessions where I learnt invaluable lessons – that AK, AA, KK and QQ were not safe hands, that 36o would call my 3 bets, that I could be cleaned out when I had seemingly strong hands. Luckily, throughout this time, my excel sheet continued reflecting a positive balance, thanks to some good days and the gains in early sessions.

During one such session, I realized that there was something called a tournament. I’d like to try one someday, I said to myself. But till Jan 2012, all I tried was a couple of 1K satellites, quickly selling my seat in a heads-up deal most times, as I was wary of all the pros, many of them listed in the POY posters hanging in the poker room!

It was in early 2012 that I decided to invest some of the cash table gains for tourney buy-ins. And thus began my tournament journey…

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Rakesh Sharma

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