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The War Within

Posted by Ramesh Thotapalli on 2020-06-19 at 4:50 PM
Ramesh Rao Thotapalli

It was Christmas time of 2010-11 when this friend of mine showed up at my doorstep in Pune one evening & drove me to Goa for the weekend. It was just the 2 of us & I was just finishing my MBA. He was my junior in college. He has a construction business in Goa & after finishing off certain tasks assigned by his Father he took me to the casino at night. He played the 10k buyin game & I remember him walking out with 80k at 5am in the morning. This is was my first introduction to this game. Never knew that trip would change the way I will live my life forever.

I am writing this blog on 19th June (a week before my 30th birthday) & after almost a decade into the game. I woke up this morning with so many thoughts about the game, industry & players that I felt I should write this. I would like to split this into different parts. The last part is the most important.

I have seen this industry burst out into what it is today. From Gulati’s table at Casino Royale, Maddy’s table at Pride or Jim’s to the DPT’s, BPT’s or IPC’s or the beginning of Deccan Poker / Khelo365 / Bluff daddy / Adda to almost evey site today – have witnessed everything coming up right in front of the eyes. And yes, this is just the beginning.

Operators have been doing their part in giving bigger GTD’s, upgraded clients, rakebacks et al & helped grow the average poker playing population. There is a list of things to be achieved which includes better rake structures, glitch free clients & of course TDS revision in discussion with the government. The onus is definitely on the operators to curb malpractices like multi-accounting or ghosting when their business is dependent on individuals whose emotion of greed takes over the sportsmanship. This is work in progress & I am sure that sooner or later there will be a time when facial recognition / IP / Fingerprints will become a thing to Log In into your account. Or a geek will find out something more path breaking. We will eventually get there. An absolutely robust customer service unlike certain sites will always be the backbone for the success of any operator. This is a game where majority play knowing that they will lose. The least an operator can do is service them better.

Speaking about the game – it has evolved from “mujhe pata tha iske paas hand nahi hai” .. “feel tha bro” to HUD’s, PIO solvers, leagues & what not. I have spent fair amount of time as a player, as a student under multiple coaches, tried hands at coaching myself (you read that right), ran couple of stables, was part of stables, hosted games & played few major series internationally. The game has evolved so much that it is just impossible to beat (read make money in the long run) without absolute dedication & study. I cannot stress enough of how much discipline, bank roll management & study will help in the long run. After doing all this, you might still end up being on the negative side of variance & that’s what it is. Even if you choose to ignore there are our desi millionaires who have gone broke after achieving the glory. Be it cash games or tourneys, You have to pick your battle wisely. I recently read an article (article link) by Vikas Mantri which spoke about choosing the right quorum & that’s what one should do.

I remember a post I made on one of the groups when PPL & SSS were happening parallely & I really didn’t have money to play both & suggested the websites to plan it periodically than at once. Sushi commented saying somewhat this – play when you have the money, these tourneys will keep on coming. At that time I had a fomo on value hunting. But then he was right. The game isn’t going anywhere. If not today, then tomorrow or maybe a month or an year later. The message was clear – I can play this when I am ready.

Stables have dedicated players who eat sleep live poker. The amount of study & volume these guys put in is the reason you see them on podium finishes every now and then. What one chooses to ignore is the volume, overall profits & make up. Having a roll is just not enough. It takes grit & a lot of mental strength & courage & a hell lot of time to overcome the odds. I have known bankers & professionals with well paying jobs quit their profession & take up the game professionally. Passion is one thing, courage to execute is an altogether different ball game. To strategize how you would enter the game with the kind of BR you have & the skill level – you need to seek guidance. I remember one of them telling me, I earn lesser than what I used to make at my job but its satisfying because I am answerable to no one. Now to make such a statement – self realisation is the need. You cannot lie to yourself.

Players – we are a bunch of degen losers. Only few among us win. The very few pros who are making money are doing it discreetly in closed quorums & they don’t give two hoots even if the world is going to end. It’s a different ball game of fish farming, credit, discounts, settlements etc out there & deserves another blog. The way these ballers roll is totally different & impossible for an average player to replicate. This incident happened at DPT when I was in the lift on the ship. There was this ultra high stakes cash game crusher who was with his friend & I heard him say this – every now & then a bunch of losers come here to see who among them is a better loser. I felt so sick hearing this. A part of it is true. I have been broke on several occasions & had to face a lot of heat because of bad debts. This is the case with almost every poker player I know. People go broke for various reasons, majority being indiscipline & variance.

The problem with 99% of the poker playing population is – they do not have an exit strategy. They do not know when to take a break or when to quit. Bad runs happen or you might have gambled those tournament winnings at a cash table. All that is an everyday story. But do you really know when to quit? Negative variance has irreversible affect on your mental health & even on your family around you. Financial distress causes depression & what not. Players take loans chasing their loses & get themselves into a vicious cycle.

I was on a call recently with one of the best cash game regs in India. This is what he has to say, “Ramesh, how do we poker players make money? We play this game for a living. We are waiting for an average recreational to come and play the game. When I say an average recreational, I mean an individual who has a consistent source of income out which a meagre part is kept out for his ‘recreation’. When the rec comes to have fun at the table, its not necessary that he or she will lose. You wait for them to commit a mistake & you encash on that mistake because that’s your job as a reg. Now things are changing. Recs do not have budgets for ‘recreation’. They are using money from their regular income to play (read gamble). Once they lost is to a reg, they are chasing loses from their savings. Once they bleed out, they are unable to give up. They are playing based on future income (read credit). Then the story of bad debts & being broke comes into the picture. Mind you, this is the story of a recreational. Where does a rec /pro stand? He has to beat fellow regs to grab a share of the piece. How does anyone do it? Another blog mostly.

Now one can either play victim based on all bad things in the industry or turn this around.

I know few coaches like Prabhat who offer free coaching for a share in profits. Best way to upskill if the opportunity is utilised properly.

Sites like Baazi & 9 stacks have responsible gaming in place. Use it.

Join a stable if variance isn’t your thing.

Stop chasing losses after a point. Cover nahi kar paaogey bro. Quit for a particular period or forever. Most poker players are an intelligent lot. It might seem hard to get away from button clicking & do a “less rewarding” day job. But trust me, its good for you & your family. Don’t ever get into the vicious cycle of credit cards or personal loans to fund that poker journey. It’s definitely not worth it. You are not going to spin this around over night.

Stop playing victim. There are insecurities and everyone has a story. I have no doubt about the mental battles fought within & with people / family around you to play this game. I understand passion, but will you be able to filter out passion from being a degen gambler? None of us can. Seek help from a counsellor. I have personally spoken to Navi at Baazi. They are paying for counselling services if you seek help. Many of us have a “I know it all” or “baap ko mat sikha” attitude. For godsake please put it aside.

I read a post this morning about feeling suicidal or bullying within the industry & another similar post few days back on how they are battling all odds to play the game (read passion & income). But is it worth it? Definitely no. man the fuck up, that facebook post isn’t going to help, you have to help yourself or start doing things which will not lead to where you are today. Stop doing things which led you to where you are today. Speak to that counsellor I mentioned. Do well, stop cribbing.

We are a selfish bunch. We are not in this together. A facebook post or a comment / PM will not help. Ask yourself what you need to achieve. Ask yourself or speak with someone to understand if the path you chose is the only way to achieve what you seek. I have no doubt that everyone of us can find an alternative.

It’s no doubt a beautiful game. A zero sum game can only grow when all of us are educated enough & realize where we stand. You are either crushing or getting crushed. The easiest way out is to step back even though it doesn’t seem easy. It indeed is a war within yourself. Your belief vs reality & your ability to listen to the truth & adapt.

Signing off till I burst out another time,

RRT

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Ramesh Thotapalli

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