Categories: Rising Poker Stars
| On Updated : Aug 19, 2020 12:13 PM IST

In Conversation with Pratibh Saluja on top 3 finishes in both – AOPS and PPL leader boards

By Dheeraj Singh

“Pen down what you want from poker, what do you expect realistically and then try and create your own path that leads you to your success parameter.”

Calcutta-born Pratibh Saluja turned pro a couple of months back and has already garnered significant success in that little time. Pratibh ended up in top 3 finishes in both – AOPS and PPL leader boards and also finished runner up in PokerBaazi’s BSS MegaStack 15 Lac GTD RE scooping Rs 2,32,500 last week. Apart from this, he already has already won 11 AOPS titles so far. In the chat session, Pratibh opened up about his poker journey so far and also shared some helpful insights about the game.

Here are the excerpts-

Hi Pratibh, for those who don’t know much about you, could you please give a little introduction like where are you from, your educational background and other stuff?

Hey! I’ve been born and brought up in Calcutta after which I moved to Delhi for my undergrad. I graduated in Economics from Delhi University, and have worked in the actuarial services and strategy consulting domains for 2-3 years.

Tell us about your poker journey. How it all started?

So, I’ve been playing the game ever since I was a kid. I remember my friends introducing me to the game when I was 10 and PLO is the game we started off with! The skill, strategy, leveling wars and thrill were aspects that had always fascinated me but never had I thought back then that this could be a legitimate profession.

Fast forward to a few years later, my flat-mate introduced me to the world of online poker and made me deposit some money on Adda52 to start playing. I started off playing micro stakes tournaments on weekends and to my surprise, I experienced instant success and started making a significant chunk of money every month through poker. Gradually, I found a couple of home games nearby which turned into all I did on weekends for a good number of months! I felt a natural knack for the game in me all this time and always thought it probably has bigger things in store for me.

Then came the first Goa trip! The atmosphere in the Deltin Royale during the DPT was absolutely mesmerizing. It was a first for me and to be around 30-40 poker tables with action in full swing was a sight to behold for me at that time. I played a couple of tournaments and a few cash games and a couple of days later realized that I had spewed a significant portion of my bankroll. That was my first lesson in bankroll management. But all in all, this trip in itself was very rewarding in terms of experience and the kind of people I met who turned out to be instrumental in influencing whatever little success I have in the game today.

I have always predominantly been a live cash game player and a recreational MTT player. Due to Covid, I had to defer my B-School admit and thereafter decided to take the plunge and turn pro a couple of months back. Seems like a good decision so far!

Tell us about the experience of playing AOPS, PPL and other high-value series at the same time.

Whenever I plan to grind a series, I’m always looking at winning the leader board as well. For me, it’s like a motivating force more than anything else and I think of leader boards as tournaments in themselves, which adds to the excitement. So, when the AOPS got rescheduled, the PPL schedule almost perfectly coincided with the AOPS schedule, and I decided to grind both of them together.

Having won the AOPS leader board a month back, and few other MTT leader boards previously, I was well aware of the strategies to follow during the grind and was sufficiently bankrolled to have the auto re-buy option ticked. Once the grind begins, it’s just a matter of sticking to your game and being disciplined in your approach through the series. Your aim should be to keep the doing the same things every day, and minimizing the mistakes you make on any given day. I feel it’s paramount to know what you’re doing wrong in any tournament you play so that you don’t repeat the same mistake(s) again. At the end of the day, there’s only so much that’s there in your control in tournament poker and you need to make sure that your days have negligible errors. Personally, after every session I put in, notwithstanding the result – positive or negative, my satisfaction metric would score highest if I have an error-free day.

Both these series were pretty decent for me in terms of profit, and the icing on the cake was top 3 finishes in both these leader boards, which had pretty sick competition all throughout!

Online poker or live poker – which is more interesting to play and why?

Live poker! More than the money-making aspect of poker, I find the ‘feel’ element very appealing about the game. This is probably a fish comment, but the feel of shuffling chips in your hands, the table talk, the feel of picking on someone’s bluff, the feel of hero folding, the psychology and reverse psychology, and just seeing through someone straight up on the table are things that are unparalleled when it comes to thinking of poker as an experience.

How do you balance your personal life while playing poker? Can you give us a sneak peak to your daily routine?

Honestly, this is something that I need to work on. I strongly believe in the idea of work-life balance. But so far, whenever I’m playing poker, my routine is grind-centric and you could say I’m almost cut off from the rest of the world during these times.

How do you prepare for a tournament? Is there any specific routine you follow prior to playing a tourney?

I’m usually always multi-tabling so there’s no specific preparation as such. Just having strong fundamentals and keeping at it with a balanced strategy is something that works out well enough for me. But a couple of things that I would suggest doing pre-grind is taking cold showers – really charges you up mentally, and doing a short workout which really gets the blood flowing.

People often talk about glories but we learn the best from our mistakes, so was there any moment when you had it totally wrong but you learned from it?

There was a time when I was almost having 18-20 hours of non-stop work every day. This was around 10-12 hours at my day job coupled with grinding MTTs everyday for 7-8 hours. After a point, I became extremely exhausted, both physically and mentally, with doing everything together and realized that I was doing justice to neither and had to pick one. The takeaway I had from this was that grinding MTTs is very close to a full-time profession. Profitability in MTTs is majorly a function of volume and a lot of back end work also has to go behind you putting that volume, be it studying and constantly trying to keep up and get better or creating discipline in your life. All the stars should be aligned in order for you to do well, and finding mental peace and satisfaction in it is a bigger win.

Tell us about the support system that keeps you going even after a terrible day of poker?

I choose to keep my swings, both positive and negative, to myself. I am constantly trying to not talk a lot about poker (work) outside of poker, so it is a battle that I fight within me in case I have a terrible day. But on a general note, my mom is my biggest support while I’m playing. She’ll always be asking how I’ve done after every session and be excited whenever I do well. Whenever I’m putting in a 12+ hour session, I feel secure about the fact that my mom is there as the perfect back-end team.

How do you decide on a tournament? What are the factors involved in picking or choosing a particular tournament?

Bankroll management is paramount. You should only play those tournaments that your bankroll allows you to. Ideally, people put in a number of, say150-200 BIs, being sufficient for a given average stake level. One can follow this approach while deciding on tournaments. Personally, I like to play those tournaments wherein I can play freely, and not be shy of firing any number of bullets it takes as it probably won’t pinch me. In India, most high value tournaments are re-entry tournaments, so in my opinion, it’s not wise to have a strategy that does not involve re-entering MTTs or having a cap on bullets, and as we all know, volume is key.

Otherwise, I like to play a mixture of big field tournaments and small field tournaments, high buy-in tournaments and mid-stake tournaments every session I put in to balance my variance.

Who do you think is currently the best poker player in the industry?

There are so many sickos in India right now and it’s difficult to name one. But I really admire and enjoy watching Sriharsha, Raghav Bansal, and Nishant Sharma play.

Which are the Indian websites you love playing at? Can you rank them in an order?

Adda52, PokerBaazi, and PokerStars.

Where do you feel a newbie can go wrong in poker? Any tips for the aspiring poker players in India?

Thinking they’re good at the game and punting rolls on that assumption. One should really know what they’re doing right in the game and what they’re doing wrong. You need to be very self-aware if you plan to take up poker seriously. So, firstly know yourself, try and know your game, improve yourself through coaching, self-study, etc, ask for help and don’t be shy. Pen down what you want from poker, what do you expect realistically and then try and create your own path that leads you to your success parameter. Being happy is the ultimate goal, and one should be accountable to themselves.

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Dheeraj Singh

I believe Life and Poker work on the same principle. The more you learn the better you become.