Categories: Rising Poker Stars
| On Updated : Jul 4, 2020 11:31 AM IST

Shashank Shekhar on winning PokerStars India`s Rs. 8 Lac GTD Sixth Sense

By Dheeraj Singh

Poker looks easy from the outside, and people associate it with ‘easy money’. Like the great Doyle Brunson said, “Poker is a hard way to make an easy living,” and newcomers need to realize that!

Today we have Shashank Shekhar in our Rising Poker Stars segment who has graduated this summer and already has made a net profit of 50 Lac from poker. Do you remember how much you had in your bank account when you came out of your graduation? Well, that’s completely okay, and you don’t need to feel pity about it, but Shashank has an exciting story to share. So, let’s begin –

Hi Shashank, congratulations on winning PokerStars India`s Rs. 8 Lac GTD Sixth Sense tourney. First of all, could you please tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks a lot, Thakur! I’ve grown up in Kolkata and moved around a lot, lived in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai for short periods. I studied computer science from BITS Pilani, Hyderabad and I’ve just graduated this summer.

Tell us about your poker journey and how it all started?

I got introduced to poker in college itself, like a lot of other guys, spending long nights playing 2/4 live poker with friends, that’s what got me hooked initially.

So, what are your plans for now? Continuing it as a hobby or making it a full-time profession?

I’ve been playing full time for around 15 months. I started grinding small 20-50rs tournaments on PokerBaazi in my second year. Built-up a 10k bankroll multiple times and spewed it in a single night multiple times when I had no idea about bankroll management.

I started playing seriously from Feb 2019. I had a 13k bankroll at the time and came into contact with my coach Alok Ranjan who runs the stable High Income Generators. He took a bunch of newbie with small bankrolls and gave us a 1-year contract based on incentivized profit splits (which basically means that people who made more money would end up chopping a lesser percentage of their winnings with him).

By early August, when the placement season came, I had built a bankroll of around 5-6 L. So, I didn’t sit for it and knew that this was what I wanted to do. Since then it’s only been going upwards and has been an enriching, fulfilling and at times, incredibly stressful experience. I consider myself primarily a cash game player and play 100/200 cash on PokerBaazi and Pokerstars. But I’ve started giving volume in tournaments in the last couple of months. I have shipped Spartan Superstack, Monday Hustle and Sixth Sense on PokerStars since I’ve started putting volume in tournaments.

Apart from this, I’m exploring and learning other areas similar to poker like trading and investments from the same coach. I am looking to be a full-time trader by the end of next year.

That’s interesting! Many don’t have any idea what they will be doing after their graduation and then here you are already making a living out of Poker. Do you have something to say about this?

Thanks, man! I just think doing what you love and keeps you interested, and hooked makes your life so much easier. College students should be exploring that rather than looking for traditional societal notions of job security and comfort.

Discovering yourself in these formative years is far more important.

Okay, if you don’t mind can I ask you how much have you made so far by playing poker?

My net profits pre-tax have been around 50 Lac approximately so far, cash and tournaments combined. The last three months have been immense for me, with a 30 Lac profit from April to June.

Tell me something about your daily routine or lifestyle. And how many hours do you grind daily?

I had been interning for a consultancy company 9-5 for a semester as part of a compulsory college curriculum for the greater part of this year. So, I didn’t have too much time to grind. I put in an average of 5-6 hours a day playing cash and played the occasional tournament when I felt like it.

Starting July, I’m looking to give a whole lot of volume. Playing cash during the day and evenings and playing high-value tournaments at night, while studying trading on the side.

I love reading philosophy and playing sports. I play basketball and football on weekends and grab an occasional drink with friends. A hectic schedule means that I have to try to manage my schedule really well, which is rather tight, but I try not to be just a workaholic and have fun too.

Do you have a different approach when you play cash games and when you participate in a tourney?

I’m a pretty aggressive player, but I like to keep adjusting according to whichever kind of players I encounter. I do sometimes go overboard with my aggression which is something I’m working on controlling and developing a rock-solid mindset which is, in my opinion, the most important weapon a poker player can have in their arsenal.

Cash games are low risk, low reward games and have considerably low variance as compared to tournaments. It is ideal for people who aren’t looking to put in a whole lot of volume. In the Indian high stakes cash game field, you play with a limited number of 25-30 players every day, with new fishes popping up and disappearing every now and then, which makes taking notes and studying your opponents, figuring out their leaks and your own leaks playing vs them very important.

While playing tournaments, on the other hand, I just try to follow standard ranges and remember correct shove/fold spots in the later stages, which is super important. I’m a much more aggressive player playing cash games as opposed to tournaments because of more playability and fold equity with larger stack sizes. Since I am relatively new to tournaments, I just try to play standard ABC poker and pick the right spots and attack passive players in the later stages.

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

My family is 100 per cent supportive of what I do. They were at first very sceptical of poker, but after a few months of conversations (sometimes a little heated), they finally accepted it, and now my family is just a phone call away for whenever I’m going through a downswing, which is something I’m really grateful for.

My best friend from college Abhishek Gubba coincidently joined the same stable a few months after I did, and has risen immensely, shipping all sorts of huge tournaments. Both of us support each other and have tolerated each other’s rants for the longest time. So yeah, I’m incredibly lucky to have people around me who are there for me when things don’t look too bright.

Where do you feel a newbie can go wrong in poker? Would like to share any tips or mistakes you made in your initial days?

I think the biggest problem with newcomers is that they underestimate variance a lot, and expect results that aren’t on par with their skill level. Understanding bankroll management is very important as well, which so many people ignore. I think having a mentor who can point out these flaws is very helpful. Going on your own is going to be a tough ride for anyone new in this cutthroat industry.

As I said, I have spewed an 8-10k bankroll at least three times on tilt. I would just sit on 25/50 tables and punt off two-three months of hard work. I lost around 25k in poker before I made anything, which is an enormous sum for a college student. So, self-control and discipline are very necessary.

Poker looks easy from the outside, and people associate it with ‘easy money’, and honestly, nothing could be farther from the truth. Like the great Doyle Brunson said, “Poker is a hard way to make an easy living,” and newcomers need to realize that.

Who do you admire in the industry?

If we’re talking about tournaments, there are no shortage of absolute crushers who I admire. People like Sriharsha Dodapaneni, Ashish Ahuja and Anant Purohit are the ones I look after.

I feel like cash game players don’t get the recognition they deserve. Tournaments are just so much more glamorous, but cash game poker is real poker.

As for cash games, the player I most admire happens to be a college senior of mine, Suyash Gupta. He goes by the name ‘RestInPeace’ on PokerBaazi, who has crushed 100/200 and 200/400 over the last few years.

Before we wind up, I would like to ask you one final question. Which are the Indian websites you love playing at? Can you rank them in order?

I think the best platform to play poker in India is hands down PokerStars. Their software, UI, support and TDS policy is by far the best.

If I had to rank the sites in order, I would say PokerStars, 9stacks, PokerBaazi, Spartan Poker, and then Adda52.

Stay tuned to check out the next Rising Poker Star!

Dheeraj Singh

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