At some point every poker player asks himself or herself this question – Why am I here? And most of the time, money seems like a good answer, a sensible one. For most it is. Why wouldn’t it be; it gives you the freedom to do as you wish, to buy what you want, to live as you’ve always dreamt. But with time you realize that, money isn’t everything. As Jim Carey once said “I think everybody should get rich, so they can see that it’s not the answer.” Well what is then? The answer isn’t so straightforward. For every individual it is different. And most take years to realize what it is. Some a lifetime. Hence, it comes as a surprise when a 21 year old can say with confidence that he knows exactly what his is.
The 21 year old in question is Abhishek Jalan from Varanasi and his biggest motivation for falling in love with and wanting to continue on in poker is the love he’s felt from the players around him and the community as a whole. As he puts it – “I’m here because of the people. Their love has gotten me here!”
A well known name on the poker circuit, Abhishek has been around for a little over a year. He participated in his first live tournament in June 2015 at the IPC in Goa and has been playing in all live tournaments since. The passion for playing cards however, was born well before. Unlike most, his family has always been one which has played card games on special occasions and get togethers and Abhishek grew up in a atmosphere very open to the 4 suits we all love. And, also unlike most, he did not first learn of the game from Zynga. When he started college it was a tournament organised by his seniors where he got his first taste of poker. Thereafter he regularly indulged in all-night Rs.500 games in the college dormitories and even played for 24+ hours on some occasions.
While poker was but a game in the early few days, it’s true potential began to dawn on Abhishek after one of his seniors from college won an event in Goa. He soon arranged for his own trips and finally told his parent about his passion for poker when he decided to play for the first time in Goa. Though apprehensive at first, they soon warmed up to his decision and have since then become his biggest supporters. To this day his parents regularly call him for updates whenever he is involved in a tournament. And the support has definitely reaped dividends as Abhishek has managed an astounding 5 Final Tables in Goa in this short amount of time.
Goa, as is evident, is very dear to Abhishek when it comes to poker. But he also makes it a point to play whenever he travels. Having joined the family business of textiles at a young age due to certain family constraints, he travels quite a bit around the country. And as a result, the opportunities to play with new people in different cities has been a welcome distraction from work. This perhaps explains the affinity for live poker over online poker. As Abhishek states, his online game-time is limited to when he is working out of Varanasi due to the complete absence of a poker scene there. He prefers though to play on domestic sites like PokerBaazi and Spartan Poker over international ones and does so under the moniker ‘Nasir Bhai’. Among his online achievements is the IOPC win August ’16 and it is the one moment he ranks as his most memorable till date.
One truth that is not lost on Abhishek is the need to constantly improve his game. By his own admission, there are many aspects of his game he needs to improve; not least his Bankroll Management. But instead of reading books or watching videos, Abhishek prefer to constantly talk to his peers about the game. He feels that he can learn the most from those who have been in the industry the longest. And this brings us full circle to his love for the people around him, the ones he affectionately calls his ‘brothers’. Amongst the first to help him was industry stalwart Kunal Patni. Other players Abhishek looks up to and respects are Kanishka Samant, Dhaval Mudgal and Amin Rozani. A small example of this respect was was on display before his first trip outside India – to Manilla. While others would be overjoyed to simply be playing at an international tournament, Abhishek was more excited by the fact that he was going to do so while under the tutelage of one of his idols, Dhaval Mudgal, who’d agreed to mentor him on this trip.
And this is not a one off either. There are other moments where he takes pride in recounting just how forthcoming the poker community has been in helping him out. Once, while playing in his first Omaha tournament, he was at the same table as Abhisek Panda (or simply ‘Panda’ as he’s known to everyone). During the break, Abhishek (Jalan) remembers asking his opponent a bunch of questions about how to play in certain situations and to his amazement, he got a brilliant lesson on Omaha poker from Panda to the effect that it was he who knocked Panda out of the tournament. More surprising still was when it was Panda who stood behind him later on and railed “You have to win this now”.
There have been many moments like these and they have served to further solidify Abhishek’s belief that he is at a place where he belongs. Maybe this is the child in him (and let us not forget that he is just 21), but as he puts it – “Being in the poker world is magical.” Or, perhaps we can all take a cue here and appreciate how lucky we all are to be part of his community at a time when there is a bright future on the horizon. Abhishek also dreams of one day playing in the WSOP and has a wish that he hopes will come his way – To be the first Indian to make it to the November Nine. Who knows, it might just happen!
Abhishek’s message to other young poker players: My life has changed has come since I’ve come into poker. The things you learn here just add a whole lot of positivity to everything. Just ensure that you manage your Bankroll very well and good luck!