Poker existed in India much before the debuts of heralded websites like Adda52.com and others. Options were limited, but those who wanted to play had choices in PokerStars and 888 Poker. Those with lesser faith in the internet chose to play at home or with friends. Chance was responsible for a then 16-year-old kid coming across the game with a few friends; and what has transpired since is truly remarkable.
Vinod Megalmani may only have been a youngster then but that game would go on to change his life.
25 years of age now, he has come a long way from the minor games he started out on on PokerStars. The natural gift which enabled him to keep winning among his friends never died down and with practice and hard work he’s made quite a name for himself in the online as well as live space in India. So how has a poker novice who has never taken poker lessons or training managed to do so well for himself?
PokerShots looks at the youngster who has taken the poker space by storm.
A dogged persistence has followed Vinod since he was young. He attributes this to his days as a gamer.
During his college days, Vinod was an integral part of the No. 1 DOTA team in India. DOTA for those who are unfamiliar with it is a multiplayer online video game between 2 teams. In his days as a player, Vinod spent as many as 8 hours a day playing DOTA and the hours he put in then have seamlessly translated into poker. Vinod believes that the hours he’s put into the game has been the reason for his success.
While others he knew were unable to put in similar hours, Vinod kept playing on PokerStars (and then on Indian sites) in his early days. Enduring heavy swings in his early days, he figured that the only way to make poker profitable was to give it all his time.
Post college, to overcome his parents’ apprehensions, Vinod prepared a chart for his parents to explain to them how he planned to utilise his time on PokerStars and make a living out of it. Though not completely convinced, they loaned him the equivalent of $400 and Vinod played non-stop for 2 months and made that into $2000.
After paying his parents (and some other creditors) back, he was left with just $200 and he got back to grinding again. He started playing tournaments on PokerStars as well and after 5 months of sleepless nights, managed to make a sizeable bankroll through a combination of cash games, two top 3 finishes in the $1 Rebuy Turbo and wins in the Hot $16 and Big $22 tournaments.
He’s not looked back since.
A Huge Ego?
Quite the opposite actually.
For it is harder to find a more humble and down to earth player on the circuit.
An immensely popular figure among his peers, Vinod has a deep sense of respect for the game and the people who have brought him this far.
Even when he loses a pot, there is no anger or a clash of egos. Vinod admits to feeling nothing in those scenarios and it is this calmness which helps him at the tables. In fact, this ability to not let losses affect him personally along with his relentless desire to overcome the odds is what helps him defeat the tilt and bad beats. While others get up from the table to cool down, Vinod plays on.
The respect that he speaks about, though, has dawned on him steadily over time. After gaining exposure to a host of different experiences during his many travels to Vegas, Macau, Manilla etc, Vinod feels a sense of deep gratitude towards the entire journey he’s traversed. “I’m looking not to take things for granted anymore and I appreciate people more and respect those who got me where I am today” he remarks.
Thinking Beyond His Years
How has Vinod done so well among players who’ve been playing poker longer than he’s lived?
A trend emerges here. One which Vinod does not share with everyone he meets. He’s always been mindful about what poker means to and for him.
“For me, poker is a stepping stone to bigger things,” says Vinod. Not that he’s planning to quit poker anytime soon as he also adds “Poker has done so much for me that I can never turn my back on it.”
However, he realised early on the need to diversify his interests. Since he did not want all his eggs in one basket, Vinod has tried finding other ways of securing himself.
Friends who’ve worked in the finance sector have helped him immensely in understanding the stock markets – a field Vinod believes is naturally linked to poker.
Vinod and his close group of friends – Vidwath, Chirag, Avnith, Raghavendra, and Amrith – also chanced upon the bitcoin marketplace 3 years back. They’ve closely studied and invested in bitcoins and it has borne results over the past year.
With plans to further explore similar hobbies, Vinod believes that it is imperative for every poker player to invest in other fields to help sustain a long-term career in a sport which is swing-heavy.
Success never came easy to anybody (except Donald Trump’s children), and Vinod is no different.
“I’ve sacrificed everything for 3 years” he laments and discussions with his close friends confirm a similar story.
After completing college, Vinod put everything into poker and it ate up into his social life, personal life, and health. While he realises that such a sacrifice was necessary at the time, he has made considerable efforts to correct them in recent times.
Besides spending more time at home, he’s also met old friends to make up for the lost days. Even more surprisingly, he plans to follow a strict diet and maintain a gym schedule to live a healthier lifestyle.
Now when was the last time a poker player uttered those words?!
And a little luck!
Vinod fondly recounts a meeting in Bangalore that he claims “changed his life.” A couple of friends from the poker circuit – Apaar Gautam and Avilash Chatterjee – introduced him about a year back to Navkiran Singh of PokerBaazi. He remembers finding in Navkiran a very genuine person and he immediately deposited Rs. 60,000 in PokerBaazi that day; and Vinod has proudly been a Baazigar from then on, achieving tremendous success on the site where he plays under “figureitout”
Moving up the stakes on PokerStars, PokerBaazi etc, Vinod has consistently modified his game to accommodate higher stakes. With PLO games offering more volumes, he’s been a regular at the high roller tables over the past year. While cash games have their merits, the thrill offered by a tournament in unrivaled and Vinod has seen successes with top 50 finishes in the Super Tuesday, Thursday Thrill and $550 Rebuy tournaments.
More tournament successes have also followed in the live circuit with it culminating in the recently concluded Deltin Poker Tour 10K Warm-up Event. A long cherished dream of Vinod’s came true when he, Vidwath and Keshav Chadha were the top 3 finalists in the event. “I don’t really care if I win but if you come top 3 in a tournament with your close friends it means more.” said the young shot. Who can deny that this is the very least he deserves!
Vinod’s message to other young players:
“Stay hungry, stay foolish and just go after what you want. Once you find what you’re looking for, your heart will tell you what to do!”