We have today as our Young Shot of Poker an individual who’s known to anyone playing on Indian poker sites. He’s courted controversy, and he’s won big. He’s been to Vegas and he’s been a part of the inaugural Poker Sports League. He’s cracked many major tournaments and he’s yet to complete college. He is Akshay “Sherlock52” Nasa.

Akshay Nasa (Photo credits: Deltin Poker Tournament)

Still only 22, Akshay Nasa has made a name for himself in a very short span of time within the Indian poker community. Unbeknown to his family, Nasa’s poker journey started three years back on Indian websites like Adda52, PokerBaazi and (then) Spartan Poker. The tight, swingy player has come a long way since, overturning his folks as well as the odds in his favour.

From Luck to Talent

Nasa began playing poker three years back as a hobby to earn some pocket money on the side. Hobby soon became fascination and fascination then became profession. Somewhere in between, there came a phase of breathtaking improvement in his game. Although he’s never taken extended coaching (save for a few session this year), Nasa has over the years vastly improved his game. YouTube videos, books and online tutorials have helped, but nothing is as big of a motivator for success as success itself.

Ever since winning his first big score at the Indian Online Poker Championship in 2016, Nasa’s game has been on an upswing. In the ensuing months he’s topped the PokerBaazi Premier League Leaderboard, won a trip to Vegas, and had massive scores on pretty much every Indian website. The icing on the cake was the PSL (Poker Sports League) win with the Delhi Panthers in what happened to be his first tryst with live poker!

The change in fortunes has also coincided with a change in strategy and tactic. After varying degrees of success with over-aggression and extreme-tightness in his play, Nasa discovered the perfect balance in his game. Today, his game is on the aggressive side, but not to the extent where he’s selling himself short.

Exploring The Domestic and International Circuit

Nasa’s love for the game stems from the thrill it provides him when he’s deep in a tourney.  It is a feeling he’s been unable to replicate in any other form of life and for any poker player worth his salt, that’s to be expected. Interestingly, almost all the adrenaline rush he’s experienced, has come to him virtually, i.e. online. He rarely plays live poker, so that’s not unusual.

However, on the few chances he’s had to display his talents, he responded brilliantly. Besides the PSL win, Nasa min cashed his first ever tournament at the WSOP – Event #66, $1500 No-Limit Hold’em; no mean feat when you consider it was also his first tournament outside of India. Immediately following the WSOP, he came second in the High Roller at the July edition of the Deltin Poker Tournament for a 20+ Lakhs score.

Akshay Nasa celebrating the PSL win with the Delhi Panthers team

A Penchant For The Naughty

Over time, Nasa has however, developed a notorious reputation for his over zealous behaviour at the tables. The notoriety stems from his use (and often overuse) of rather expletive language at the tables. Though not uncommon, this behaviour has earned Nasa his fair share of critics and retribution. Not one to shy away from the controversy, Nasa addressed this side of his game. “When I started, I used to tilt very easily. I used to launch tirade after tirade.” He says. “Then I stopped, but I also realised that if you use this as a strategy, then you can tilt other players very easily. As long as I didn’t let it affect my game, I could and did use it as a strategy to win.”

“I, however, stopped doing that after some players complained, and some senior players told me that it was harming my reputation. Now if I do it, it means I am myself tilted, that’s it.”

The Road Ahead

All things considered, Nasa has achieved a fair bit; but to truly realise his potential, he still has a long way to go. He is aware of the need to improve, having recently articulated the need for a coach to help him excel on the international stage. With more travels planned in the future, he will also have to work on his cash game to balance the variance.

The improving numbers in Indian poker bode well for a player who keeps his options open when talking about his future. “Indian players are crushing it everywhere and that really motivated players like me.”

A die-hard Doug Polk and Fedor Holz fan, Nasa is minded to play the sport as long as he enjoys it. It speaks of his fearless character when Nasa openly admits he’s playing and pursuing poker because it appeals to him in the moment and without worrying about the future. If it stops bringing him joy, he’ll quit. For the sake of all those who enjoy his game and look forward to him realizing his immense potential, let’s hope that is not anytime soon.

Akshay’s Message to other young poker players: “Do whatever you love. I started playing tournament poker and I loved it, which is why I’m playing it right now. If you love poker, you will find a way. Just live in the moment!”

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