Sleight Of Hand: Aditya Agarwal
The first Indian to cash at a European Poker Tour, Aditya Agarwal has come a long way since playing poker in his university dormitory. Now a professional poker player, his love for the game has managed to put him in the global leaderboard and travel all over the world. Edited excerpts.
Tell us about your journey with playing poker. How has the experience been so far?
Well, I’ve been playing poker for a very long time. I started playing in freshman year of college back in 2004 and it’s been close to 15 years now. It’s been quite an up and down journey, but I have been very happy about it. I feel very fortunate to achieve quite a bit and poker has been a successful career for me.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken on the poker table? And if it was not poker, do you think you would be working a regular 9-to-5 job?
The biggest risk on the poker table is tough to quantify as such, but whenever you are playing, you know you are making moves and taking risks. I cannot really think of any particular situation that might qualify as the biggest risk that I’ve taken on a poker table. If I wasn’t playing poker, I might be doing some other unconventional job. But, who knows I might even be doing a 9-to-5 job.
Unfortunately, in India, poker isn’t considered a full-time profession. Why do you think people have misconceptions about the game?
In India, poker is not considered a game of skill and that’s just because people associate any game, which is played with cards to be gambling. These are the kind of misconceptions you’re going to face a lot. However, I think over time, it has started getting more recognition and is being considered separate from games such as teen patti and more in the category of skill games such as bridge and rummy.
Every player requires to have strong critical reasoning and influential decision-making skills. What according to you is the key secret to become a really successful player without personal or other types of coaching?
The good thing about poker is it challenges you on a lot of different levels. There are so many different skill-sets that are required and it’s really difficult to be good at just one thing and still be really great at the game. I feel without any sort of coaching, just being able to pay attention, observe your opponents, and being able to pick up on stuff will really help you be great at this game.
Everyone who plays poker has a distinct style, how would you define your style of playing poker? Anything, in particular, that would you like to share?
My playing style is aggressive, but I would like to think I am able to adjust according to the table. So, even though I mostly play aggressive, depending on the situation I can adjust my play, be tighter and mix it up a little.
How long did it take for you to learn all the rules of the game? Do you read books or follow a certain top player online to understand the game thoroughly?
The game is very easy to learn. I didn’t take long to understand, but it is difficult to get good at it. Putting in volume helps in getting the required experience. The best way to improve is to keep playing it. Even now, I watch many good players and I continue studying as much as I can, it’s a process which needs to be followed relentlessly. You just have to keep working hard to stay at the top of your game.
If you could play heads up against anyone in the world, who would that be? And who you don’t want to play against at any costs?
I am a big Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson fan, so I would love to play heads up versus them. They would be my ideal heads-up opponents. However, I would not want to play heads-up against some solid cash game players such as Otb Red Baron, Ben Sulsky, and Galfond.
There are several flourishing poker platforms available online for everyone to try their hands on. What role do you think PokerStars played in your career?
There have been a lot of Indian poker sites that have come up in the last three years. PokerStars has given me a tremendous opportunity to travel the world and be an ambassador for the sport in India. Even though they have been in the market for just a year, I have been very lucky in representing them for close to four years now so it’s been quite an honour. They have really helped me spread awareness about poker in India and I’m extremely happy for this opportunity.
Do you have any tips for all the budding poker players out there?
My only tip for novice poker players would be to not just focus on playing, but to study the game as well and to work as hard off the felt as you do on the felt.