An expert poker player who wanted to know about the legalities of the game introduced Prabhat Mukherjea to professional poker. The game interested the law student Prabhat, who immediately pecked through books written by poker stalwart Dan Harrington. Bad luck struck on the personal front when he lost both his parents before completing college. It was when he decided to quit his Rs 1 lakh/month job of a lawyer to turn into a full-time professional online MTT player, that Prabhat found a new lease of life. Here’s the story canvassing the high-and-lows of Prabhat’s Poker journey on his way to becoming a full time professional poker player!
It Was Bound to Happen
For those who don’t know me, I am Prabhat Mukherjea - a professional poker player. If there is one thing I have learnt from playing this game, it is to avoid being results-oriented. It is a very strong tendency for poker players to notice things that happen and then invent explanations afterwards, while ignoring the equally possible things that didn’t happen. Even so, I think I was bound to discover poker sooner or later. Though I have been very lucky in some ways, I do think that even if these opportunities had not come my way, others chances would have. I have always loved every kind of game and sport, both physical and mental. I always assumed that poker was a game of skill and that I would be good at if I ever learned, even before I knew the first thing about the game. As it turned out, it was in college that I first encountered the game, sitting on the back bench and watching some friends playing a silly computer poker game.
The game caught my attention and soon enough I was playing with them. I have always loved reading. I read lots of books and I read incredibly fast. The first thing I did was to download Dan Harrington on Holdem. Harrington was a lawyer, like me and writes very well, combined with his results, this led me to make the incredibly illogical conclusion that everything in the book must be treated as gospel. Nonetheless, as an introduction the reading material was excellent and I was a big winner in the cash games at our hostel. Eventually I discovered a website that offered its members a $50 free deposit online. I blew it within days, and spent months trying to grind up a bankroll playing freerolls.
One day, I made a post about the legality of online poker on the PocketFives forums and received a message from a guy who wanted to follow up. As it turned out, this guy was an incredibly good poker player who absolutely destroyed high-stakes SnGs (Sit’n Go-s) and midstakes NLHE (No-limit Holdem) and PLO (Pot-limit Omaha). He had won a lot of money playing online and was concerned about his legal status. It was easy for me to help him out, do research for him and even help him ask the right questions to the law firm he contacted for help. This law firm probably used interns or juniors just out of college to answer his questions, and even in my fourth year at college I was probably a much better lawyer than the ones who replied to his questions and I certainly was paid a lot more right out of college than any juniors would receive at this firm. My friend, (who would prefer not to be named) was grateful and gave me a stake on Pokerstars and lots of excellent advice. I was down to $3 when I hit a score in a multi-table tournament to stay alive. At this point however my mental setup was certainly not ideal for any kind of career in poker. My outlook was essentially immature and my confidence and outlook towards poker all depended only on whether I was running good or not. Despite being pretty bad at poker at this stage, I managed to work up to a roll of around $4000, a fact I can attribute mostly to the games being much easier even two years ago.
“The Real World”
I strongly believe that most of us are miseducated by society. I come from what has to be one of the most liberal families in the country. My parents were from different parts of India and married for love. My father had spent most of his life abroad, studying in England and then living for a long time in the USA, he had divorced his first wife, and enjoyed life in California in the 1970’s the most liberal of times. Though my mother was from a conservative and religious family, she was just as liberal in her outlook, probably thanks to my father. Both my parents drank and smoked, often excessively. Despite being so incredibly liberal and bringing me up to be independent even my parents were not immune to the pressures of society.
From the time we first go to school, almost all of us have heard people discussing our future, what profession we should go into. Any time a child wants to do something that is unusual, we feel compelled to point out the risks involved, the possibility that they may fail and all the things that could go wrong. But on the other hand, if somebody wants to do engineering no one feels the need to tell them that the absolute best case scenario of that choice is spending long hours day in day out, for years on end doing the same kind of work for a corporation that will pay him not even 1/1,000th of what the companies CEOs or owners make. Very few people even consider the fact that people are not in fact automatons, no matter how mechanically they behave sometimes.
Different people like different things but very few people seem to realize this when they advise young people about what to do. I never worked hard at school, and rarely at college, mostly because the work was boring and I didn’t see the point. No matter what my teachers told me, I am glad I didn’t spend hours studying physics or chemistry. I really don’t know and don’t care why or how the tube-lights in my house work, so long as they do or I can pay someone to fix them when they don’t. This attitude however led to constant reminders from any number of people that my attitude wouldn’t work in the “real world”.
The time around my graduation was one of the worst times of my life. My mother had died of cancer and just before I graduated my father suffered a heart attack from which he couldn’t recover. To make things worse I had no time to sort things out or take any time off because our college had very strict attendance requirements and the firm recruiting me wanted me to start working even before our academic year officially ended. Unsurprisingly my poker results were also all downhill during this year. The company I worked at were probably the best employers imaginable, I was making Rs 100,000+ a month, which is quite good straight out of college and my work hours were also very reasonable and the work atmosphere was excellent and very pleasant. Nonetheless nothing about my job really excited or thrilled me and the lack of freedom was stressing me out incredibly. As a consequence, I abruptly quit my job.
Your World is Your Choice
I took my job because it paid a lot of money and because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Eventually I realized that this was a really terrible decision because it was making me really unhappy and additionally preventing me from finding out what I did want to do. To those of you stuck in jobs that you don’t like, my advice is to actively find out what you do want to do and put in everything it takes to make that work. Almost anybody can be at least moderately successful at the profession of their choice if they put in the effort. Can you do it without upsetting anyone or making sacrifices or taking risks? No. But that’s the way the world works; if you would rather be stuck in a miserable job for the next ten years than upset your parents or your relatives or risk money to set up your business or play poker or whatever else you may want to do, that’s a perfectly valid choice. The important thing is to be aware of what is most important to you and why you are making your choices. I realized that I didn’t want to work and didn’t particularly need the money and that this was the most important thing, and if other people didn’t like it that was too bad. As it is, my friends and acquaintances are much too polite and well brought up to openly hate on my choice no matter how stupid they may have thought it was.
A Second Beginning
Quitting my job gave me a new lease of life and I was once more enjoying myself and my poker game was definitely improving. Unfortunately the same could not be said for my bankroll as I continued to run incredibly badly and about a year ago to this day my bankroll on Stars was barely $200. Eventually my bankroll dropped to single digits before I intensely grinded 180 man SNGs on Stars. These are hands down the EASIEST way to build a bankroll on Stars. I can practically guarantee that I could turn $20 into $1000 within a week on Pokerstars playing nothing but 90 man and 180 man low stakes SnGS. Early last year, I was surfing the net and discovered that live tournaments happened at Goa, something I was totally unaware of. I automatically assumed that since I actually knew how to play push/fold poker, I would naturally be super +EV at these tournaments. I decided to go to Goa and play live.
To say that things begin badly would be an understatement. It took me 16 tournaments in Goa to achieve my first cash. In the meantime though I met my cousin Amit Varma, (for the first time!) and even got to play with Intervention who obviously busted me within 2 minutes of my meeting him, when I went all in with 77 (pocket 7s) and 12 BBs only to have him wake up with QQ (pocket queens). Gradually things turned around in live poker and in quick succession I took a second in an IPP rebuy event for 185k, a big second place in the inaugural PGT Main Event for 375k and I finally won a rebuy at Aces Unlimited for my first live title and 300k.
Online things were swingy as ever and I shipped a $5 tourney for around $1000 only to be back to single digits by November 2011 online. This was incredibly tilting for me because even beginners who I had taught and helped at poker now had much bigger rolls than me and I could barely afford to play $1 SnGs. Nonetheless in December I decided to grind my roll back up and I played an enormous number of $2 SnGs eventually moving up to a few MTTs (multi-table tournaments) and finally got a big score to get my roll to $3000+.
Being a professional MTT player you need to be very strong emotionally because there will be long dry patches and you can never know when or how suddenly you will make the money. Because MTTs have high variance even winning players can have long losing streaks which make you doubt that you are a winner or conversely big undeserved wins that may convince you that you are god’s gift to poker when you are just an average clown running hot. It can be very difficult to run bad for ages while watching players you think are inferior get lucky and win tournaments again and again.
Just like life, MTTs reward those who have patience and perseverance. After returning from the latest event of the PGT where I had multiple good runs but only managed one 2nd place in a bounty event, I promised myself I would work hard and slowly grind up my roll. The day after I returned I sat down and loaded up multiple tournaments. 24 hours later my bankroll had increased by $16,000 as I had finished 2nd in the Hot 11, shipped the $8R 3x Turbo (which I almost didn’t register because I was used to running bad in it) and finished 2nd in the same 8R the next day.
Sadly I have had the worst run bad of my life this month, regularly taking incredible beats for huge pots with incredible equity on the line. This is part of poker though, and I have been constantly putting in time and effort playing and thinking about poker and reviewing HHs and I am sure that sooner or later I will run in god-mode again. If you play MTTs, running good for a few hours at the right time can undo days or months of run bad, but this won’t happen if you are too distracted to play your best or too beaten down to register. At this point in my poker career I am not too worried about the results, I just want to increase my skill dramatically, because if I ever get as good as I want to be the amounts I play for now will be pocket change. There is a very interesting theory that it takes 10,000 hours of top quality effort to become absolutely world-class at any endeavor, I am willing and ready to put in the time and effort it takes to become exceptional at this game and I am looking forward to the process.