Abhishek Goindi chats to Poker Portal Asia…
He’s only 22 years old and already Abhishek Goindi is the highest casher from India in Asia Pacific poker tournaments with over USD $215,000 in live tournament earnings. Around USD $136,000 of his winnings came from a runner-up finish in the 2012 Macau Poker Cup: Red Dragon that, amazingly, was claimed on his first ever trip to Macau. In fact, it is only this year that Goindi has begun playing in tournaments outside of his home country.
He discovered his passion for the game while studying Business Management at university, and no, he didn’t drop out after building a six-figure bankroll online, which seems to be the usual story these days. Instead, Goindi discovered his talent while playing home games at the time. He went on to finish his degree and is actually considering going back to do his Masters.
Along the way he discovered a hero worship for Phil Ivey, which he has doesn’t mind owning up to, and met a tight crew of friends around the Indian tournament circuit. That’s no doubt because both on and off the table, he’s quick to laugh and joke around, which you would never guess at from all the serious-faced photos we only seem to get of him playing at tournaments.
Poker Portal Asia caught up with Goindi in between games at APT Asian Series Goa for a bottle of Kingfisher (one-third of India’s beer drinkers prefer it, apparently) and a chat about his road to success.
It feels great. I’ve never really kept track of ranks and stuff. I just look at the game and look at every day as a new day. The rankings will just take care of themselves. It is good to see where I stand so it’s a good feeling, but that’s not my priority. I just love the game more than the money.
But money wise, what have you been doing with all your winnings?
I like to sort out my parents and keep them happy. They worry about the sustainability of my chosen career for now. I’ve actually sold a lot of action for most of my cashes, but I’ve got a healthy roll for myself and I’ve put aside some money to make some investments locally in India. I was looking at getting some post office savings, national certificates; invest in some in mutual funds, some assets. Just don’t mention gold though. The tax guys might come after me [laughs]. It’s a grey area.
So tell me a bit about your poker history, when you first started.
I was never into cards, but we used to have these slumber parties in high school and when I went to university. I was 17, I’m 22 now, so the only card games I used to play was Rummy and Bluff. We were just bored of playing the same games and a friend of mine just got back from the States so she taught us poker and we started playing it.
It wasn’t too big in India, not many people knew it, so we didn’t really get a chance to play it much. But as we moved onto university I saw the game spreading and just got into a bunch of home games. And then I was actually making healthy money for a uni kid and it just kept me going. That’s when it struck me that I could just give it a shot. I was always following it online and watching the World Series.
And what about your tournament experience? Did you start online?
No I’ve mainly played live throughout my life. It’s just of late that I’ve moved online. I started putting in volume online only a few months back but I’ve mainly learnt the game live, putting in a lot of hours live.
Are you playing a lot of cash or just tournaments?
I play both. The thing is that Phil Ivey is ‘god’ for me. I love Ivey. I idolised him so much growing up and learning this game and Ivey is one of the few players in the world who plays cash and tournaments so brilliantly. He’s Ivey, you know what I mean. And because he was my role model I took to playing cash and tournaments. I dedicated an equal amount of time to both.
But the thing is, when I’m playing tournaments, I try not to play cash. And when there’s a break between tournaments I play cash. Because the switch between modes can affect your tournament game and I’ve donked a couple of times on the cash tables because of being in tourney mode.
In tourney mode the stacks are always changing. The dynamics on the table are always different. Preflop ranges are different. It’s more short-stack play. Cash game is more deep-stack play. I do learn a lot from cash games, I do use some strategies in tournaments, particularly if it’s a deep-stack tournament. And it’s more post flop in cash tables. In tournaments it’s more preflop. You’ve got to make small adjustments there.
And how would you characterise your tourney play? Remember, I’ve seen you four-bet shove with four-deuce off-suit in Cebu before.
[Laughs] If I think it’s a good spot to jam then it doesn’t really matter what my hand is. I want to have some kind of equity post-flop if I get called pre. But four-deuce was just one of those hands when I just thought it was a really good spot so I didn’t care about my hand having equity because I was pretty sure he was going to fold because of stack sizes and dynamics. We were really close to the bubble as well. A lot of other details got integrated with that shove.
I believe you showed him as well…
I generally don’t show my hands too much but that particular hand I had to show. I don’t know why but it was at that particular moment on the table. I just normally try to conceal as much information as possible.
Obviously your big cash was your runner-up finish in the Macau Poker Cup earlier this year. How was that experience?
It was a beautiful feeling. I went into the tournament really wanting to win it. I just started the international circuit this year, had a couple of deep runs in APT Asian Series Cebu but got coolered a couple of times. So I went in the tournament pretty confident, running deep and playing well. I was on the right side of variance so I was pretty motivated because it was the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in. It was the biggest field size, biggest cash ever, but I was disappointed I came second because I really wanted to ship it and take that Dragon home. But I’m heading back in June so I hope to go one step better.
How did you celebrate afterwards?
I was actually exhausted and a little disappointed. I know I came second and chopped it but I really wanted to win it, you know. And I was exhausted because I was playing for days. But we did go have a party. We went buck wild, took all the guys out, and then I just hit the cash tables up.
Speaking of Macau cash tables, is that your dream to go up and play in high stakes games?
For sure. I just want to compete at the highest level. Growing up as a kid I always played sports. It was always my priority so I think I’ve got that competitive nature. I definitely want to go up in stakes.
What stakes do you feel most comfortable playing right now?
In India I regularly play the INR 200/500 which is close to USD $5/$10. But I do give shots at the USD $10/$20. In Macau I stayed at the HKD $50/$100 which is roughly the same as USD $5/$10 so I’m very comfortable playing the $5/$10.
You’ve just had a good start to APT Asian Series Goa, finishing fourth in the opening event and final tabling with Sangeeth Mohan and Aditya Agarwal – you’re all good mates right?
Yep, off the felt we are really close friends. I really respect Adi and his game; he’s definitely one of the best players out there. If you ever need any guidance he’s always there to help you out and he’s never misleading.
Samoh and I basically started our careers together. Our growth curves have been very similar and we’ve always been good friends, so that’s good because we rail each other at tournaments and always enjoy each other’s success.
Being a local lad, what advice can you give visiting poker players about what to do here in Goa?
A lot of visiting poker players like to go to spas in Goa and just get massages. But it’s not the same as the ones you get in Macau. They’re very ‘clean’ spas here [laughs]. I like to do the same but unwind on the beach. Whenever I get a chance I just head to the beach. There are some nice beaches here and you can go jet-skiing and para-sailing.
What are your poker goals for the rest of the year?
Well, right now I’m currently joined first with Nicky Tao Jin on the PokerStars Macau APOY so my short term goal is to stay on top of that leaderboard and bag all the goodies that come my way if I do. That’s my immediate goal. But my long term goal is just sustainability in this game. And I think it’s every poker player’s goal to one day win the WSOP Main Event.
So no WSOP trip this year?
I was actually planning on going but right now I’m 60/40 because it all depends on my visa. It’s pretty hard for Indians to get visas and it’s a long process so if that falls into place I’ll definitely go, otherwise I’ll probably save it for next year.
I’m in no hurry – I’ll just take it one step at a time.
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