When you think about the top poker players in the world, a lot of the biggest names hail from North America. The likes of Phil Ivey, Phil Helmuth, and Daniel Negreanu are regulars at the final tables of major tournaments like the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour.
These players have been in the game for decades, and many of them made a name for themselves even before the poker boom of 2003. With online poker now more than twenty years old, there are emerging stars coming from all over the globe. This includes a few big names from India.
There is no doubt that it was thanks to the online offering that poker came to mass audiences in India, and a lot of the biggest players from the country started off by playing online. Playing online poker on specialized websites to gain experience is a common method of practice for modern players, with the likes of 2017 WSOP winner Scott Blumstein starting out as an online player before stepping up to take down the ultimate prize, for example.
Vivek Rajkumar tops the pile of Indian poker players in the all-time money list. The player, who appears online as Psyduck101, has racked up over $500,000 in internet tournaments. But the man who is credited with putting Indian poker on the map has also had great success on the live poker scene.
In 2008, Rajkumar took down the World Poker Tour crown in Bogata and pocketed a stunning $1.4 million. He then came close to earning another crown in 2011 at the L.A. Poker Classic but eventually lost to Gregory Brooks to end in second place. Still, he came out with a whopping $908,730 for his troubles.
While Rajkumar may be the most successful player from India over the years, Nipun Java is arguably more famous due to his regular presence in major live tournaments. The Los Angeles-based player began by plying his trade online in 2007, at various different poker sites. By 2009, he was playing in live tournaments, and in 2010 he had a money finish in the Main Event of the WSOP.
The year 2017 was Java’s most successful so far, when the man who currently comes in second in India’s all-time money list bagged two bracelets in the summer. His most notable victory was the $1000 tag team win alongside Aditya Sushant, with the two players taking home $75,318 apiece.
Coming in at third place on India’s all-time money list is Aditya Agarwal. The man who sits at 540 in the Global Poker Index has reportedly made over $4 million in online earnings. Despite predominantly being an internet player, Agarwal has also taken part in a number of live tournaments. His most successful such showing was in 2018, when he finished as runner up in the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour Macau Main Event and took home $242,211.
The common theme of these highly successful Indian poker players is that they all started out by playing online first. Anyone who wants to replicate their rise to the top in the poker scene should consider following the same path and practice in an internet setting before moving to live games.