Poker Portal Asia

Talking Poker with the IPS Director

Bharat Agarwalla, the director of the India Poker SeriesBharat Agarwalla, the director of the India Poker Series

When Poker Portal Asia learned of a surging poker series in South Asia, it was important for us to know the details as soon as possible as it would confirm that even in that part of the region, the popularity of poker is indeed growing.

We came across the India Poker Series (IPS) — see latest news here– and the man responsible for organizing the event, Mr. Bharat Agarwalla, the director of the IPS. Agarwalla learned to play poker in the early 90s when a friend returning from the USA introduced him to the game. From then on, the rest is history.

PPA: First of all, tell us all about the India Poker Series or IPS; how and when did it start? What’s the history behind the premier poker premier poker series in South Asia?

BA: I learnt how to play poker in the early 90s when a close friend (Dev Saharia) returned from the USA and taught me the game. There were barely a handful of players on Kolkata in those days who knew how to play poker. The same was the case in other metros of India while people in the smaller cities and towns were not at all conversant with the game.

In April 2009, I organised a friendly tournament in Kolkata which got a fair bit of response (37 participants). Players were keen that he holds an event every month but I wished to make it more systematic. I held friendly tournaments every 2-3 months in Kolkata (including one which had over 100 participants) and at the same time the game also gained popularity amongst the youth.
In March 2010, Phil Sanders who has been connected to casinos met me in Kolkata with a proposal for an intended tournament in Goa. Within a week of that I announced the India Poker Series’ first event which was Chapter 1 of 2010 to be held in Casino Royal Goa from 23rd to 25th of April 2010. Three weeks was all that I had to “market” the event.

PPA: As director of the IPS, how proud and happy are you in your contribution and IPS’ to the growth of poker in the region? How did this particular poker series encourage new players to join more tourneys and old players to take their games to the next level?

BA: IPS has been something I have been passionate about. So my contribution to it has not come just from my hard work in terms of labour but also as much from my heart. IPS has resulted in bringing live tournaments to players from this region, a lot of who never knew that poker was played in Goan Casinos or even that Casinos existed in Goa or anywhere in India. New players got tremendous exposure as they got to play in a professional environment with our tourneys being conducted under our Tournament Director (TD) Mr. Craig Wildman who is from UK and undoubtedly the best TD in the country.

These new players got to learn to play under conditions when they knew they cannot make a top up if they run out of chips as they are busted unlike a cash game where one can top up. The old players also got to gain a lot of experience by playing against a variety of players and this took their game to the next level. They have gained tremendous amount of experience and would continue to do so.

PPA: Where do you credit the success of the IPS and its events? Who is responsible for turning this into one of the attractive poker events in Asia?

BA: First and foremost I would give credit to my childhood buddy Dev Saharia, who taught me poker way back in the early 90s. Next I think I have been the main brain and driving force behind IPS. Phil Sanders (from UK) who runs the poker room in Casino Royale Goa was the person who opened the gates for IPS with his initial proposal and then his entire team has always given full support.

Our TD Craig Wildman also from UK who also is the manager to the poker room, has been amazing with his vast experience and knowledge. He has always ensured that things are super smooth at the IPS events.

One person needs a mention here and his name is Aditya “Mastermind” Agarwal. He was to be my partner in the company but as he had some personal pre-commitments he was unable to become our partner. He is like a “founder member” I can say. He has participated in every IPS event, made it to the final table thrice (out of which once he was 2nd and once 3rd) and is currently on top of our LeaderBoard. He would be seen in action in IPS 5 as well. Aditya “Intervention” Agarwal runs PokerGuru and he has contributed immensely by way of online coverage of our events as also by running online satellites for IPS.

Another person whose name I wish to mention here is my friend Vikram Verma from Mumbai. He has been of tremendous support in way of encouragement and as he is a poker enthusiast himself and has lent support to IPS in his own way.

PPA: For those new to the IPS, explain to us briefly the structure and format of an IPS? Do you plan to have an IPS MAIN EVENT in the future, featuring an even higher buy-in and payout?

BA: The format is quite simple – we have each Chapter divided into 3 events. The events are held over the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). They start at 9 PM India Time. Usual duration of each event is around 9 hours so they around 6 AM the next day. These events are a mix of one Re-Buy and two Freeze Out events. The largest Buy In event is held on the Saturday and we call it the Main Event of that Chapter.

We plan to have a Mega Event called the Champ Of Champs at the end of the year in November with a higher buy in and subsequently higher prize pool. Winners of the events of all chapters held during the year would be participating in that event as also it would be open to others. We plan to make this Champ of Champs event into something which people would look forward to as winners or champs of each event during the year would get to participate in it.

PPA: What are the future plans of the IPS? Four chapters done, with the next one coming up this March, what other IPS events have you lined up for 2011 and beyond?

BA: IPS intends to follow the format of 3 events in each chapter for year 2011, in fact our schedule for the full year is already published on or website. This would help participants to plans their travel and accommodation well in advance.

As the year progresses we plan to have work out a few tie ups at suitable terms. Currently, we have been working with PokerGuru.In who have been doing online coverage of our events as also running our online satellites. We intend to have more such tie ups for satellites as also are open to having co-sponsors. Few more announcements are to be made in the weeks to come and we are not in a position to divulge them now. They shall unfold slowly. And after 3 chapters are through, we will work on a few more aspects to make IPS and even more sought after poker tournament.

We aim to make poker the 2nd most popular sport in the country after cricket. Our endeavour in that direction is going steady and we see our events get more participants from remote places in time to come though even now we get participants from all parts of the country and also from the smaller towns. The people are coming from places like Gangtok, Dibrugarh, Coimbatore, Manipal, Vellore, Panchkula, Jabalpur, Rajkot, Nagpur though the bigger cities steal the limelight like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad etc. Few participants who are foreign nationals have also participated and often made it to the final table.

An encouraging thing has been seeing the ladies also participate and even make it to the final table. This is just the tip of the ice berg and in time we shall see the numbers keep rising. We hope to maintain our motto which is “We have the Best Hand!!!”

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