Is multi-tabling expert Hevad Khan the new poker brat?: “It boosted my morale to try more, because people were saying that I was superhuman”

He may known for his antics at the WSOP final table, but Hevad ‘Rain’ Khan was already a well-known online player

Hevad Khan may only be 22 years old but the young New Yorker has already made a big impact on the poker scene. Khan cashed in three events at this year’s WSOP, raking in close to $1m, the majority of which came from his impressive sixth place in the Main Event.

But incredibly, that’s not what he’s best known for in the States. These days, a young ‘crazy’ player hitting the final table of the Big One is no longer the groundbreaking event it was when Phil Hellmuth made history by becoming the youngest person to win the Main Event in 1989 at the age of 24.

Instead, as with so many others recently (think Sorel Mizzi, Annette Obrestad), Khan had already made himself a legend within the online community well before his big cash finish introduced his aggressive game to the wider world.

Like many college kids, Khan got into poker via online PC gaming. He was part of the semi-professional StarCraft set alongside another major online talent, Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier. In case you’re not aware of what StarCraft is, it’s a hugely popular real-time strategy game that pits warring space nations against each other in a battle for supremacy.

Successful players must have lightning reactions, deploy deadly tactics and possess the ability to spot and seize upon enemy weaknesses. While it may sound incredibly geeky, these are skills that obviously stand you in good stead for playing poker.

Hevad’s first dalliances with online poker saw him borrowing $80 from a friend, opening up five $16 sit-and-gos simultaneously, running the money up to $300, and then going bust. Each time he’d make a good amount he’d play a $300 or $500 STT – a game well beyond the scope of his bankroll – and either bust or make a big score. ‘I’m completely over that,’ he says now. ‘I probably busted my account nine or 10 times with my horrible bankroll management. It really kicked me in the ass.’ But it didn’t stop him opening more and more sit-and-go tables.

Multi-table madness

In November 2005, college freshman Khan got himself banned from for being an android. Not because he had stormed the offices of the online poker site wrapped in silver foil (though this would be believable given some of his excitable antics at the WSOP), but because of the number of sit-and-gos he was playing at one time – his online name RaiNKhaN had been red-flagged for regularly playing on more than 20. It was thought that the account was a poker robot because there was no way a human could successfully play that many, so his account was frozen.

Khan responded by sending a video of himself playing 26 sit-and-gos under a friend’s name to PokerStars to prove that it was him playing. His account was reinstated and the video soon found its way onto the internet and online poker forums. The ensuing furore only acted as a catalyst for Khan to play greater numbers.

‘It boosted my morale to try more, because people were saying that I was superhuman,’ says Khan. Eventually he played what is believed to be a record 43 single-table tournaments simultaneously.

After being told by another StarCraft buddy, online poker pro Eric ‘sheets’ Haber, that he could break the $100 games, Khan ran $2,000 up to $8,000. He then bought a one-way plane ticket to a friend’s house and, sleeping in his living room for four months, played 12 hours a day, grinding it out in up to 30 $100, $200, $300 and $500 sit-and-gos at a time.

‘I really wanted the ‘supernova elite’ status [in his PokerStars account] but ended up going broke in the process… I was playing over my head and ran bad, and with the amount of tables I was playing I was going kind of mentally insane,’ explains Khan.

He realised he needed to change tack and borrowed some money, which was paid back three days later, to start a smaller bankroll to play tournaments. Within three weeks Khan had rebuilt his bankroll to $75,000.

Ape man

Although Khan’s multi-tabling had become a contentious issue in online forums, with arguments raging about whether or not it’s worth giving up the edge of increased focus for playing such a high number of STTs, it was ESPN’s World Series coverage that put his name on the lips of every poker fan (see The wrath of Khan, right).

His ‘antics’ at the WSOP final table split opinion. Some claimed he was showboating for the cameras, while others thought that he simply showed a lack of respect for the game. Either way, it comes as little surprise to learn that the player Khan respects most is ‘Poker Brat’ Phil Hellmuth, whom he describes as ‘hilarious’.

Khan explains, ‘There were cameras all over the place and I knew all my buddies would be at home excited. I think you can come across as a prick if you don’t live it up. Throughout the whole WSOP there was only one time that I thought I went over the top. I was friendly with everyone. I didn’t think, “I’ll try to be an idiot,” but every time I felt excited I showed it.’

Khan is conscious that his Main Event antics have put him in the public eye, but he doesn’t want to be remembered as a dancing monkey. ‘I got excited at the Main Event – it was my moment – but now that I’ve calmed down I want to show everyone that it wasn’t a joke, that I’m not just some kid that ran good, but a big-shot in the making. I can’t expect people to respect me until I prove it in other tournaments. That’s going to be my passion.’

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