Praz Bansi is a fast learner so why decided to find out how he’s become one of the best poker players in the UK

WSOP bracelet winner Praz Bansi tells Paul Cheung how he went from recruitment consultant to fully-fledged poker pro in just 18 months

In August, 28-year-old Londoner Praz Bansi became only the 11th Briton ever to pick up a prestigious WSOP bracelet when he won the $1,000 no-limit hold’em event – hence his instant arrival in the top 20 of InsideEdge’s UK Player Rankings.

You only got into poker a year and a half ago, right?

Yeah, one day my friend introduced me to someone who worked for Victor Chandler. He told me about hold’em and said it’s one of those card games where you’ll make money. He explained the maths and the psychology and I started thinking about when I was younger and how I used to do my uncles out of cash in three-card poker. They were clever people as well. So, I thought, maybe I’ll give it a spin. I remember going to the Vic and the first day I played I won £500. I just got it.

Was it hard juggling poker with your job as a recruitment consultant?

One day, my manager was out and I downloaded [the software to play online] onto a computer at work. I was playing it all afternoon. No-one could see my screen, so I used to sit there and make out I was doing research. I’d just sit there and play all afternoon.

And no-one noticed?

No-one knew because I’d play for three hours and then cram the morning’s work into half an hour. I know it was a bit of a piss-take, yeah – they were paying me to do a job. At the end of the day, though, I was there for five years, I made them a shitload of money and this was just something that I needed to do. It got to a stage where it was just stupid me getting up at the time I got up. I was wasting time and I got sick of looking over my shoulder. I quit before I went to Vegas.

So how did you prepare for Vegas?

Twenty days before, I thought, ‘I want to get a bankroll together’. I spun up $30k playing cash games. I know that when I focus and I’m disciplined I’ll make money. All my friends had qualified for the main event already. So the first week I played the qualifiers; there were 60-odd runners, two seats and I came third. The next week, I played the same tournament and I bubbled – third again. I played for the third week in a row and this time we got to three-handed and I just didn’t get involved. One of the guys got rivered and that was it.

How did the main event go?

I got my stack up from 10k to 30k and made a move on this geezer at the end of the first day. I knew that he knew I was making a move on him. I had 7-high or something. I really put the pressure on and he folded. Three hands later, I get Kings so I make my standard raise and this time he decides to re-raise. And because of the history and because the blinds were going up, I couldn’t throw them away. He had Aces. My mate said, ‘Just play the $1,000 event tomorrow and win that.’

Did it really feel like the most exciting tournament in the world?

We went out the night before, so I was 45 minutes late. I missed the intro bit, so it just felt like another comp. It was good, though. As the day went on and I saw how seriously players were playing, it started to dawn on me that it was huge.

And the rest as they say, is history…

I always felt that if a few things went right for me and I didn’t get unlucky in crucial situations, I would do something bigger. I remember walking past Johnny Chan and Devilfish and feeling a real buzz, and that it would be class if I won this tournament.

You faced Men the Master’s protege, Anh Lu, in the final heads-up. What was that like?

Yeah, he had been training him for 11 years. Quite a serious bloke on the table. I was talking to him quite a bit to get a read off him. I won five pots in a row off him and Men the Master, from the rail, was saying, ‘You’ve got to stand up to him.’ In the break, Men came up to me and said, ‘How long have you been playing?’ I said, ‘I’ve been playing for a year and a half.’ He wouldn’t believe me.

What were your immediate feelings when the final card came down?

I just thought, ‘I’ve done it. I’ve won a bracelet.’ All I heard was this deafening sound from all my mates. It was just all so unreal.

PokerPlayer magazine not only interviews the great players like Praz but it also includes 24 pages of expert poker strategy every month

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