An interview with Team Online's Roy Bhasin
When Roy Bhasin began playing games with his family as a child, he never could have envisioned it would lead to where he is today. The Sydney, Australia, native recently became the newest member of Team PokerStars Online, an honor he considered a "pipe dream" when he first began playing full-time years ago.
Bhasin was among several poker players from the Oceania region seeking a spot on the coveted Team Online and, despite flying under the media radar for most of his poker career, he was selected to represent the Red Spade on the site and at tournaments around the globe.
We caught up with Bhasin to learn about how he got his start in poker, how his deal with PokerStars came about, and more.
Take us back to your childhood. What games did you play with your family growing up? Did that help heighten your interest in strategy games?
A game that I played a lot with my family -- which is still played extensively in my family -- is an Indian variation of rummy. Basically it's like other forms of rummy except we played with 21 cards and there are some other house rules added in. No family trip these days is complete without at least a few rounds of rummy.
Another game I used to play with the family from a young age was bingo -- when I was as young as four or five I would round the family up, hand out score sheets, collect money, and organize the game. So basically I loved gambling from a very early age.
Aside from that there were the regular games: Monopoly, Scrabble, and Pictionary. I also took a keen interest in video games from a very young age -- basically as soon as I could hold a controller -- and spent many hours in front of the TV or computer screen. Some of my favorites were Final Fantasy VII, Warcraft 3, Diablo, Runescape and most recently Starcraft 2. There were a plethora of other games scattered throughout my childhood. I was also a big fan of the Magic the Gathering card games which I think several other pro poker players were before finding poker.
I think all of the above games help heighten my interest in strategy games so that when it came to being introduced to poker it was a perfect fit.
How did you stumble upon poker?
I had been introduced to five-card draw as a child and knew the basic concepts behind poker but it wasn't until a fateful night at a friend's house that I found the current variations of the game. There were a few of us at a friend's place for a Halo night and when we broke to have some pizza for dinner we were flipping through the TV channels. I think it was the WPT that was on and my friend Glen who knew the rules explained them to the rest of us. I was instantly hooked and spent almost every waking hour over the next few months reading, watching and playing to improve my game.
You spend a lot of your time playing pot-limit Omaha ring games on PokerStars. Is that your favorite variation of poker or do you play it because it's your best game?
Both. It's probably my best game because it's my favorite and I have spent so much time playing and studying it. I love all forms of poker, especially some of the more lesser played variants like 2-7 Triple Draw or Badugi but I don't often play them outside of home games with friends or low stakes while in Vegas, again with friends.
Are there any players and/or friends who have helped you become the poker player you are today?
Definitely -- too many to name all of them. One of the first poker forums that I was a part of was the old Bet-The-Pot forum and I owe a lot of my poker upbringing and skills to the posters from there. I'm still good friends with many of them. Other than that there were my school friends who I played with every week, other friends I've met online and from live tournaments around the world. It's great being able to talk poker with friends who are at a similar level to you as you can help each other learn and improve and this is definitely what I have done with a lot of my friends.
How did the sponsorship with PokerStars come about?
Every now and then Stars has announced that it is looking to add more people to the Team Online roster. I applied the first time around but back then I wasn't as active within the community as I am now. I recognized that they were looking for people with blogs so I decided to start one, partly with the goal of getting on to the team but also for personal reasons. I started to love posting and blogging and eventually my blog garnered a decent sized following. Last year I was contact by Stars that they had me in their sights to sign as a new team online member and from there it took a few months for them to narrow down their decision and for all the details to be worked out but it's been an amazing ride.
Was being a sponsored poker pro something you envisioned when you first started playing full-time? How does it feel to be a part of such a prestigious team?
It was more of a pipe dream than anything I realistically hoped to achieve when I first started playing full time. As time went on though I started aligning my goals closer and closer with that of being a sponsored pro and then of being one with Stars, which has always been my favorite site, even before I was a pro.
It feels amazing to be a part of the team. I think Stars is the best poker company in the world and in an industry fraught with scandals and unfortunate scenarios it is refreshing to see and know there is a company with their ethics and conduct at as high a level as Stars is.
What were some of your poker goals going into 2012? Do you plan on making Supernova Elite for the third straight year?
My main goal was to achieve Supernova Elite and I still plan on doing it. I would like to try again to break into the highest stake games around -- $25/50 and higher -- but I have tried a couple of times in the past with mixed results. The variance at those stakes is quite insane and I am very happy grinding it out at the mid-stake levels. I just want to continue to play well, study my game and stay ahead of the curve.
Have any of those goals changed now that you'll be wearing the Red Spade?
I wouldn't say any of them have changed, no. Some goals have been added though -- ever since becoming a member of team online I have felt a strong desire to do my position proud and spread the word of poker and PLO throughout the Australia and New Zealand region as well as the rest of the world, online and off. Hopefully I can work with Stars, my blog, Twitter, forums and other avenues of communication to achieve this goal. Aside from being my job I think poker is a fascinating game and that it always will be -- almost everyone I know that has been introduced to it and played for a short while have fallen in love with it.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time away from poker?
I love traveling, cooking, eating and playing video games. My girlfriend also likes the former three so we often travel together or explore new restaurants, cuisines, and wineries in our down time. I love golf but have had a bad back for a few years now so haven't been able to play -- one of my goals is to get that sorted out and get back to golfing every week.