RaiNKhAN Sunday Warm-Up Winner Interview
Note: Last Sunday, Team PokerStars Pro Hevad Khan took down the Sunday Warm-Up for nearly $100,000. Brazilian PokerStars blogger Maria took the opportunity to chat up RaiNKhAN and get his take on the win and everything that's happened to him since the 2007 World Series. For the original version of this story, visit the PokerStars Brazilian Blog. A translated version of her story and interview is here.
Don't be surprised if you are shocked when you meet Hevad Khan, better known online as RaiNKhAN. This is not a metaphor -- you may literally feel an electric shock when you shake his hand, because this 23-year-old player from Poughkeepsie, NY, may just be the most energetic person that the poker world has ever seen.
But don't be fooled by his enthusiastic celebrations at the 2007 WSOP, where he went on to make the final table and take a brilliant sixth place with a good sense of humor and charisma. Hevad is a machine when it comes to poker. His insane ability to play several tables at the same time at one time led to suspicion that it could not be a human playing, but a bot. This poker bulldozer, who has been an elite member of the PokerStars Team Pro since August 2007, took down one of the most coveted Sunday tournaments held on PokerStars, the Sunday Warm-Up. He won a bit more than $97,000 and was kind enough to share some words with us while he took it "slow" and only played 12 tables.
Maria: Hi Hevad, how are you?
HEVAD: Fine, taking it easy, only got 12 tables up now.
Maria: Hehe, I can imagine that must very boring. Well, since multi tabling is one of your many talents, why don't we start off with you telling us a little bit about this knack you have for playing a ton of tables at the same time, and how you were once accused of being a bot.
HEVAD: Ever since I started playing online poker during fall semester at school [University of Albany, where he majored in pre-med, then accounting then math, but then dropped out to become a poker professional--something which did not thrill his father, a doctor, at all] it was 8 tables at once. I busted my bankroll about 15 times before I finally got into a groove. I would love to have one of those stories you often hear of people who deposit like 5 bucks and never look back, but that was far from my case. I think I am privileged that my family is well off so I never had to worry much about the money, but also that may have hindered me in the beginning. Learning how to bankroll manage is just about the most important lesson a newbie can and must have.
But anyway, I've always played many tables at once, like 30-36 tables, 20 being a minimum. So at this time the other players, who would see me on all these tables at once, started reporting me to PokerStars, saying I was a bot, and that it was not possible for one person to play this many tables. So PokerStars, who takes their security very seriously, closed my account in order to investigate what was going on. But they did this on a Sunday, the most +EV day for any professional player, so obviously I went nuts because I wanted to play. I mean, I understand they are looking out for their player's safety, but I hadn't done anything wrong. So I decided to solve the problem right then and there, and my roommate took his camcorder we did a little intro video for Stars, and then he filmed me playing 26 tables and we sent it to PokerStars. They were impressed with what they saw, even sent me an email saying "Congratulations" and immediately unblocked my account so I could play on Sunday. I am sure that this initiative is the reason for the amount of tables that sites allow players to open at once nowadays (24 tables).
Maria: So how did you start building your bankroll online?
HEVAD Well, after I busted like 15 times, I started really dominating the $16.00 sitngos, up until a point where I had a 7% ROI in the course of 7,000 sitngos played. This may not seem like an impressive ROI, but if you do the math, you'll see that it's plenty of money for 7,000 sngs.
Maria: 7,000 sitngos?
HEVAD: That is nothing. I have now played over 27,000 sitngos, 2,000 tournaments, and 150,000 hands in cash games, all meticulously accounted. And that's just online, not counting live, of course.
Maria: Thump (noise of me falling of my chair)
HEVAD: That's part of who I am, as a player and as a person. Playing many tables always came natural to me, and I can't say that playing this many tables has made me win more money, because it certainly hasn't, but it has made me a better player. Honestly, I think I have seen every situation possible in poker -- and taken every possible bad beat -- and I'm still learning. And playing many tables is what keeps me focused, because I always have to be "on" making several tough decisions on different levels, so for me it works.
Maria: I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of sitngos because it's so mechanical and so difficult (maybe I'm just a bad sitngo player,), but I really admire people who make a living out of it and still enjoy it. What is it about SNGs that appeals so much to you?
HEVAD: What I like the most about sitngos, which, by the way, I rarely play at the moment, since I am so focused on tournaments and cash games, is the "game of chicken" involved. Like, who loses their head first. It's a game of all-ins, and knowing when to call and when to fold at the right moment, correct decisions based on math, but within these correct decisions (which should pay off in the long run) there is a lot of short term gamble, and I enjoy the gamble involved in sitngos. The important thing for a sitngo player is to try and reduce the gamble factor by constantly improving and trying to make the "most" correct decisions, but once the chips go in, it's out of your hands, even if you are a favorite in the hand.
Maria: So, getting back to your bankroll, how did it finally start growing?
HEVAD: With this volume of sitngos, which of course I would not be playing if I were not profiting, I also took down the 5+Rebuys on Stars, and that upped my bankroll, and from then I never looked back. At the moment, I am very focused on the tournament circuit, and I am playing a lot of cash games. I feel very comfortable at cash game tables because it is so deep stacked and I feel like people mostly play their hands instead of their opponent's hands. I am making a nice profit in cash games, live and online.
Maria: And how did you start entering the live tournament circuit?
HEVAD: In 2006 I won a seat for the WSOP Main Event on PokerStars. When I won it I started to scream in my room, my dad came running thinking I was injured or something, and got angry when he realized the screaming was because of poker. At that time, playing the WSOP main event was huge for me and my 5K bankroll.
Maria: But with only 5K in your bankroll, you still decided to play a 10K tournament?
HEVAD: At the time you couldn't unregister if you won the seat, but even if you could, I would've played it anyway. I wouldn't trade that experience and opportunity for anything. That was my chance to live the dream and make things happen. I was never a person who sits back and waits around for things to happen at the "right moment". Maybe that's not so good in some aspects of my life, but generally, if I want something, I go for it. Get it while it's hot. But 2006 was just a build up of all that was going to come in 2007, and an important experience to allow it all to happen.
In 2007 I won 5 packages for the WSOP main event on PokerStars, and when I arrived in Vegas I still won another 6 or 7 seats in the live satellites (I don't remember exactly how many, it was around that number). I made like 50K in equity just from playing these satellites (taking out travel and other expenses) and they allowed me to play all the other tournaments I wanted to during the Series, including the two $1500 Events that I went deep in (one was the one that Hellmuth won) and also a 6th place in a Bellagio $1,000 tourney. But the Main Event was still to come, and we all know how that turned out!
Maria: Yes, congratulations, that is a huge achievement for any poker player. What was the most memorable moments of your 2007 WSOP?
HEVAD: Well, other then the final table, of course, Day 3 was pretty sick, because I had the sickest possible table you can think of. Of the ten chip leaders, three were at the same table, and they were tough players. I had Gus Hansen to my immediate left, and Sorel Mizzi (Zangbezan24) across the table from me. We were all stacked and nobody was willing to back down from a pot. Once I made it through that table, and chipped up to about 600K, I knew I was going deep.
When the final table formed, I couldn't have been more thrilled with my seat. I had the very good players to my right, and the shorter stacks to my left, but I lost some very decisive coin flips that could've made all the difference, and when my AQs did not improve against Jerry Yang's Jacks, I had to be happy with my 6th place and US$956K in prize, which of course is the big score that every poker player chases after. And then came the offer to join Team PokerStars Pro, which was another victory within the victory, so it was all reason to celebrate and enjoy.
Maria: Congrats! And how has your life been since the WSOP?
HEVAD: Well, right after I took a much needed 2 month break from poker, and then returned full force to the live circuit. I started off at EPT London, then EPT Baden, then Foxwoods, the APPT Macau (by winning a seat in a $3.30 satellite on PokerStars), then 5 Diamond Bellagio, then PCA, then Borgata, then LAPC, and now I am relaxing a bit getting ready Foxwoods next week, then heading straight to 5 Diamond at the Bellagio, and then two months in Vegas for the WSOP. I have big goals for myself in 2008.
Maria: And in the middle of all of this you still find time to win one of the biggest events online, the Sunday Warm Up.
HEVAD: Yeah, that was fantastic. I really wanted that big online win, because I have been running terrible in online tournaments. I have been going deep in many of them, but in the end I have been losing those decisive pots that take you to the finish line, but this Sunday it was a different story.
When we started the final table, I was 4th in chips, but I had absolutely nothing to play with for a few orbits, and my stack whittled down, and when we were six-handed I was in 6th place and having to pick a spot to make a move. This is where so many sitngos come in to play, because of course at a final table you have more reads on your opponents and the table dynamics, but overall, it comes down to math when you have like 12 big blinds and need to go for the win. Finally the table folded around and I had Qd8d on the button, and pushed my 12 BBs all in, the big blind woke up with Jacks, but I sucked out on him, making a straight on his set, and after that I came back with new life to the tournament and did not let up anymore until I took 1st place.
When I won it, I started to yelling and running around the house in my boxer shorts wanting to celebrate, and my brother, who was on the couch playing Halo 3 barely looked at me, so yeah, winning online has it's disadvantages when it comes to the celebration. But hey, I'm not complaining, if I always have to celebrate winning $97,000 this way, I'm fine with that!
Maria: Well, congratulations Hevad, it seems like you have more then earned your success and I hope it keeps coming your way, because you certainly have the right energy and outlook to be a constant winner at poker and at life. Any last words for your fans, which are many?
HEVAD: For anyone who plays this game, no matter how old you are, you have to have the passion. You can't just grind it out if you don't love the game. And also, have a lot of determination and put in the effort and work, because it is very VERY hard work. Look at the people you most admire in the game, they have a lot of love and respect for the game and for the other players, and the way they carry themselves shows that love and respect. I think the key is to take it seriously, even if the ride is fun as hell!