We’ve grown accustomed to seeing the name “pistons87” late in tournaments on PokerStars, whether in series like the 2020 World Championship of Online Poker or at other times.
That’s the nick of Ankush Mandavia, whom we also got used to seeing at the live tourney tables over the years. Mandavia has a couple of EPT trophies collected in Berlin and Prague, plus another won at the PCA a few years back — just a small part of the more than $5 million he’s earned in recorded live cashes.
We can add another online triumph — and a third WCOOP title (to go along with three SCOOPs) — to Mandavia’s résumé, after he took down Event #12-H, the $530 NLHE Heads-Up Turbo Progressive Total KO Zoom.
“The tournament was pretty up and down, but that’s to be expected with heads-up play,” says Mandavia. “I used to play that format full-time, so I was pretty comfortable although it has been a while.”
Indeed, both of those EPT titles alluded to above came in heads-up events. He also has a deep run in a $10K WSOP heads-up event when he made the quarters a couple of years before winning his first WSOP bracelet in a $5K no-limit hold’em event in 2016.
Mandavia faced “wiisssppppaa” in the final match, the last two players standing from a 526-entry field. Thanks to the “total KO” format there was a lot on the line given that bounties comprised the entire prize pool. That made the gap between first place ($40,792.90) and second ($14,046.86) much larger than is usually the case.
The pair battled for over 20 minutes, at which point Mandavia was in front by a 3-to-2 margin.
“The key moment at the final table was the final hand,” he explains. “I shoved with aces, and got called by a pair of kings,” he says.
Having been dealt A♣A♠, Mandavia had raised pre and was called, then bet the king-high flop and was called again. His opponent checked and called once more on the turn, then the river made the board 2♦4♥K♣Q♦6♠.
With about 8.8 million in the middle, “wiisssppppaa” checked and Mandavia paused a bit before jamming all in. It was a big overbet, as “wiisssppppaa” had 19.1 million behind. But Mandavia’s opponent called quickly to show K♦5♣ and it was all over — Mandavia had won.
“I’ve run extremely well this series,” says Mandavia. “My first WCOOP win was in 2011 and it was in the $10K heads-up tournament, so it feels good to win heads-up in 2020!”
Many know Mandavia for his University of Georgia ties, but his “pistons87” username clues us into another affiliation.
“It refers to the Detroit Pistons… I’m a big Detroit sports fan. I’m actually from Michigan, born and raised,” he says. Though outside the country right now, he has a third rooting interest as well. “I live in Las Vegas now, actually, and I love the Knights.”
The WCOOP win arrives for Mandavia after many months of intense online play. An online player from way back, Mandavia successfully transitioned to the live realm, but world events have carried him back to the virtual tables in earnest of late.
“This year has obviously been crazy due to COVID,” he says. “I was primarily a live player the last few years, but I had to relearn online play when everything moved there.”
“It has been pretty swingy, but overall I have had success. I’m looking forward to a break after WCOOP after all the grinding the past six months.”
There’s still some work to do first, of course. Expect to keep seeing “pistons87” gunning for more WCOOP wins during the coming weeks.