For the nine years that he’s been a professional poker player, a Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) title had always eluded Dinesh “NastyMinder” Alt.
He’d won just about everything else: Three World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) titles (one in 2020, two in 2021). A Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP) Main Event worth $396K. A Sunday Bounty Builder High Roller for $90K. Chopping the Sunday Million for $160K.
But a SCOOP title remained Alt’s white whale…until this year.
Alt, a Swiss player who now resides in Austria, has captured not one but two SCOOP titles in 2022, the second being an absolute peach.
His first win came in the $109 Sunday Kickoff (SCOOP 33-M), worth $44,887. But his second? That was in the $5K Titans PKO (SCOOP 66-H) and was worth a whopping $230,145, including a staggering $157,285 in bounties.
We sat down with Alt to discuss his monstrous win, the fact he qualified for it from a $109 Phase tournament, how he climbed the stakes in poker, and more.
PokerStars Blog: Hey Dinesh, congratulations on taking down the $5K for your second title of the year. How did it feel to win one of the bigger events in the series?
Dinesh “NastyMinder” Alt: Thank you so much. It felt awesome, especially these high roller tournaments with tough fields, there are so many people I know and respect as very good players, it was definitely awesome. The previous one was a smaller buy-in with more luck involved as the fields are so big and the variance is higher but in the high rollers, it’s more about skill and less variance in the smaller fields.
Your bounty haul was ridiculous, did you start winning them early on or did they come later in the tournament?
I think it started in the mid-stages when I got a huge chip lead and I was able to put a lot of pressure on others and play many hands because I covered all the players. In the end stages, I was blessed because the combination of ICM and bounties has such a huge impact and you can put pressure on other players. Especially on the final table, I was able to find many spots where I could open any two cards and people couldn’t play back because of the ICM pressure and the bounties involved, so they can’t risk it because they know I’m calling light. It was a really awesome spot to get in.
I was in a really blessed spot busting the OG legend Elio Fox in the beginning of the FT with KK vs QQ. That gave me such a big chip lead that I was able to sun run and take it down mostly with ICM pressure. When others were clashing against each other, the shorties always survived giving me the option to win all the bounties eventually. I was really happy that I was able to be in a good position to take it down.
how much do you think having a lot of bounties changes your play?
After playing professionally for almost 10 years there isn’t much pressure anymore, but I love PKOs because you can lock up profit before even reaching the money, so I think the variance is lower in these PKOs because you can cash more often even if you don’t reach the money. When your bounties cover the buy-in it’s definitely nice to freeroll the rest of the tournament.
I actually qualified for this event from a $109 Phase tournament so from the first bounty I won I was actually up, so that was really nice.
That’s fantastic. Do you play a lot of satellites?
Yeah definitely, especially during a big series. The downside is I always have to start earlier than most other players because the satellites obviously run before the main tournaments start. It takes more hours to play every day but in the end, it’s all about the variance and with satellites you can reduce it a lot and make the ROI way higher.
Speaking of ROI, it definitely must feel great to know you won’t be down when the series is over!
Exactly. It feels awesome to know I’m going to have a good series. It’s not possible for me to go into the minus having won almost a quarter million!
There’s way less pressure now than there is at the start of a series. The variance can be huge and the downswings can also be huge–into the six figures–so I’m really happy.
How do you prepare for a big online series? Do you make changes to your study or fitness routine?
Not really, to be honest. I play through the whole year anyway so there’s no big change. Before SCOOP there’s always EPT Monte Carlo so I’m already busy there playing every day, so there’s no big change in routine. The only change I make is to go for a walk every day for an hour before tournaments start. If I have time after, I’ll go and walk for half an hour before bed. It can get late but it’s nice.
You also had a fantastic WCOOP last year, winning two titles. Where do these SCOOP wins rank for you?
The $5K win is definitely the nicest of all of these COOP titles I’ve won. It’s one of the highest buy-ins so I think it’s more respected as the skill is way higher in these fields. I’d say it’s my best win so far for sure.
Could you tell me a bit about how you first came up in poker and climbed up the stakes?
I had a really nice start to my career. At the end of 2012, I won my first online tournament on PokerStars–an $8 re-buy for $8,000–and then I played a satellite for the Australia and New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT) in Sydney. I won that and flew to Sydney in March 2013 for my big live tournament outside of Switzerland, where I used to live. I won it for around $230K.
What was that experience like? It must have been insane!
Yeah, it felt completely unreal. The next day I thought it had been a dream, that it can’t be true. My aim was just to go there and min-cash. I qualified for $40 so all I wanted was to secure a cash. I was completely new in the poker world, I’d just been playing for a couple of months online and my skill was very low compared to other regular players back then. It was incredible.
I’ve just had an awesome run since then. A few months later I qualified for the APPT in Macau and I final tabled that, finishing fourth for another $80K. A year after I had a good run online chopping the Sunday Million for $160K (March 2014) and a week later I won another $100K in a $200 buy-in tournament. It was crazy, unbelievable.
This gave me a really nice boost for my bankroll so I was able to grind it and move up very quickly without having to sell action. It was definitely an unusual path to move up so fast.
How did you make sure you were improving during those years?
Back in the day, there weren’t solvers like now, so for me, I started with some basic books. I read all the Dan Harrington books before going to Sydney and I always thought about how would he play these spots. From then on it’s mostly been learning by playing. Trying to find leaks and exploits. It’s more like street-style poker. I can’t do that as much at the high stakes as people exploit you when you’re playing 40% of your hands! That doesn’t work very well anymore but back in the day it worked very well, especially live. People would overfold very often.
It was only when I started travelling the live circuit that I met other players and started travelling with them. But when it came to studying and working on my game I was by myself. I didn’t put as much work into studying as I should have. For me it was mostly learning by doing, and enjoying the game.
How do you balance live poker and online and how do you decide which stops to go to?
It’s normally very spontaneous depending on my mood or where I have qualified for. Live events are more like a holiday for me as they give me a break from online. During the lockdowns, there were so many online series and it could get isolating spending so many hours in front of the PC alone. So now it’s definitely nice to get back on the live circuit and enjoy travelling, the locations, and meeting other players–some I’ve played with every day online.
What goals do you have in poker?
Obviously, everyone dreams about winning a bracelet so that’s still on my bucket list, but it’s not a real goal of mine. I really just want to be able to afford this lifestyle further and be able to live from poker. That’s most important to me.
After winning a TCOOP in 2016 I wanted to retire from poker because I felt I’d already won enough, so I wanted to do something else, go studying perhaps. But when I took the break I felt like something was missing. I have this huge passion and so much love for the game that I can’t imagine I’ll stop any time soon. As long as I’m happy playing I’ll continue without having any specific aims.