WSOP 2016: Level-by-level with Aditya Agarwal

July 15, 2016


Aditya Agarwal: Back for more on Day 4

Aditya Agarwal was playing his 11th World Series of Poker and, having cashed in five of his previous outings, was in confident mood ahead of this year’s tournament. It made Agarwal, the 31-year-old Team PokerStars Pro from India, an obvious candidate for someone to follow closely through his tournament. We followed him level-by-level through his Main Event, which ended early on Day 4. Here is a close-up insight into a player’s journey through the World Series Main Event.

Blinds: 4,000-8,000 (1,000 ANTE)

And so the party ends. Aditya Agarwal is out of the World Series of Poker Main Event, cashing for $18,714 and finishing in 621st place.

Agarwal had a short stack this morning, but span it into a stack three times that size by the mid-point of today’s first level. However his Twitter feed tells its own story:

That’s now six Main Event cashes for the Team PokerStars Pro from India. A really deep run still eludes him in this tournament, but one suspects he will return for another crack next year. Thanks for the sweat, Adi.

Blinds: 3,000-6,000 (1,000 ANTE)

In conversations with Aditya Agarwal this week, one word has been used perhaps more than any other: “Hopefully.” It’s certainly been spoken many more times than “aces” (Agarwal has had them once, on Day 1) and “kings” (“I had them once and lost with them,” he said.) Instead this has been a masterclass in survival, picking spots and edging into the money–all drifting along a river of hope.

Agarwal returns today with 125,000, which is 21 big blinds for the first 30 minutes as they play the remainder of Level 16. After that, it’ll be 4,000-8,000 and it will again be crunch time. Agarwal’s only called all-in this week resulted in a double up not far from the money. Now he has cashed, he’ll be looking for another double up to take him much deeper–and to allow the online tournament veteran to play his best.

“The table looks good, so hopefully,” he said.

Here’s Agarwal’s Day 4 table:

Seat 1: Endre Sagstuen – 116,000
Seat 2: Fred Goff III – 509,000
Seat 3: Jasthi Kumar – 1,351,000
Seat 4: Jonathan Kosterlitz – 245,000
Seat 5: Jaroslaw Jaskiewicz – 134,000
Seat 6: Yaron Genut Ramatgan – 119,000
Seat 7: Aditya Agarwal – 125,000
Seat 8: Alejandro Anaya – 197,000
Seat 9: Steve Billirakis – 439,000

Hopefully this will continue for another day at least.

Blinds: 2,500-5,000 (500 ANTE)

The grind continues for Aditya Agarwal who finishes the level with 168,000 in chips. “With my stack, I’m pretty handcuffed,” he said. “The big stacks aren’t going to let me see a flop. You either have chips or you don’t at this stage.”

Agarwal is not the shortest stack at the table. There is a player with only 33,000, who is running the clock down at most opportunities in a bid to eke into the money. Everybody at the table knows he is doing it, he knows they know, and it’s actually a pretty friendly atmosphere over there at the moment despite the difficulty of the situation. There are only 1,015 people left in the tournament, meaning four more will be eliminated and they’re in the money.

“I need a break, it’s pretty gruelling,” Agarwal said, who estimates he saw only 30 hands in the past two hours. “Only five players and then we can start playing again.”

Blinds: 2,000-4,000 (500 ANTE)

As the clock ticked towards the end of Level 14, Aditya Agarwal was looking at his phone, updating his Twitter followers on his progress, and pretty much doing everything except playing poker. The reason was that another player with a stack of around 100,000 was in the tank, having opened to 11,000 and then been shoved on by the 520,000-plus stack of Andy Seth. It became pretty clear, with three minutes still on the clock, that this was going to be run down all the way into the break. It’s the way the short stacks are now playing.

“Oh yeah, it’s gotten so slow now,” Agarwal said. At one point during the last level, Agarwal got up to 190,000 but then lost a 40,000-chip pot and sits now with 140,000. “Have to play tight now,” he confessed. “The big stacks are so good.”

He includes Seth in that bracket, against whom he has played many times online and considers to be a good friend. Agarwal will know that despite their friendship, Seth is hardly going to take it easy on him. And Seth is now on Agarwal’s left.

There are 1,161 players still left, which is 50 from the money.

Blinds: 1,500-3,000 (300 ANTE)

When we last caught up with our hero, Aditya Agarwal was at a low point. He was down to 85,000 and needing something to happen. Well, it did. In the middle of the last hour before dinner, Tony Tran, to Agarwal’s right, moved all in from the small blind pre-flop, covering Agarwal’s 75,000.

Agarwal found A-Q and called. Tran’s A-10 didn’t cause any dramas.

“A full double up,” Agarwal said, adding that he picked up a few small pots after that.

The next step for all players will be the money bubble. That is gradually edging nearer. According to tournament staff, it is estimated to arrive between about 10pm and midnight, which means another long period of stress and strains. “It’s going to get slower, I guess,” Agarwal said. “It always get slow. People get way more cautious. Others get more aggressive.”

Agarwal first cashed at the WSOP Main Event in 2007 and has done so in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015. He said that during that period he hasn’t noticed any real change in players’ attitude as the cash approaches: once slow, always slow is the gist of it.

Blinds: 1,500-3,000 (300 ANTE)

It has been another rough couple of hours for Aditya Agarwal, who is now down to 85,000. Blinds are 1,500-3,000 in Level 13 and will go up to 2,000-4,000 after the dinner break in an hour. “If I want to go deep, I’m going to need some chips,” Agarwal said.

He described the previous level as “Not too good”, citing a hand he played with pocket kings as the only really interesting skirmish. He said he decided only to call with them pre-flop after an opening raise — “I had such little chips,” he said — but then checked through a run out of Q-Q-8 on the flop, followed by an ace on the turn. He bet small on the blank river, but lost to A-7.

Tony Tran, to Agarwal’s right, has more than 500,000 chips, which is the most at the table. He was responsible for a couple of eliminations, but the new players who came in also only had small stacks. “I’m still OK in table chip position,” Agarwal said, noting the size of his opponents’ stacks. But, as he says, he could be at a crucial stage by the next break.

Blinds: 1,000-2,000 (300 ANTE)

The first section of play today–ie, the time before the first break–was still the regulation two hours, but it bridged two levels. Play ended on Day 2 at the middle of Level 11, so today they have played the end of that level, plus the first hour of Level 12.

It wasn’t a great period for Aditya Agarwal, who lost about 30,000 in total. That leaves him with 125,000 at present, but he doesn’t seem to be unduly aggrieved. He said he bluffed off a few thousand when he defended the big blind with 2-3 and, after flopping a deuce on an A-2-10 board tried to steal it on the river. But his opponent called with A-Q and that was no contest.

At least 150 players were knocked out in that first period of play today, so the pace is certainly quickening.

Blinds: 1,000-2,000 (300 ANTE)

When we last left Aditya Agarwal, towards the end of Day 2AB, the Team PokerStars Pro from India had 157,000 chips heading into the last hour of the day. When bags came out at the end of the night, he had precisely 157,100–the stack he brings back to the Amazon Room today.


Aditya Agarwal: Well rested on Day 3

“I’m feeling good, well rested,” he said this morning, taking his seat at a new table. He said he spent his day off yesterday sleeping, before hitting the buffet at Caesar’s Palace for dinner. Was that a lucky buffet? “Using up the points,” he said, brandishing his Total Rewards card.

Agarwal’s table today is as follows:

Seat 1 – Rory Brown, Ireland, 107,800
Seat 2 – Frank Peluso, United States, 81,900
Seat 3 – Tony Tran, United States, 215,800
Seat 4 – Aditya Agarwal, India, 157,100
Seat 5 – Michael Guzzardi, United States, 171,300
Seat 6 – David Floyd, United States, 145,000
Seat 7 – Phung Ngo, United States, 111,800
Seat 8 – Adam Geyer, United States, 82,300
Seat 9 – Giuseppe Pizzolato, United States, 122,400

That’s a pretty typical line-up for this stage of the tournament. Although there are still some superstars involved, and some pretty mighty stacks, Agarwal is faced with seven relatively unknown players, plus the highly-rated Adam Geyer. Geyer has $2.5 million in tournament earnings and has narrowly missed out on WSOP and WPT titles in the past. He has also been deep twice at the PCA. Although his stack is the second-shortest at the table, it’s still 40 big blinds.

Ireland’s Rory Brown has some EPT pedigree and has a string of results from both Ireland and the United States; Tony Tran made the top 100 in this tournament last year; and Phung Ngo has a WSOP final table appearance under his belt and made a deep run in this year’s Millionaire Maker.

It’s probably worth pointing out that recorded live tournament successes are not the only barometer for a player’s ability. Agarwal himself has earned $630,000 in live tournaments, but more than $4m online.

Agarwal thinks the money bubble will likely come into view after dinner tonight. That has now become the consensus among players in the room. Stick around to see if he is still there then. The average stack at the start of the day was 154,000 — almost precisely Agarwal’s — but things could change dramatically over the coming hours.

Blinds: 600-1,200 (200 ANTE)

During the past level, the first after dinner, Aditya Agarwal hit his high point for the tournament so far of about 180,000 chips. At time of writing, as he and his fellow competitors take their last break of the night, he sits with 157,000. This, folks, is tournament poker, particularly the early days. It’s very often just a steady grind.

According to Agarwal, the table has got slightly tougher–Vojech Ruzicka is now the big stack with about 240,000–but is still “pretty good”. He said: “I think I can last the night.”

That is still three hours away. The organisers have put an extra half level onto the scheduled five levels after the turnout was bigger than expected. “Eleven hours for the Main Event, that’s a new one,” Agarwal, who has played this tournament 11 times, said.

But we’ll leave him to it for the night now and catch up when he returns on Thursday for Day 3. That, at least, is the hope.


Aditya Agarwal: The Day 2 version

Blinds: 500-1,000 (100 ANTE)

Aditya Agarwal is heading to dinner with a little more than 100,000 in his stack. He has lost his team-mate Fatima Moreira de Melo from his table–she was eliminated midway through the last level–and has been joined by Vojtech Ruzicka, the Czech pro. Ruzicka is very well known in Europe, having won a High Roller event at EPT Deauville a few years ago (worth $426,907 of his $1.4 million recorded cashes). “He seems good,” Agarwal said, even though he admitted not having seen Ruzicka before.

The only significant pot the two of them played ended with Ruzicka taking a slice from Agarwal’s stack. Agarwal flopped top pair and bet it, Ruzicka called. They checked the turn and then Ruzicka check-raised the river, by which point he had a flush.

Although there’s been a quite considerable changing of personnel at Agarwal’s table both today and on Day 1, he is yet to be responsible for busting anybody. Right now it’s back to Palms Place, 90 minutes of relaxation, before returning to 100 BBs.

Blinds: 400-800 (100 ANTE)

“That was a pretty good level,” Agarwal said, looking at a stack of chips that now total 130,000. The Team PokerStars Pro from India has increased his overnight stack three-fold within the first two levels today and now is the chip leader at his table.

“It’s still super-early,” he said. “But right now it’s good because they’ve seen me with a lot of hands and some people are short so they’re playing tight. I’m able to open a lot of pots.”

With the exception of the set-over-set hand against Fatima Moreira de Melo, detailed earlier, Agarwal has still avoided major confrontation. He has, however, continued a steady climb, which, in this long marathon, is precisely the tactic required.

When players return, they’ll be paying a big blind of 1,000, which is likely to put a lot of pressure on the short stacks at Agarwal’s table. There’s a high chance a few of them will bust, potentially to be replaced by stacks far larger even than his.

Over Agarwal’s shoulder, Antonio Esfandiari has more close to 200,000. Grant Levy, on a neighbouring table, has 200,000 well cleared. Meanwhile, according to the official updates, Alvaro Lopez has 350,000.

Blinds: 300-600 (100 ANTE)

Aditya Agarwal came into Day 2 with a stack of 57,100 and a table that featured his Team PokerStars colleague Fatima Moreira de Melo and the three-time WSOP bracelet winner Dewey Tomko. Brad Willis passed by the table earlier and saw how Agarwal’s match up against Moreira de Melo started off (it’s safe for work, despite the promise of nudity in the title), and Tomko busted pretty early on.

Other than that, not much has been going on. “The table is playing pretty tight,” Agarwal said. “No really big pots.” Largely thanks to the set-over-set encounter against Moreira de Melo, Agarwal has built his stack to its high point of 85,000. That puts him in the top three stacks at his table but, obviously, with a long way still to go.

Blinds: 250-500 (75 ANTE)

As Day 1B of the $10,000 World Series Main Event draws to its close, our hero for the day Aditya Agarwal sits with 57,000 chips. That’s only marginally more than the amount he sat with at 11am today, when things began, and that’s the way it goes sometimes. For all its manifold riches or horrific bad beats, very little says “That’s poker!” more efficiently than playing 10 hours in the most prestigious tournament on the planet to bag up your starting stack.

That, of course, is the purpose of this experiment: to give a real-life view of a player’s progress in an event like this. No one could win the tournament today, but plenty could lose their chance. Of the 1,733 who started Day 1B, about 550 are out. The full numbers will all be revealed first thing tomorrow, but the belief is that about 30 percent of the field will perish on Day 1.

Agarwal described his day as “exhausting” and “way swingy”. He said that for obvious reasons he didn’t much enjoy the period when he was short-stacked and staring at an early elimination. “It was much better when I got back to starting stack,” he said.

Overall, he said he was “pretty happy”. And he’ll be back on Tuesday for more of the same.

Blinds: 200-400 (50 ANTE)

A confession: I was worried about this concept. Aditya Agarwal agreed at the start of play to keep us updated on his tournament progression, but poker can be cruel. The last thing anybody wanted was for his Main Event challenge to fizzle out, particularly with its details being broadcast far and wide. It’s very easy to feel responsible on the rail: not only a cooler, but someone prepared to amplify the despair.

But we now have better news than the previous update: Agarwal is back to 53,300, more than his starting stack, after the most eventful level of his day so far.

Returning to 18,000 after the dinner break, he dribbled down to 11,000 not long into Level 4. But he then found Q-J in the big blind and called a late-position raise. He then flopped the world when it came 9-10-K.

They checked the flop, Agarwal bet 2,000 on the turn and shoved the river, finding a willing caller with K-Q. And then not long later he found aces against queens and they got it in pre-flop, doubling him again to the high 40,000s.

“That was good,” he said. His distinctive giggle when relating good news is also back.

Remember back in Level 1 when we were talking about his tough table draw? Well, every single one of those vaunted opponents is now out. According to Agarwal, Anton Astapau bluffed it off; Jeremy Ausmus lost less spectacularly, but also hit the rail. Agarwal was not responsible. “Unfortunately,” he said.

There’s one level left in the day after which the night-long audit can begin. Agarwal is not counting any chickens and said he would “hopefully” agree to continue the story on Day 2. Two more hours and then we’ll be there.


Aditya Agarwal: Our hero on Day 1

Blinds: 150-300

There’s no way to dress this up: Things have taken a downturn in the last level for Aditya Agarwal. He is heading to his dinner break and leaving only 18,000 chips behind. In truth, he might easily have been out. After finding J-9, you might have thought a board of 9-9-J (two spades) was boom-time, but Barry Schultz was sitting with pocket jacks.

That cost Agarwal a chunk of chips, but it was even worse for Carter Gill. Gill had two spades and made his flush by the river. He was all-in and sent home.

Agarwal is now heading back to Palms Place for his dinner break and to spend some time with his wife. “I’ll talk through some hands with some friends,” he said. Although how to escape a cooler like that is not really something anyone can do much about.

Schultz is now the table captain, with more than 100,000. Astapau and Ausmus remain, but Gill’s seat is empty, meaning they are playing eight handed on that table. Blinds will be 200-400 when they return, which is still 45 big blinds for Agarwal. There will be two more levels after that.

Blinds: 100-200

Without question, the WSOP Main Event is one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments of the year and players look forward to it for months. But it’s also true that there will be long periods when very little happens. It is a long and often tedious grind exchanging nothing much more than the occasional ante.

At the end of the second level on Day 1B, Aditya Argawal has 45,000 chips. It means he has played the past two hours for the net loss of 7,000–a negligible shift. “Uneventful,” he said, before upgrading to, “Very uneventful.”

Despite (or maybe because of) the talent stacked at the table, there haven’t been any significant swings. Jeremy Ausmus has 50,750 and Anton Astapau has 58,000. Only Carter Gill’s stack has changed markedly. He is left with 17,500 at the moment, which is still 87 big blinds.

That said, Anthony Zinno is in sight on a neighbouring table. He has a stack of 125,000 already, so there’s always the chance for matters to change very quickly.

Blinds: 75-150

Agarwal was in his seat ahead of play starting at 11am and watched all other seats at his table gradually fill. And it’s a tough table: Jeremy Ausmus (a WSOP bracelet winner, with close to $5m in tournament earnings) is to Agarwal’s immediate left, while the APPT and LAPT champion Carter Gill is in the four seat.

“I have had softer tables on Day 1,” Agarwal said.


Aditya Agarwal and Jeremy Ausmus

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He added that he didn’t recognise the player who came to sit at seat six, but immediately established that he was a decent opponent. “He seems really good,” Agarwal said. “In the Main Event, you can just tell: who seems comfortable, who isn’t. He seems really comfortable.”

The player in question is Anton Astapau, the Belarussian high roller. One suspects the two have crossed swords many times online, where Agarwal plays as “intervention” or “Adi Agarwal” and is top of the all-time Indian money list.

As you would expect from the opening level, very little changed to Agarwal’s starting stack of 50,000 here. He said he got it up to 57,000 at one point, then ran top pair into a turned flush to take it back to 52,000.

It is very early days, but every road starts somewhere.

We’ll update this post throughout the day.

WSOP photos by


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