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Dude, Where's My Car?: The Praz Bansi Interview
A cash-game specialist, Praz Bansi is no slouch in the tournaments. He took down a bracelet at last year's World Series of Poker and has come back for more.
Praz Bansi scored his WSOP 2007 bracelet when he won Event 40, a $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em Tournament. Most recently he cashed at the $25,000 WPT Championship for the second time in a row, after winning two super-satellites to gain entry.
I caught up with Praz at the dinner break. He was playing in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em Event, but was anxious to spend his dinner watching his friend Sunny Chattha play a final table at the Venetian. He was crunched for time so I offered him a ride in the PL.com taxi to have a chat. After 10 minutes of searching for the car and convincing myself that it had been stolen, Bansi told me to relax and retrace my steps. We finally found the whip and were on our way.
What's been happening to you since I saw you last year?
The last three months for me have been ... a bit of a grind. The cards haven't been going well for me and I haven't been playing that great since February. I had a really good December and January online. I made like half a million, so things were really good. I was running good and playing good and then since February ... it's to be expected.
When things [have been] going really well you just think to yourself, "S**t; how can things turn like this?" So the last three months have been a lot quieter, a lot slower, so it's been a bit of a grind. I'm really looking forward to the WSOP. These are my favorite tournaments.
Do you feel like you're back to playing well now?
I feel like I'm playing great. I feel like I'm playing the best poker I've probably ever played. It's just started in the last few weeks really. I think it's just the excitement of the World Series.
It means so much to me because I've been playing poker now for over two years and I've played so many tournaments that, when you step from one tourney to the other, you're playing for money and stuff, but you're not playing for the bracelet.
You can get stale from tournaments if you're not playing your best, but here I feel like I'm playing better than I have for a long time. It feels good. It feels like you have a big chance to do something. Winning a second bracelet for me would be ... it would just make me very happy.
The half million that you won were tournaments? Cash games?
Just cash games.
What do you usually play?
It was $25/$50 and $50/$100. I was playing a good game and I was running good. It's easy to make money at those games, but it's easy to lose money too. When you're playing like four or five screens of those big games and you run good for a while, it's great.
So that was that. It feels like a long time ago since then. The last three months, well, three months in poker feels like a lifetime.
Nothing feels better than playing good and running good.
Yeah it's the best thing in the world. When you're running bad your life is just s**t and dull and stuff. As soon as you start winning again life is brilliant. Everything is just like ... you wake up with a smile on your face every day. That was then [though] and what I'm trying to do for this World Series is just take everything as it comes on.
Before, I would sometimes get caught up with the thing of running bad. I would get caught up in the cycle of, "Oh s**t, it's been five tournaments now when I put my money in good and I've gotten screwed." That plays with my mind a little bit. I'm trying to take every situation and every spot as its own thing, one hand at a time.
The first tournament here, in the first level this guy gets in against me with bottom pair. It was the first tournament in the first level and he hit trips on the river. I was out in the first 20 minutes. Normally I might've walked out of the tournament with my head down thinking, "Oh FFS. What sort of joke is this? What was that guy thinking?"
Instead I thought to myself, "Just forget about it; move on to the next tournament." Thinking that way will help you make better decisions. So that's the plan - try and stay fresh for every tournament and play my best all the time.
You were watching the hand today when this guy kept limping in on the small blind and I raised him like four times. I know he's got the needle with me. That hand he limped in again and I raised with two jacks. He calls. The flop comes all middling cards, 6-7-8. He checks.
I fancied he had middling sort of hands that could've connected with that flop. I didn't want to get check-raised because we only had like $10,000 in chips.
I checked the flop and the turn came a six with a flush draw. Now he bets $1,200 so I just call. At this point I feel inside that he might have me beat already. The river card came an ace.
I never thought he had an ace. He bet $2,500 and I folded the jacks face up and he showed me the straight. When I'm playing bad I may lose half my stack there. When I'm playing good I only lose $1,200.
I feel like I'm playing good and reading people really well. At the World Series it's so important that you don't make mistakes in reading people. When you're reading the game well and you get a feeling about something, you can't explain why you get that feeling, but you go with how you feel and you make a good decision, it feels great.
It couldn't have hurt your ego when he proved you were right by showing you the straight.
Sometimes I have a problem with my ego. Sometimes your ego does get in the way of things. There it was more about you feel that you're really on top of your game.
You have a big advantage because you know what's going on. I feel things are going well but I just hope I run well. There are some things you can't control and that's one of them.
What's this hit squad I keep hearing about?
It's me, James Akenhead, Sunny Chattha, Jim Kerrigan, Karl Mahrenholz and Chaz Chattha.
Do you guys play off the same bankroll or are you all on your own?
No we don't play off the same bankroll, but we swap percentages. We always help each other out in certain situations. If one of us needs money or whatever, it's good to have people that you trust. There's a lot of idiots in the poker community, a lot of people that you can't trust.
It's nice to have people that are on the same wavelength as you. We don't even talk about hands anymore; we're just there for each other.
So the plan is for the hit squad to come and destroy the WSOP?
Yeah, that's the plan.
You're the only one with a bracelet right?
I imagine you don't let them forget about that?
Yeah, I remind them about it. The thing is they always say to me, "Awww, what're you talkin' about? - it's only a $1,000 tourney!" You know $1,000 is only 500 pound back home so they're always sayin' to me, "Why are you gettin' so excited? it's only a 500-pound comp!"
So I'm like, "Yeah, well I still got a bracelet!" Hopefully one of us will pick up another bracelet.
If they do you'll have to win another one to stay ahead.
Yeah if I do that, like I said, that would be ... really good, to say the least.
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We had reached our destination. I turned off the meter and thanked Praz for his time. He jumped out of the car and was off to support his friend. The Hit Squad has one bracelet to its credit; will there be more?