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Home Game Hero: Chandrasekhar Billavara Brings Back the Jewelry
In this World Series of stone-faced assassins at the poker tables, it's always refreshing to see a WSOP bracelet-winner who looks like he comprehends the magnitude of his victory. Chandrasekhar Billavara is one of those winners.
The 38-year-old San Franciscan gave a mighty yell when he defeated Taylor Douglas in heads-up play to take down the final $1,500 NLHE event at the 2007 World Series of Poker, in the process earning his first WSOP bracelet and a first-prize payout worth $722,914.
A clearly excited Billavara was kind enough to talk to PokerListings.com about his victory, his poker past, and the serendipitous night at the craps tables that made his bracelet win worthwhile.
Chandrasekhar, you just won a World Series of Poker bracelet. How are you feeling?
I'm actually really nervous. I'm thrilled. I'm thinking of all sorts of stuff; it's got me so excited. I've never been this excited.
Is it everything you dreamed it would be?
Yes, it is. It definitely is. I mean, I've seen it on TV enough. Just the whole excitement of being at the final table was enough, and then when it came to heads-up I realized "You know, I truly stand a chance of taking down a bracelet!"
You came in to the final table with the shortest stack. Were you expecting to get this far?
No, I wasn't, not at all. I mean, every singe person that I knew emailed me saying "Chandra and eight other guys are playing in the WSOP and the other eight guys think they have a chance."
I was kind of laughing it off, you know, as the shortest stack, the shortest stack by far. But it worked out.
You were dealt pocket aces on the first hand. That must have been encouraging.
Doesn't everybody dream about it? (Laughs.) That's what I dreamt about, like "I'm coming back from sleep and I thought if I can only double up once..."and I got my pocket aces and they held up. I was happy to have them.
How did you manage to turn that chip disadvantage around and outlast the remaining players?
The four of us decided that we were going to go out and split up the money and when we went out to that, something in my clicked. I thought, "Wait a minute. I've been playing tight for so long and it's come to four people left. It's time I start playing poker the way I like to play, bullying these guys around and really making them play."
I got really very lucky with ten-nine against ace-king, but from there on I was just playing my kind of poker.
Can you talk about how the heads-up match played out?
I bullied [Douglas] a lot. When he just called the big blind, and I raised it up, I felt he didn't show any respect by going all in. I thought, "Okay, he's just trying to buy my raise, and he doesn't have anything." And I had the ace, so I took a chance. And I got lucky.
Is this your first World Series of Poker event?
No, it's my second WSOP event. The first event I went out in three hands. I wouldn't have taken part in this, but I got so mad that I went to the craps table and I threw some money down and I kept doubling up, doubling up, and then a friend of mine called me, so I took my money down, spoke to him for five minutes, counted up my money and I realized, "Oh! I have $3,200." I took it and ran!
So I went back all the way to San Francisco and I thought, "Alright, I bought in for $1,500 for the first event and it's all paid for. Maybe I can use this $1,500 for the next event."
And here I am with a bracelet in my hand. And $200 left over!
What do you do when you're not playing poker?
I own a coffee shop in San Francisco. My own, with three partners - two others and myself. We compete directly with Starbucks and we seem to be doing okay.
You mentioned elsewhere that you've only been playing for two years. How did you get into the game?
A friend of mine, Will Hayes, called me up and said, you know, why don't you come and play poker with us in our Monday night game. So I went there and played a few times, you know, learned how to play poker, and then my friend John invited me over to his game and I started playing with him. And between the two games, I learned the basic strategies
How do things change now that you've won this bracelet?
Oh, the first Monday night game, or the first Friday night game, I'm going to be sitting there like this! [He brandishes his bracelet] You bluffing me? You bluffing me?
Do you play in casinos or online at all?
No, just these home games.
That must be some game to prepare you for a WSOP win.
It's a good game, a fun game. And the reason I love it so much is because I really respect the folks that come to play with us. It's fun, there's nobody who gives you a hard time on a bad beat. They take it like men, and that's why I like it so much. It's a little social thing and I get my training.
So what means more to you, the bracelet or the money?
I have to say the bracelet. It has to be the bracelet. I mean, the money is really good. It's going to help a lot, paying down my mortgage and all that, but this is something I can show off. The money goes into the bank, but this I get to wear.
Thank you very much, Chandrasekhar. Go enjoy.
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Billavara's victory, unfortunately marred by being played behind the Harrah's shroud and thus rendered inaccessible to all but PokerListings.com readers and people who fulfilled the old truth involving fools and their money, underlines one of the primary draws of the World Series of Poker: if a man who has only been playing poker for two years and who won his buy-in at the craps tables can win a bracelet and $720,000, anyone can do it, right? Therein lies the fundamental illusion, and the reason Billavara had to beat out 3,150 other entrants to claim his prize. Congratulations, sir: you surely deserve it!