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Rajkumar runs good: Bay 101 and beyond
Vivek Rajkumar could very well be the hottest player in live tournament poker right now.
Coming off his WPT Borgata win this past September, the 22-year-old narrowly missed another WPT final-table appearance in Niagara Falls.
He also final-tabled two prelim events at the Five Diamond in December and took down the $10k Heads-Up title at the L.A. Poker Classic just last month.
Then, after starting Day 1b at the 2009 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star by collecting the bounty on Jennifer Tilly, Rajkumar found himself in the chip lead when the last level of the night began.
Busting Chris "Jesus" Ferguson in the last hand of the night, fellow online phenom Isaac Baron managed to narrowly pass Rajkumar for the end-of-day chip lead, but the fact remains he will come into Day 2 stacked.
"I am running very, very good," Rajkumar told PokerListings. "In the last six months I'm probably running in the top 2% of all people playing poker.
"But at the same time I feel like I've put the work in, I've put the effort in. It's a combination of both, but mostly luck."
Born in India, but raised in Seattle, Rajkumar said he particularly enjoys the unique structure here at Bay 101 that includes a $5k bounty on the heads of 50 of the biggest names in the game.
In fact, Rajkumar admitted to doing a little bounty hunting when he raised with pocket fives early in the day and Tilly reraised him.
Rajkumar pushed all-in and Tilly called instantly with pocket aces. She looked good to double up, until he spiked a five on the end to collect the $5k bounty.
"The reason I made the move was because she was a bounty and she had less than half my stack," Rajkumar explained. "After I talked the hand through with a couple of friends, it might not have been the best call."
Confidence is a big part of poker and Rajkumar, who got his start in the game online and was schooled in the Two Plus Two poker forums, admitted he's riding the wave of his recent success.
"Since I have a title it helps me pull the trigger more often in spots where I feel my opponent is weak," he explained.
"I'm not afraid to make a big mistake because I have the confidence that comes with a title already."
With that growing confidence and the big stack he built on Day 1b, Rajkumar is really looking forward to the next couple of days here in San Jose.
Especially when the unique Shooting Star structure comes into play again and they move to six-handed play under 36 players.
"I love that," Rajkumar said. "Six-handed means you have to be more aggressive and contest more pots and skill becomes a bigger factor over picking up hands. So I love that."
Day 1b at the Shooting Star ended with 98 players surviving 10 levels of poker.
They will join the 50 remaining from Day 1a tomorrow, and PokerListings will have continued live coverage of the event in our Live Tournaments section starting at 10:45 a.m. PT.