You might have sat at a table with him before, but mostly you'll recognize them from seeing them deep in the money and collecting a ton of big payouts.
Shyam Srinivasan, the 32-year-old Torontonian behind the $7m+ online names, has been crushing the online scene for years. Now he's trying to meld his massive online experience with an intimidating table persona to do the same to the live tournament scene.
As Srinivasan says, "that's where the money is these days." And he's already proving he can make the transition with some big results this year including an impressive sixth-place finish (and $320k payout) at the 2014 PCA.
PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann caught up with Srinivasan at EPT San Remo (where he finished 22nd in the main event and runner-up in a 2k side event) to find out the secrets to his continued poker success.
PL: You're in your early 30s and you’ve been in poker for about seven years. What did you do before you started playing?
SS: I was at university for a couple of years, studying law. Then I lost my passion for that. I started working in human resources and I worked for a real estate agency.
We actually had these poker games in the office and I used to clean up in them.
Srinivasan: "I’m very lucky to be in contact with some players I consider to be world class."
PL: Is that how you were introduced to poker?
SS: I played a little bit when I was a kid. But it really kicked off when I started playing online and I was pretty successful from the start. I think until 2009 I was one of the top 5 tournament players on Full Tilt Poker.
PL: It’s a big decision to quit your job and play full time.
SS: It just kind of happened. I started getting better and better results, I improved more and more, so I spent more time at the tables.
PL: Today, many players complain about how difficult it is to stay on top. How do you manage that?
SS: I’m very lucky to be in contact with some players I consider to be world class. I analyze and talk a lot of strategy with them.
One of them is Griffin “Flush_Entity” Benger, who I used to mentor but has gotten so good that he’s now helping me.
Then there is for example Connor “negroblanco” Drinan and several others. Of course it helps that I had good results in the past, so we can all talk on the same level.
I also have a lot more experience than the young players. I played way more hands and way more tournaments.
PL: Tell me something about Toronto’s underground poker scene. I hear that both you and Daniel Negreanu were in there.
SS: Absolutely. You can find a lot of small games, but then you also find very big games in Toronto. I started out playing the small games of 5/5 and 5/10 then I progressed to 10/20 and 25/50, tough games.
There are a lot of clubs where you can play, but the really big games are all private.
PL: So, are these clubs sort of semi-legal?
You might have heard of "kidpoker"
SS: No, they are completely illegal.
PL: Did you know Daniel before he became famous?
SS: Not so much, but the funny thing is the house I used to live in Negreanu’s parents used to own.
One day I was talking to someone outside of the house and a gentleman walks up to me and says, 'you might know my brother.' I say what’s his online name and he answers ‘kidpoker.'
PL: Did you ever get to a point in your career where you didn’t know if you could continue playing?
SS: Yes, last year I was having a lot of trouble but I think the main reason was me not getting involved enough and not reaching out to other good players.
That was a time when I was considering doing something else, but then I told myself that I have enough experience to bounce back and that I just need to work harder.
I got immersed with other good players, and I worked harder, and it helped. It's not enough just being a good player these days.
PL: Is there a plan B just in case?
SS: No. (laughs)
PL: Why are you now transitioning to the live poker scene?
SS: I’ve actually had a lot of experience from live cash games, but mainly I wanted to reach out from the online stuff.
I’m trying to fuse my technical abilities from online tournaments and my live experience together. Also, there is much more value in live tournaments. This is where the money is now.
PL: At the live table, you come across as a really tough guy who’s totally in control. Are you intentionally trying to be that kind of player?
SS: I do want to give the impression that I’m confident and you should stay out of my way. I definitely try to be intimidating and show that I’m always a force to be reckoned with.