Why an IIT graduate and successful start-up founder quit his job to become a full-time pro poker player
Like most youngsters who play poker, Mayank Jain was introduced to the game during his college days. Studying at IIT-Roorkee, the engineer had a couple of seniors who used to play poker professionally and took their cue to start playing the game to pass time in the hostels.
“We began with a very rudimentary setup, playing hundred rupee games and using matchsticks in place of chips as we didn’t have any,” says the man whose poker skills have now seen him being picked for Gujarat Acers in the country’s elite poker platform, the Poker Sports League.
Graduating from an IIT, Mayank never thought of taking up poker professionally after college. He became an entrepreneur and started a music website called musicfeels.com, something which he describes was like “a Spotify for Indie music”.
The website took off and when Gaana.com offered to purchase it, Mayank sold off his pet project and worked with Gaana.com for a couple of years.
Mayank, whose role models in the IIT setup included Elon Musk and Bill Gates was soon inspired by the concept of a “digital nomad” wherein one can work using technology and have an independence of location. He was also tired of the corporate grind and wanted something new so he quit his job and wrote a book.
As he says, “I’ve always wanted to do different things, I am into sports, I am a writer, I play poker so I was really bored of my corporate job.”
Following the digital nomad concept, Mayank quit his job in 2015 and wrote a book that had the lessons he had learnt from his first start-up. During this time, he also visited Goa for a New Year celebrations and won a substantial sum of money playing poker. This was when the seeds of playing poker professionally were sown in Mayank’s psyche.
Already a digital nomad and now playing poker for a living, Mayank lived in Gurugram and “sat in his room in his underwear playing online poker” to make a good sum of money. Dissatisfied with the life in Gurgaon which he describes as “expensive, aggressive and not a nice place to live in”, he consulted a few friends who had moved to Goa and decided to do the same.
The move to Goa turned out to be a blessing for Mayank. He had never thought of taking up poker professionally, but living in Goa changed that mindset. The proximity to casinos helped him build his skills and realise his weaknesses while the peaceful Goa atmosphere also allowed him to write by day and play by night.
As he got better at the game, he seriously started considering taking up poker as a full-time profession. He says,” Being an engineer from an IIT background, I knew I had the required maths skills to be successful in the game.”
Knowing his weaknesses, he was also aware of the follies made by amateur poker players who were trying to make it big. According to Mayank, the worst mistake poker players make is to believe that they are better than they actually are.
According to him, “The moment of awakening for a poker player comes when he realises that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is.”
Playing in the casinos of Goa, he realised that he wasn’t good enough for the high stakes pros who plied their trade in the Goan casinos although he got by with excellent bankroll management from the savings he had from his corporate years.
After a difficult first few months in Goa, Mayank soon came to the realisation that he was not working hard enough on his game off the table. He admits, “I had studied a little about the game online but the knowledge was nowhere close to what the regulars on the circuit had. The first few months were very difficult as I had only played online before.”
Speaking to Sportskeeda, Mayank also applauded his parents for their unstinting support in his poker pursuits. He describes his parents attitude towards pro poker as “initially hesitant thinking it was gambling but once he persuaded them about its merits they supported me completely.”
The boy from Rajasthan also adds that it was easier considering he was an only child and had always been a studious kid so it was easier for his parents to trust his decisions.
“PSL has been a great validation,” he says as it helped his parents understand that the sport he was following was legitimate and not something people did in “shady rooms with gamblers”. Mayank feels that he is only just maturing as a poker player.
His earnings graph has been on an upward trajectory for a while now and he earned more through poker last month than he did at his corporate job.
Speaking about the future, Mayank says that he wants to stick to poker as an occupation for the foreseeable future and continue his journey as a digital nomad. When asked where he sees himself in five years’ time, he ambitiously replies, “I see myself living in a European city, maybe Budapest or Vienna, playing poker for a living with a good sized poker and lifestyle bankroll.
“The aim is to travel the world with a financial cushion that allows me to go anywhere in the world and make money.”