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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now - Praz Bansi

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Some poker players, like many other professionals, come on the scene, stay for a while and then, for whatever reason, gradually fade out of the picture. In our “Where Are They Now” series, we try to keep up with the newbies, the grinders, sometimes the dearly departed and the ‘stayers.’

Which brings us to our celebrity of the hour, Praz Bansi, who came on the poker scene in 2005 and refuses to go away—proving his ever dominating presence once again by winning his second World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet in Event #5 $1,500 No Limit Holdem at the 2010 tournament.

After graduating from Queen Mary University in London, Bansi spent some time working as a recruitment consultant—although knowing from the start it was not his forte, he stuck with it because it was something his family expected him to do. He was raised in an Indian household with strong family ties, where children are cherished, but are expected to respect their elders and parents and follow their wishes.

Praz had made frequent visits to local casinos and dabbled in sports betting online, but he wouldn’t discover poker until 2005. He started playing online cash games at Tribeca Tables Europe Limited, one of the world’s first online poker networks and software providers. It seemed that Praz and poker was the perfect match and he started to show positive results almost immediately.
Bansi took his game to the next level by entering some live tournaments around the London area, mostly at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino and the Gutshot Poker Club, where he met his best friends and future extended family— the “Hit Squad.” The Squad consists of himself, Karl Mahrenholz, Chaz and Sunny Chattha, and James Akenhead, all who shared their ideas and poker strategies and vowed to become professional poker players.

Although Praz was becoming a well known player around his native London and his bankroll was steadily increasing, any poker activity was kept well hidden from his family. Prior to taking down the $1,000 No Limit Holdem event and winning his first gold bracelet and $230,000 in cash at the 2006 WSOP, the word poker was akin to a swear word in the family home.

It was after this major win that Praz decided to quit his 9-5 office job and also come clean with his family. He wasn’t exactly showered with cheers of joy, but his parents gradually began to realize that he was very good at it and that poker made him happy. “My dad’s cool now!” he divulges in an interview with Paul Cheung of PokerPlayer. “He watches poker on TV and asks me about certain situations. So we now discuss poker and I never thought in a million years that would happen.”  Shaking his head in sheer amazement about the reversal, “It’s good to have the support of your family. I’m quite happy about how things are on that front.”

Bansi continued make strong showings in tournament play, including his 2007, 1st place finish at the first ever Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (GUKPT) in Bolton—which he almost missed due to a five hour traffic jam caused by a huge pile up on the M40 motorway—and another GUIPT title a few weeks later in Birmingham.

As his bankroll and confidence grew so did his victories. Early in 2009 Praz was seemingly unstoppable, making five final tables in less than a month, including an 8th place finish at the $10,000 Wynn Poker Classic and a 1st and 3rd place finish at the Bellagio Five Star Poker Classic. He was joined by fellow “Hit Squad” member James Akenhead at the final table at the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) Main Event 2009—only to finish in a disappointing 3rd place while professional player Daniel Negreanu took 2nd place and Barry Shulman claimed the title.

By years end he would be named the UK’s Player of the Year—accumulating 2,000 more points than his nearest competitor—and secure a Full Tilt Poker sponsorship deal.

Bansi says that playing in America seems to suit him better than European play: he has cashed in the last five consecutive WSOP tournaments alone, not counting numerous cashes in other US events. He admits that it is equally as important to make a strong impression on the European Poker Tour, but a 1st place finish in his home continent still eludes him. “It’s ridiculous” he says, “I’m convinced that I’m jinxed,”—he refers to it as ‘the curse of the EPT,”—superstition is a trait that he picked up from Sunny and Chaz.

Superstitious or not, Praz is deemed as one the most feared players in the UK, if not the world. He is one of only three English players with two WSOP bracelets—Chris Bjorin and John-Paul Kelly—and it seems inevitable that the curse will soon fade away like a bad dream.

When this rich, single, 32 year old professional poker player is not at the felt, he goes to the gym, catches as many hockey or other sporting games as he can. He likes spending time with his friends while dining at expensive restaurants or jetting around the world, maybe for another tournament or just for the adventure.

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