A last-second partnership secures the first bracelets for an Indian-born poker player
June 7, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - Nipun Java already had a partner for the $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold'em event, but thanks to his friend's inability to wake up, Java and Aditya Sushant teamed up to make World Series of Poker history on Wednesday evening.
Java and Sushant became the first Indian-born poker players to earn WSOP bracelets after besting a field of 843 teams and win $150,637.
"This was a last-minute call for us to
team up," said Java. "I had another teammate drop out because he
couldn't wake up on time, otherwise we wouldn't be a team and who knows
what would've happened. I think he played phenomenal four-handed and
three-handed. The aggression was spot on."
Sushant won the final hand of the $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold'em in thrilling fashion on Wednesday evening to give him and his partner, Nipun Java, their first bracelets and $150,637 to split between the two teammates.
Sushant got all in preflop with ace-eight against David Guay's king-queen. The flop brought two queens, leaving Sushant drawing to running aces to eliminate Guay and his partner, Pablo Mariz, in second place. The turn was an ace and Sushant sprinted off into stands in celebration as the second ace came on the river.
"What was going through my mind? That I needed to hit two aces back-to-back," joked Sushant.
"It's amazing," said Java. "An amazing feeling. I'm so happy to be with a fellow Indian to have won something."
Sushant and Java's win marks the first time in WSOP history that an Indian-born player won a bracelet. Playing under the name "Team India," the accomplishment is one that both players take to heart.
"Poker is booming in India," said Java. "I've been in the States for the last 12 years, but I was born in India and my heart is... I'm Indian."
"He only eats Indian food," added Sushant.
"It's true," said Java. "I still haven't even acquired a taste for sushi. So, to win a bracelet with a fellow Indian and to have a huge Indian contingent coming here, you know, all these guys, they play their hearts out. It's not easy for them to travel all the way here, and there are tax implications. A lot of these guys have to literally lay it on the line, you know.
"I'm actually way more stoked for fellow Indian guys that have come from India. I hope this can really leap from them into the limelight and motivate them to win more. I think it's a big stepping stone in the right direction."
Java was born in India, but has established himself as a regular in the Los Angeles poker world. Sushant, on the other, still resides full-time in India. The two met about three years ago when Sushant came to America with some other poker players from India.
"It was destiny," said Sushant. "It was meant to be. I am so happy that he is a friend of mine. For two of us Indians to get it done, it's really big."
Sushant reached out to Java to for tips about traveling with money, good spots to eat, and general inquiries about the U.S. Java and Sushant have been close ever since.
At the final table, Sushant played a couple hands early on before leaving to go play Day 2 of the $1,500 no-limit hold'em. Java played the final table until he got four-handed and then swapped out late in the day, allowing Sushant to play down to a winner.
"Nipun is being modest, though," said Sushant. "He did most of the work yesterday and he did the most of the work today as well."
Unlike the previous tag team champions, Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree, who had a plan as to who was going to play and when, "Team India" didn't have a plan as to who was going to play. If it wasn't for Java's bladder filling up, Sushant might not have taken a seat at the final table.
"That's actually funny because that's how it got started," said Sushant about Java running to the bathroom. "I was actually going to let Nipun just keep playing because at the start of the final table. He knew pretty much everyone at the final table. He knew a lot of them and I didn't really know as many people as he did."
"He was in $1,500 Day 2," said Java.
"I just played a few hands at the start just to get the feel of the final table and we both mutually decided that it's probably better to let Nipun play while I'm over there. I busted that and came over just to rail. And Nipun was doing good, you know. Just beasting it."
Java eventually got up and started running for the exits. After a few shouts to the rail about needing to use the restroom, Sushant hopped out from the rail and took a seat at the table.
"Nipun was just so zoned in that he didn't even realize that I was sitting there," said Sushant. "It didn't even strike him to tag me in. He was just about to leave and then Chance [Kornuth] was sitting there and just said 'Why don't you just tag me in?' cause I was just sitting there. From there, I just started playing and we never really discussed after that. I felt like I got a good grip of the table dynamics, so I just continued to the end."
"So, basically, we had zero strategy," joked Java.
Java and Sushant came into the day near the middle of the pack, but quickly chipped up. Java was able to accumulate chips early and by the time they reached four-handed play, they had about half the chips in play and were in the driver's seat.
After building up a massive chip lead, they never relinquished the lead and Sushant continued to use aggression to grind down his opponents. Java and Sushant eliminated the final three teams en route to the win. Charalampos Lappas and Georgios Zisimopoulos hit the rail in fourth, Kiryl Radzivonau and Mikhail Semin were eliminated in third before Guay and Mariz finished runner-up.
DJ MacKinnon and Esther Taylor came in at the start of the day with the chip lead, but finished in sixth. Bracelet winner Ryan Laplante partnered with Samantha Cohen to finish in seventh, while Mukul Pahuja failed to remove himself from the discussion of 'Best Players Without a Bracelet.' Pahuja and his partner Jonas Wexler hit the rail in fifth.
"I think the table was pretty good," said Java. "We started off with a little see-saw, but we definitely had the better part of the deck in preflop all ins. We kind of coolered some people at the right time."
In the end though, Java gives kudos to his teammate for acquiring the last of the chips.
"I give a lot of credit to him for closing out four-handed down," said Java. "I don't think we got lucky one bit. I think he just played his heart out. I think he just made some moves at the right time. And the deck always helps."
Both Java and Sushant are established pros who have several tournament wins on their resume already. Java even has a WSOP Circuit ring to his name. But they both admit that this win feels different to them, both because it is a bracelet event and because of the format.
"I think if you win, the joy doubles," said Sushant. "It gives you much more of a reason to root for your teammates."
"It really becomes a team sport," said Java. "It's not like this selfish, individual pursuit where you get the money. You have your friends rooting for you, but now it becomes like a group thing. It's a different feeling. I didn't know how good this would feel until we actually won one.
"The fact that there is a group and everybody is rooting [for us] and the fact that he lives in India and just came here for the series to play. I've been here for 12 years and we make a team. How could this happen in any other form of sport, right? It's almost impossible for two people to meet like that and play any other team sport. It's very special."
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Final Table Results*:
1st: Nipun Java / Aditya Sushant - $150,637
2nd: David Guay / Pablo Mariz - $93,074
3rd: Kiryl Radzivonau / Mikhail Semin - $65,190
4th: Charalampos Lappas / Georgios Zisimopoulos - $46,318
5th: Mukul Pahuja / Jonas Wexler - $33,391
6th: DJ MacKinnon / Esther Taylor - $24,430
7th: Ryan Laplante / Sam Cohen - $18,143
8th: Austin Buchanan / Lanie Foster - $13,680
9th: Joseph Choueiri / Rafael Lopez / James Gibson - $10,475
*Money distributed equally among team members