Considered one of the top players in the European circuit, Surinder Sunar, born in Dhinpur, Punjab, and now based in Wolverhampton, England, has earned a reputation for his inscrutable poker face. In 2004, he spent 9 hours going head to head with Australian Tony Guoga, whose heckling failed to rattle the implacable Sunar.
He went on to claim the World Poker Tour’s (WPT) Grand Prix de Paris, winning the €679,000 (around Rs4.4 crore now) pot, and a place in the Poker Hall of Fame. Here, in conversation with Lounge, he spoke about his journey to the big leagues. Edited excerpts:
How did you become interested in poker?
When I was at university about 30 years ago, I picked up the game and have been playing ever since.
What’s the most exciting tournament you’ve participated in?
There have been many exciting tournaments, but I would have to say that winning is a great feeling. I would say that the one that stands out would be winning the World Poker Tour Grand Prix de Paris event and winning the €679,000 grand prize, which was definitely a good achievement.
You’re renowned for your poker face—how do you keep your composure under pressure?
I would say experience, but I also would say that I am generally a balanced individual and only play when I am fully mentally prepared for the rigours of a tournament.
Do you think great poker playing comes through practice or talent?
A bit of both. Skill plays a big factor and having talent is good, but you have to practice and play to gain the relevant experience. The exciting thing is that I have seen non-talented people win some of the biggest tournaments.
You played in the APC in Goa last year—what was that like? Was it exciting to be playing in India?
The APC was a great experience. The event was well organized and was a great environment to relax and play poker. I come to India regularly and it was very exciting to see the development of poker in India achieve so much.
Poker is becoming increasingly popular in India. Do you think we have what it takes to make great poker players?
Hundred per cent. In India, I met many talented players. The important factor is to create opportunities for them to get real tournament practice. Playing against friends is fun, but tournament experience will be achieved by playing in events such as the India Poker Tour. Also, with the launch of WPT TV series on Zee Sports, it’s good to watch and learn basics where you can.
You’ve already won the World Poker Tour. Any ambitions left?
There are many ambitions left. I would, however, say that the two key ones are winning the World Series of Poker and the India Poker Tour main events.
Any tips for the aspiring poker player?
I think balance is good. To play poker when you are tired and exhausted does not allow you to play to your best potential. Learning the basics and getting plenty of practice is important. The key is to maintain the fun and enjoyment level of the game.