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When I Was A Donk: Pratyush Buddiga

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Nov 26, 2014

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Pratyush BuddigaIn this series, Card Player asks top pros to rewind back to their humble beginnings and provide insights regarding the mistakes, leaks, and deficiencies that they had to overcome in order to improve their games.

In 2002, Pratyush Buddiga won the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee and, as a result, became famous, appearing on shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, while meeting people like Snoop Dogg and President George Bush.

Buddiga could have easily gone into many different fields after graduating from Duke University, but the former spelling champion opted to try his hand at poker and has since racked up more than $1.7 million in live tournament earnings.

Here, the 25-year-old recalls the moment he decided to really dedicate himself to the game:

“In 2013, I was in Australia grinding online. It was a Sunday and I went over to play with these English poker players who were friendly and, honestly, had a better internet connection than we did. I believe it was Craig McCorkell, Christopher Brammer, and Toby Lewis.”

“While I was there, Brammer was on Skype with one of my horses. My online name is “Shane Gamble,” but Brammer sarcastically referred to me in his conversation as “Shane Does Not Gamble.” He then went on to make some playful jokes about how tight of a player I was and how I wasn’t aggressive enough.”

To him, that was just some light-hearted teasing, but I took it seriously. I wasn’t angry at him for making jokes at my expense. I was angry at myself that somebody else could accurately peg me as one type of player while I was oblivious to all of it.

“I had this glaring leak, yet I had no idea. It was the first time as a professional poker player that it occurred to me that maybe I was doing something wrong. That was the turning point in my poker career, to be honest. When I left Australia, I got really serious about improving my game. I started getting into training sites and I messaged other players about coaching.”

“I didn’t ever want to be known as this mediocre reg who other people thought they could run over. All of a sudden, I needed to be the best." ♠