"Four days 'til actual chat unban. Pinch me."
That was, in part, Shakeeb ‘njåguar’ Kazemipur's (Shak Kaz) response to winning the largest online poker tournament of the week this past Sunday. PokerStars' weekly Sunday Million is home to the only regular $1 million guaranteed prize pool, attracting thousands of players every week to pay the $215 entry fee to try to earn that elusive title of Sunday Million winner.
No matter how prestigious the title or enticing the $183,000 score (a heads-up chop earned him $163,000 and he won the remaining $20,000 left on the table), Kaz insists that he is most excited about getting his chat privileges back. Having been given a chat ban by PokerStars a while ago, the ban had to be lifted when he reached the final table so that negotiations would be possible.
Kaz took full advantage of his renewed chat ability, filling the window with seemingly whatever came to mind while he played for six figures of American cash. Anyone who has ever played live poker in the same room as this particular Albertan knows that he has a table presence that ensures you won't forget him. He is a genuinely funny guy with a sharp wit, but it is produced at such a volume and with such enthusiasm that some opponents are more irritated than amused.
"I don't really berate recreational players, more so regular players that I think will take me too seriously," Kaz explained in defense of his reputation.
The PokerStars chat ban came about by him using a racial slur, despite his slangy interpretation of the word that replaces the final "er" with "az". At the final table of a $109 turbo, Kaz typed "let's make a deal, n-----," which earned him his chat ban. "But I listen to rap music so I thought it was okay," Kaz explained, and now you know the tongue-in-cheek style of humour that Kaz is infamous for.
Kaz's Sunday Million win comes just a few days before his 20th birthday. This still-teenaged professional poker player is from Lethbridge, Alberta, though he currently lives in Calgary where he is going to school, studying a double major in law and finance.
He supports himself and funds his education by playing mostly $60 and $100 hyper-turbo pot-limit Omaha heads-up sit-and-gos. He dabbles in the $200 games as well, but only on the rare occasion that they aren't full of other regular grinders.
Pot-limit Omaha is a popular game in Calgary, coming close to rivaling Texas hold'em. Kaz says Calgary has the best pot-limit Omaha in the country. He plays live cash games almost as often as he plays online, and spends most of his time at the $2/$5 and $5/$5 stakes where he feels comfortable, though he once played as high as $50/$100 last October during a night that has become Alberta poker folklore.
"High stakes PLO is too swingy and you need like a $1M bankroll," Kaz said of the experience. His venture into the high stakes wasn't a profitable one for him. "Suffice it to say I won't play $50/$100 without backing."
Winning $183,000 has most people dreaming of all the things they could spend that kind of spare cash on (especially since that is over $230,000 in Canadian purchasing power right now), but Kaz has no such plans. "I don't plan on moving up too heavily. I will just be more comfortable. I started a stable and will have some leeway. No big purchases, just a new phone and grind station upgrade."
Though Kaz doesn't focus on live tournaments too often, and he's still too young to play the World Series of Poker this summer, he says he'll go play the Latin American Poker Tour. And you might recall that the recent DeepStacks Poker Tour stop in Calgary this month saw Shak Kaz as the Day 1b chipleader during the Main Event (as pictured above), proving he has the chops to compete in any poker arena.
* Photo courtesy of the DSPTLive blog.