Learning poker around friends like Faraz Jaka, Ravi Raghavan, and Andy Seth bodes well for the future. Mohsin Charania’s home game was a who’s who of poker players who would all become successful ones.
Charania is one of the many players who emerged from the poker boom and crushed online poker as well as live tournaments. He was also the victim of quite a few big swings throughout his career, and his ability to share that with the poker world helped many others. It didn’t hurt that he was also extremely well-educated, grateful for opportunities, and respectful of the game.
Playing online as ChicagoCards, Charania became known as a skillful player. And when he hit the live tournament scene in 2008 and 2009, his name continuously showed up on leaderboards and then at final tables. In 2012, he took down his first major live victory on one of the biggest stages in the game by winning the European Poker Tour’s Season 8 Grand Final in Monte Carlo for €1.35 million, and the entirety of the poker world knew who he was.
Charania played World Poker Tour tournaments throughout his career, which made the 2013 WPT Rendez Vous a Paris Main Event victory that much sweeter. And in December of the following year, he took down the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for nearly $1.2 million, solidifying his place in the game.
Poker Update caught up with him at the WPT festival in Hollywood, Florida, where Charania joined other poker champions to play events like this weekend’s Tournament of Champions.
Listen to the interview here:
PokerUpdate: You were born in Canada but raised in Chicago. Do you feel more Canadian, American, or both?
Mohsin Charania: I feel pretty American. I’ve lived in America since I was a couple months old. I was raised in Chicago, so I feel very Chicagoan.
PokerUpdate: Do you go back to Canada to visit?
Mohsin: Actually, I live in Canada part time because I play online a lot. So I probably spend six to eight months each year in Canada.
PokerUpdate: Where in Canada?
Mohsin: Toronto. It’s only 45 minutes from Chicago by plane, and a lot of my family lives there.
PokerUpdate: Let’s go back a few years. When you finished your degree in finance, you decided to pursue a law degree but left that for poker. Do you have any regrets? Do you think about going back to school?
Mohsin: Initially, I had quite a bit of regret. But it’s funny how quickly time flies. At the time, I was enjoying playing online poker, and it was legal in the US. I could play 60, 70, 80 hours a week without getting bored. It was new; every day, I was learning something new. But now I’m 31. I don’t really see myself going back to finance for $60K to $80K a year, which is obviously a lot of money, but it would take me a long time – a lot of years – to work my way up. I could see myself going to business school or maybe doing something one day, but for now, I’m just playing poker and focusing on other things.
PokerUpdate: One of your first home games featured players like Faraz Jaka and Ravi Raghavan. Are you still close with them?
Mohsin: Actually, Faraz and I room together every time we travel, so I’m staying with him here at Seminole Hard Rock. We live together during the World Series. I see Faraz on every tour. I see Ravi at all of the WSOP Circuit events and on other tours, so I see him all the time, too. I’m pretty close with both of them.
PokerUpdate: What were some of the most important lessons you learned from them when you first started playing?
Mohsin: I played mostly with Ravi when I first started. I learned a lot of things, but he was the one who would be on his laptop playing online while he was playing a home game. So he really got me into playing Internet poker, as well as knowing when to play, where the good tournaments were, game selection, and that type of stuff that was really important for me.
PokerUpdate: Where do you see online poker going in the US in the next few years?
Mohsin: I haven’t really followed the online poker movement. I know that it’s in New Jersey now, so I guess state-run online poker is a start, but it is just so weird not to be able to play poker at 9pm against some guy in Japan. Or to be able to log on to a site, find a $25/$50 or really high stakes game because most of the online poker running in Nevada or New Jersey is low stakes. I don’t have any expectations that it will ever be as big as it once was. I don’t think it’s possible without being able to play against people from all around the world. It just sucks that there are so many lobbyists and politics that kind of ruin everything.
PokerUpdate: I read that you have a photographic memory. How does that help you with poker?
Mohsin: I think I had it when I was younger. I think playing poker makes you smarter in some aspects, but it also gives you a lot of ADD, especially playing online poker. I bet if you did an IQ test on me when I was 18 or 20 years old and one now, I’m probably way dumber, though I am street smarter. I think my poker memory is really good, but I haven’t tried reading a book and verbally spitting it back by memory in ten years or so.
PokerUpdate: You’ve been fairly open about your downswings and upswings. What gets you through the tough times?
Mohsin: When I first started playing, I didn’t realize how swingy it was and how important it was for me to be mentally tough. I’d get complacent and be on a downswing and hate my life. Then I’d be on an upswing and everything would be great. And then with Internet poker, everything happens ten times faster. I could play $100K in buy-ins in a week or two, whereas in live games, it would take me awhile. I became tougher mentally over time by surrounding myself with more positive people like Faraz and having a girlfriend. When I’m on a downswing, I spend more time with my family or go to the gym, anything that makes me happier. Before, I would just continue to play and stuff my face into a computer screen until I got out of it. Diversifying my life outside of poker is probably the greatest thing I’ve done to help me deal with downswings, as well as not getting too excited about upswings because they are just part of the game.
PokerUpdate: You made your first WPT final table in 2010, another in 2012, all before you won the WPT Paris in 2013 and another in 2014. What kept you coming back to the WPT?
Mohsin: I think the structure is good. I really like Matt Savage. To be honest, since I live in Chicago, it’s easier for me to get to many of the WPT events. They’re also really entertaining to watch on TV. Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten are really funny. I also think the buy-ins are good. The problem with the World Series of Poker is that it’s either a $1K buy-in or a $25K buy-in. I like going to WPTs in places like LA when they have a $10K buy-in, and I play all of the EPT events, too. I guess I’m just fully loyal to the WPT, if that’s an answer. It’s nice, and now they’ve been adding high rollers, which makes it more fun, too.
PokerUpdate: So you have two WPTs and an EPT under your belt. What else is on your list?
Mohsin: I think when I won the WPT in Paris, I really wanted to win a bracelet next. Not to demean people who have bracelets, but they now have like 80 events a year, which is nice but not great. I don’t have any real goals, maybe just to continue to get better, maybe win some of the Alpha8 events and win the Tournament of Champions. I want to be the first one to have four WPT titles, but I blew my shot at the third one last month. I’m going to have to work my way back to a final table and try to get another one.
PokerUpdate: Speaking of that, you finished second at WPT Rolling Thunder last month. How did you feel about that?
Mohsin: I was pretty disappointed losing heads-up. I’ve known Harrison (Gimbel) for six or seven years now. He played well, but I know I could have played better. I think that I just take for granted the times I get really lucky heads-up or at final tables. I was disappointed, but at the same time, it’s a lot of money. It sounds really dumb to say out loud that I’m disappointed when I cashed for that much money. At the end of the day, I think the Thunder Valley tournament was probably one of the best ones I’ve been to. The venue was great, the floor people were great, hotel rooms were really nice, so I was happy to be there. At the end of the day, when I got to the final table, my goal was just to get heads-up and play well. I don’t think I played as well as I’m capable of playing, and that was probably the only reason I was upset at myself.
PokerUpdate: Last but not least, when you win the 2016 WPT Tournament of Champions, what are you going to do with the Corvette?
Mohsin: Well, my girlfriend doesn’t want me to have a Corvette. I’m a horrendous driver. I grew up in Chicago, where most people don’t own a car. And you don’t really have on in college. I’ve lived in downtown areas my whole life, so when I drive, it’s very bad for the rest of the motorists. So my girlfriend already doesn’t want me to have a car, let alone a Corvette. It depends on what color it is, though. If it’s red, I’d be less likely to speed. The new Corvettes are really bad-ass. I have to find out what color it is.