"Ship it to Vivek! Show 'em king high!" was the shout that came from one of the inebriated young men on the rail, the Rio's Amazon Ballroom nearly empty at the 3 a.m. hour.
Vivek Rajkumar was about to make the final table of the $3,000 Limit Hold'em event at the 2007 <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/wsop/>World Series of Poker</a> and remarkably, at 21 years and 9 days old, it would mark his fourth WSOP cash in six events played after only being of legal age to play live for barely a week. Rajkumar was no rookie, though, having cut his teeth online and made a solid living at the game for several years already. Here, he was attempting to break the record set by Steve "MrSmokey1" Billirakis earlier that month—to be the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet.
Vivek Rajkumar was born in India and spent most of his childhood in Singapore before moving to the United States with his family at age 12. An academic prodigy, Rajkumar enrolled in the University of Washington's Early Entrance program when he was 15 and graduated from UW with degrees in applied mathematics and computer engineering in 2005, shortly before his 19th birthday. He went to work for Microsoft as a software engineer, writing programs for smart phones, but developed a serious interest in <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/>poker</a> on the side. Back when Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event, Rajkumar started playing $1 tournaments just for fun with friends. Eventually, he convinced his father to fund his PartyPoker account with a $50 credit-card deposit and ran it up into the thousands.
After playing <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/freeroll-tournaments/>tournament poker</a> seriously for only a few months, Rajkumar accomplished a feat that most online pros will never boast—he made the final table of the PartyPoker Million in back-to-back weeks. His take from those final tables gave his roll a significant boost and allowed him to increase his volume. Far more passionate about poker than he was about his gig at Microsoft, Rajkumar decided after a year at the company, to leave software behind to try out life as a poker pro. After all, he already had a college degree and a specialized skill set to fall back on. Though he had yet to turn 21, Rajkumar moved to Las Vegas and started playing online full-time, all while studying the game deeply and constantly reviewing hand histories.
In June of 2007, Rajkumar finally turned 21 and wasted no time in starting to play live. He cashed five times at the <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/wsop/>WSOP</a> that summer including his final table appearance in the $3,000 Limit Hold'em event, where he finished sixth. Though he didn't end up breaking Steve Billirakis' record that day, he did bank nearly $37,000 and finished the series with over $114,000 in earnings. He continued to notch cashes up and down the Vegas strip, finishing ninth at the Caesar's Palace Classic $10,000 Main Event, eighth at the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em event at the Bellagio Five-Diamond Classic and 26th at the WPT Bellagio Five-Diamond $15,000 Main Event. His first major tournament win, though, came at the 2008 L.A. Poker Classic where he took down the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event for over $113,000, defeating a final table that included Ryan Hughes, Brandon Cantu and Toto Leonidas.
At the '08 World Series of Poker, Rajkumar added three more cashes to his resume, but no final tables. He would have to wait until September's Borgata Poker Open for that. At the $10,000 buy-in Main Event, he landed at the final table and after getting it all in with pocket tens against Mark Seif's pocket aces, his shot at a WPT title was growing dim—that is, until he spiked a ten on the flop. Rajkumar doubled up and left Seif crippled as he took the chip lead. This final table would turn out to be the shortest in WPT history, as Rajkumar steamrolled the rest of his opponents in only 48 hands to take down the title and $1.4 million in winnings.
"Skill game," he famously muttered on the televised broadcast, as sly reference to the seemingly endless amount of suckouts that paved his way to victory.
Though Rajkumar spends most of his time on the live tournament trail these days, he is still a fairly prolific online tournament player. Playing as "psyduck," he has finished sixth in the PokerStars Sunday Million and finished runner-up in the Stars $109 NLHE w/ Rebuys, among his dozens of online final tables.
When he's not traveling the circuit, Vivek Rajkumar lives in Las Vegas.
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