<TABLE cellpadding=0 cellspacing=5><TR><TD><IMG src=http://www.liquidpoker.net/staff/Ballad126/hevadkhan2.jpg alt="image of Hevad Khan"></TD><TD>Of all the success stories to come out of the international Starcraft community's mass-migration to the poker world, the latest comes from Hevad Khan, a 22-year-old Starcraft player turned poker tournament specialist, who scared the hell out of everybody at the World Series of Poker this year as he danced and chairhatted and bulldozed his way to the final table, taking down a well-deserved $956,243 for an impressive 6th place finish through a field of more than 6,000 players.
LiquidPoker.net: Competitive videogames to high-stakes poker millionaire at such a young age. Your path in life so far has been an unusual one to say the least. What do you think your life would look like right now if you never found Poker, and never had such great success with it? Do you think you'd be more content working a normal job?
Hevad Khan: I think my life would be basically the same that it is right now. I'd wake up, and dedicate every minute of my life to whichever great passion I found. It's really hard to say what I would be doing exactly, but to entertain the thought of it, I could see myself being the boss of somebody else in the real world, because I hate dealing with authority (laughs)</TD></TR></TABLE>
LP: Let's go back to the beginning, to your early life. When and where were you born, and into what kind of family? Tell us about the people that are closest to you.
Hevad Khan: I was born in 1985 in Poughkeepsie, NY. I am 100% Afghani. I currently live with my mother, father, and older brother, who are all doctors... so I come from a moderately wealthy family. They're all very focused and very keen on keeping a consistent pattern of hard work, to become something substantial in society so to speak. It might be the reason I was raised to become such a social robot.
LP: Some people knew you first for your time dedicated to Starcraft, and millions of people now know you for your pursuits in the poker field, both worldwide influences thanks to television and the internet. But what were you doing before you found Starcraft? What had your attention before you even knew that Starcraft existed?
Hevad Khan: I was addicted to video games, and I collected a lot of trading cards like baseball, basketball, football and magic cards. I was totally obsessed with the monetary and gem-like attributes to getting a pack of basketball cards with the chance to get a special card inside it worth a lot more than the rest. I guess that's where the gamble in myself first began.
But overall I was a very normal kid. I enjoyed hanging out with friends. I also had a lot of middle school crushes on some pretty hot girls if you can pardon the pedophiliac aura you may be picking up about me (laughs). You know, girls that at that time in my life (middle school) were the 'hot' ones.
Eventually I saw that I wasn't going to get through life smoothly by being normal, so I became a hermit and focused on Starcraft.
LP: Like you say, you eventually found Starcraft, and became absolutely immersed in its competitive format. Tell us how that came along.
Hevad Khan: In 8th grade during middle school, my friend introduced me to this game called 'Starcraft' during the winter time. I used to go to his house and fathom about how cool this game was while I watched him play. He was a very good player at the time under the alias 'D22-soso'. Eventually, I got a stronger desktop that could withstand the graphics of the game so I would no longer lag him out, and then we could compete versus each other. Before I knew it I was playing 2-3 times as much as he was and I was becoming a social hermit like I said.
Then one weekend came along where he challenged me to a best of 5 and I won 3-0, labeling me as the better player between the two of us. I then began to pursue the game on my own having left this feat behind me, with an open road of challenges to come in the real world and in gaming!
LP: And you took Starcraft very seriously, right? You had ambitions of competing at the highest level of the game, in televised leagues in South Korea. Was it a struggle? How much of your time was devoted to this? Do you still play?
Hevad Khan: I took starcraft way too seriously, and I was a very immature person behind the chat prompt in the Battle.net channels. I was very arrogant, and I always used to boast about how good I was and how everyone else who was considered good was not good. I always dreamt about competing in Korea for Starcraft, but I never made it happen for myself.
Looking back on it now, I'm starting to believe in the whole prophecy that 'everything happens for a reason,' such that all my efforts in Starcraft which ended in a failure, were merely a step in the process for what I may accomplish in a later portion of my life.
I used to play about 10 hours a day. I hardly play anymore because I'm way too busy with poker, travelling for poker, and handling busy work like interviews, agents, and Team PokerStars related events. But I did order a $12,000 desktop and when I arrive back from WPT Five-Diamond Bellagio, I will probably play more Starcraft for fun.
LP: There was a vast worldwide community of young people like yourself, all playing Starcraft from thousands of miles away from each other, training and competing with each other, and pursuing that unlikely dream of being world champion. But there was no compensation and little recognition for doing well at it, unless you were the best, something like a labor of love. Looking back on it today from your current perspective, what do you think about it all? Do you feel nostalgic? Does it seem a little bit silly? What's your retrospect.
Hevad Khan: I honestly felt that the amount of dedication I put into Starcraft was going to make up for what I lacked in my real life with friends, academics, what my parents viewed of me, girls, and overall happiness. I do miss the days of Starcraft where I was a newbie and the game struck tons of interest to me, that's nostalgia.
The long hours and endless days where I pursued playing Starcraft instead of being a kid are conflicting, although I now see why I chose to play so much instead of doing other things... and that reason is, I knew I had to lead this sort of life -- it was my instinct that drove me to play every single day and to keep fighting for my dream.
It wasn't the most rational thinking, but it did keep me busy and gave me a purpose in life at that time, so I didn't feel alienated or inadequate.
LP: You seem to be hinting that there are some very negative downsides to the level of dedication you had to the game. Can you elaborate on that a little? What would you say to the Starcraft players of today that are taking it as seriously as you once did?
Hevad Khan: I consider myself one of the lucky ones, and it isn't always a cinderella story for the people who dedicate themselves like I did. A lot of those people come away from that experience feeling like their time was downright wasted.
To the Starcraft players right now: Play the game only if you love it and are 100% happy with what you are doing with your time, because Starcraft is an insanely time consuming game. But you really need to be honest with yourself, and if you don't enjoy it, you really need to find something else. Just do whatever you want in life if you have love for it, and don't live your life according to how other people want you to live it.
LP: For most people, Starcraft is just a fun thing to do between classes and work schedules. But from Starcraft, you've got a lot more to be thankful for than most people. You've kept a lot of friends with you from those Starcraft days, and you were even introduced to poker through Starcraft. How did it all happen?
Hevad Khan: I got into poker at the same time that Elky, Rekrul, and a few others did. I had a lot of high school graduation gift money from my parents, so I immediately started playing high buy-in SNGs that were really out of my league at the time. After a year or two, with help from Rekrul, I figured out that I wasn't going to make this poker dream a reality until I disciplined myself to properly manage my bankroll.
LP: You're very quick and precise with a computer mouse, and you think well under pressure -- two traits that more or less come with the territory of being a strong Starcraft player, and two traits that have also served you well in Poker. This is a question you always get asked in interviews, and I hope you're not sick of answering it just yet! Can you tell us the story about your incredible multitabling ability, and the trouble that it got you into with PokerStars?
Hevad Khan: I used to play $16 9-man turbo SNGs on PokerStars, and I would play 8 to 10 of them at a time... eventually my bankroll got big enough that I could afford to experiment a little and add on even more tables. I was adding 2 or 3 more tables each day as sort of a challenge to myself to see how many tables I could handle while still being able to play them optimally.
Eventually I realized that there was almost no limit to how many I could handle, so I saw it as a chance to become the first man to mega-multi-table on PokerStars. One day I said screw it, and loaded up 24 tables, and I was able to handle it smoothly... and man what a rush it was.
People started typing in the chat box during my sessions saying they were reporting me because I'm a robot, they just couldn't believe that one guy could play 24 SNGs at the same time.
PokerStars agreed with them unfortunately, and froze my account while they reviewed the matter. I emailed back and said it was bullshit and I'll prove it with a video feed, and they agreed to let me do it.
So they unfroze my account for a period of one session and they closed it again once the one session was over. I sent in the video recording of that session, and they were amazed and immediately loved me. They unfroze my account and never gave me any trouble again, and that's the story.
LP: You've made pretty much all of your money in tournament poker (which includes those SNGs), and have never been known for cash game play. Have you pretty much always been a tournament guy? What did you like about tournaments that you didn't like about cash games?
Hevad Khan: I have always been into tournaments, but I dabbled in cash. What I like about tournaments is the constant all-in decision making you need to make, and the big amount of gamble and luck involved in them. In a cash game you can just reload, but an all-in moment in a tournament can be life or death, it's just a rush to me. I love the fact that a big card heater means getting a massive pay-out in one day. I like how you get paid a hell of a lot of money if you run good for 5 or 6 hours.
LP: Obviously you're happy with your choice to study primarily tournament poker, seeing as you've had such great success with it. But most cash game pros seem to hold the tournament pros in contempt, like tournament players are below them somehow, or like cash games are more difficult. How do you feel about that attitude and about those people, and why do you think they feel that way? Is there any validity to it?
Hevad Khan: Absolutely, cash game poker will always mean more skill and depth. Players in a cash game will all usually have a large enough stack to be betting on every street, to be decision-making on every street, so yeah, it's deeper.
I eventually want to specialize in cash games, but for the next year or two, I will dedicate my time to tournament poker.
As far as the attitude they hold, who cares. Maybe it's just an inner jealousy because tournament players can win such a massive amount of money in such a short span of time, maybe that just disturbs the humbleness of the cash game grinders. They spend endless hours only to have consistent monthly profits to show for it, and that's great, but cash games will never give you the fame and satisfaction that a tournament win can give you.
LP: It was through online poker that you qualified for the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2007, and I'm told you qualified many times over. How many seats did you win, and how did you do it? What'd you do with all those extra seats?
Hevad Khan: I won 5 packages to the WSOP 2007 Main Event. I won 4 of them through $175 double shootouts, and the other one through a $33+rebuys (one seat guarantee) MTT satellite. With my extra seats I had so much time before the main event began, so I decided to keep it within my bankroll and continued to grind. When I arrived in Las Vegas for the WSOP 2007, I still grinded live SNGs and managed to build up about $30,000 in profit, so I pretty much freerolled the entire WSOP off those.
LP:At the 2007 World Series of Poker, you played in 10 events, and you got your big break in the Main Event, cutting through a field of 6,358 players to eventually place 6th and collect $956,243 in prize money. In 10 words or less, how does it feel?
Hevad Khan: I'd just like to say: You are damn fucking right I made it there, bitch.
LP:That's a ton of money for someone so young. What are your plans for it?
Hevad Khan: I plan to invest all of it and continue to travel the circuit for the next 1 or 2 years. I'm going to make sure that I don't blow this opportunity, and make sure I continue to profit and grow as a player. I hit the jackpot, let's be perfectly honest about it. This is such an insanely huge amount of money for a player with my level of experience. I'm going to live in fear of the high-stakes downswing, and I'm not going to play in any games that I don't already know I can profit in.
I will continue to play what I win at. I'm going to be smart with my money, I'm going to respect my money, and above all I'm going to enjoy the moment.
Go to <A href=http://www.liquidpoker.net/information/f/343682/Interview_with_Hevad_Khan_(Par...html> part 2 of the interview with Hevad Khan</A>.