A card game loved by many, Poker is the newest addition to the Indian sports leagues.
Gone are the days when one only met sports fans talking about a select few games. The face of Indian sports entertainment is changing and the latest proof is the upcoming Poker Sports League (PSL).
The passion of poker portal, Adda52.com’s founder, Anuj Gupta and India Poker Legend’s founder, Pranav Bagai shaped the Poker Sports League. The league is being promoted by Dabur’s vice-chairman, Amit Burman and will have 12 teams with 9 players in each team. The league might be new but it has a lucrative prize money of Rs 3.36 crore to offer.
But what happens when people associate a game more with chance than skill? And if chance does play a bigger role, how does one select players and teams? This, it seems, is the most common misconception about poker.
Dhaval Mudgal, who is mentoring the Goan team and was selected captain of the Goa team, Goa Nuts, clarifies, “Poker is more a game of skill than chance. The chance bit only appears in the short term. In the long term skill tends to manifest itself.”
Poker requires a lot of strategic thinking, probability and mathematical skills. While Dhaval believes the league is here to stay, many states in India follow the Public Gambling Act, 1867 which prohibits gambling in public or game houses. On the other hand there are states in India that do not consider it gambling and the ambiguity remains.
Talking about the selection process for the teams and age of the players, Dhaval says, “I don’t think age is a factor at all. The players themselves have played multiple qualifying tournaments to appear on the top 48 of the leader-board and then have gone through further scrutiny by the teams before being picked on the basis of their understanding of the game.”
Poker requires a sharp skill set. “I look for a clear thought process, the ability to deal with the emotional swings of the game and the will to succeed in a player,” he adds.
Dhaval seems excited for the game as it is the newest sports league in India, “I believe for a niche sport like this, the league is already garnering great interest. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.”
He also adds that the trend of leagues is almost like a ‘.com’ boom and people in India will see many new leagues in the near future.
On the flip side, there are also speculations that this might lead to an increase in gambling and betting among fans. But Dhaval says, “Poker is not gambling. It is a game of skill. Thus, there is no question that this league will promote gambling. This misconception is borne from the fact that it is a card game.” Dhaval says he has only played at legal casinos across the world and there will be no gambling involved in the league matches at all. The participants don’t even have to pay an entry fee, which is another step to ensure no illegal activity takes place.
Dhaval expects the poker league to help detach the stigma attached with this game. “People will find it easier to think of it as a sport and not as gambling. Apart from that, I can’t wait to see some of the world’s best come and lock horns with the cream of the Indian players.”
Not all the teams have been named yet but they will be listed from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Goa, Pune, Shimla, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab. It will be interesting to see how the league garners interest, as it will only be telecast online.