When IIM-Kozhikode professor, Deepak Dhayanuthy introduced Poker as part of a course on competitive strategy and strategic management in 2015, some people raised eyebrows. According to him, Poker as a game helps players understand human psychology better- pick up on subtle cues and personal motivations, as well as learn how to manage the resources they had when playing. In short, poker is a game in which skill and strategy triumphed over any kind of fortune.
Whether everyone agreed with him or not is a matter of some debate, but students across the country seemed to generally agree with the IIM professor's conclusion. Nowhere was this more apparent than at IIM-Kozikhode itself. Apart from signing up for the course, IIM-K students took part in one of the largest college poker fests organised in the country.
On 31 October 2019, an inter-collegiate poker tournament involving some of India's biggest colleges went underway. Participants from various IITs, IIMs, IMT-Ghaziabad and MDI Gurgaon played for over 4 days across campuses. The nine finalists were flown to Goa where the event was streamed live.
On his win, Jimitesh Singla (IIM-Bangalore) said, "It was a surreal experience. I've been playing Poker for a few years, but I never thought I would get to play on such a large scale. It was like playing at international tournaments which get televised."
Ankit Chaturvedi (IIM-Bangalore), who was the runner-up, added, “Playing live poker is an experience in itself. The final venue in Goa was world-class. I’d definitely like to do it again.”
Poker's growing acceptance across the country has been driven by the rapid growth of online platforms which offer massive prize pools and lucrative incentives to players. The audience has not been shy, and platforms have reported an average y-o-y growth of nearly 100% for the past 5 years.
With such an appetite for the game in the country, it’s no surprise that poker, which used to be college passion for most earlier, is now grabbing eyeballs on the national level. India's first ever National Poker Series will commence at the Casino Pride 2 in Panjim, Goa on 29 April and will go on till 5 May.
With a chance to play at the Mecca of Poker in Las Vegas at stake, it's expected that the NPS, which features buy-ins starting at ₹4,000, will become India's definitive poker event, giving everyone from across the country a chance to compete.
Varun Ganjoo, CMO of PokerBaazi.com, one of the partners for the NPS and the organiser of the IIM event, was confident about player turnout, "Indian Poker is now at a turning point. The game has been recognised as a thrilling strategy game and sport. We expect enthusiastic players from across the country to be joining us in Goa. Those interested in winning all-expense paid packages to the event can also join qualifying tournaments on our app for just ₹10.”
Kanchan Sharma, a professional poker player thinks many pros were likely to participate "Even though the NPS is not a high-stakes event, it's a chance to win a trophy at India's first national poker stage. Such events give regulars bragging rights and help players get noticed for their skills within the community.”
Regardless of the eventual outcome of the event, it's clear that India's poker landscape is evolving at a rapid pace with players being the driving force.
Interested in the NPS? Learn more and register yourself for the event by visiting the National Poker Series website.
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