One of the world’s best known Poker magazines, Cardplayer entered India a little less than a year ago. India happens to be the second Asian country after China as the magazine hopes to capture the booming underground poker market. Need a game, no problem, ask your friends on Facebook, if they are not playing, no worries, a game can be scouted anytime.
While the Teen Patti and other such variants were often the games of choice since time immemorial, there is a new game in town. And this one was invented in a land far far away, not Delhi, Mumbai, but the Lone Star State of Texas. The game was a relative unknown, till one Chris Moneymaker relived the American dream in the 21st century, participating in a $39 online satellite qualifier to the $ 10,000 main event, and better still, went on to pocket a cool 2.5 million. Was he playing to win, no sir, Moneymaker was off to settle a debt, so he deliberately wanted to finish 4th in order to win the 1000 Dollars that were on offer.
The rest, as they say is history. This phenomenon, aptly called the Moneymaker effect, hit America bigtime as tournament fields have just ballooned ever since 2003. In fact, the main event at the World Series of Poker is the richest individual payday in all of sport, leaving behind, Wimbledon, the Augusta Masters and the Royal Ascot. Another major part in this revolution can be credited to Rounders, possibly the most famous Poker movie of all time. I hear, they are planning a sequel.
So, the Poker boom is here now. They are all playing, high stakes, low stakes, micro stakes, Pizza money or play money. As the legendary gambler Jack Strauss said, ‘All it takes is a chip and a chair’. Now, it simply takes a mouse and screen. Thanks to Zynga and Facebook, Holdem is all set to be the next Golf. There are plenty of free poker rooms where you can learn and master the game.
While I might be thinking a little ahead of myself, it is notable to understand the grass ceiling in the corporate world. Golf has been associated since time immemorial as a very important means of networking, and socializing with colleagues and partners (to be). It can even help one step up the corporate ladder. India has a Golf culture, but the also rans cannot be a part of the bandwagon. Memberships are expensive, in some cases, exorbitantly so. And the game isn’t exactly all action. To be a good player takes a long time, and the wi-fi 3G generation doesn’t really have the time, or the inclination to put their heads down and focus.
Compare this to poker, all you need is a good old barsaati, some cans of beer, and some fishes (Poker slang for players who are easy money) and the occasional shark (slang for players who can crush a game). They are all playing it, on farmhouses, penthouses, outhouses and the one room shack. Unlike Golf, you don’t need to master your swing, just need to protect your money when you don’t have the best of it, and make the most when you have the best of it. No dress code, wear your finest fitted suits, to the oversized Hoodie, flip flops or the best formal shoes, no one really cares. As soon as you sit on the table, it’s time to shuffle up and deal. So, if you are playing a 50/100 cash game, one pot can see a swing anywhere between 4,000 to a cool 30,000. So, while it is advised that you do play cards with your bosses, colleagues and potential partners, leave them enough money for a cab ride at least.
Indians have a penchant for numbers, maybe, that explains why we take to Cricket like fish to water. Poker, over the years, has become a game of math and logic, taking over from the old school play of feel and instinct. For a generation of ESPN know-it-all Cricket pundits, who even remember how much Sachin Tendulkar scored in the second innings of the Melbourne test of 99, or how many deliveries Rahul Dravid has faced in his entire test career, tracking the math over 5 cards should’t be too hard.
Any prosperous society has a crave for indulgence in niches, while Poker, can at best, be classified as that for now, its certainly becoming more than a niche, as more and more Indians are taking to the game. Though players of Indian origin (Aditya Agarwal, Vivek Rajkumar, Praz Bansi and Ram Vaswani) have made a name for themselves on the European Poker Tour and World Series of Poker, it still remains to be seen when and whether an Indian lives the dream and goes to Vegas.
Till then, I gotta get to a game, see you!