Bengaluru, November 19: Over the last few years, Poker has slowly started gaining attention in India. There have been ceaseless efforts to help the sport grow and encourage more players. Kolkata-based PokerBaazi.com has given the Indian poker community with a online gaming experience.
Navkiran Singh, Director, Pokerbaazi, shares his views on the sport that is growing abundantly in the country.
Do you plan to organize any international poker championships in India?
We have been privileged to be associated with several international formats and championships. In the past, we have hosted a satellite tournament for the World Series of Poker, Europe that will be held in King’s Casino Rozvadov, Czech Republic. At present, we have also started the satellite tournaments for the ASIA Poker League to be held in Vietnam. These satellite tournaments provide a platform for the growing poker talent in the country to prove their poker skills and participate in the international championships, which otherwise cost a hefty buy-in.
Given the growing fanfare of poker, we have considered the possibilities of hosting such championships in India. However, bringing such international tournaments would require a greater wherewithal and once the time is ripe, we look forward to hosting these international poker championships at home.
How has been the response from players and how do you plan to market poker?
We have been humbled by the response that the platform has garnered. With the recent launch of the new PokerBaazi app, our players have found an easier and simpler way of playing on the platform. We take pride in being the first online poker website in India to come up with a millionaire program, known as the Moneymaker. That helped us grab the eyeballs and we have consistently enjoyed a loyal customer base, ever since.
Poker enthusiasts have organically found their way to our platform, either through organic searches or the word-of-mouth. However, advocacy for poker forms the essence of our marketing. At PokerBaazi, we are forever committed towards dispelling the age-old notions against poker and spread awareness on how poker qualifies for a skill-based game, how it is being taught at several prestigious institutions like the MIT, Harvard, and IIMs etc.
To the same end, we continue with our advocacy and provide webinars and video tutorials for the players to up their game and become poker pros. Furthermore, we also joined hands with Vijender Singh, India’s professional boxer and Olympic medallist, as our brand ambassador. Our alliance with Vijender as a youth icon has also helped us further our reach and connect with budding poker enthusiasts in India.
In the future, do you think poker players will become professionals in India compared to other countries?
It is no more a matter of the future and I am happy to see that it is already happening. We have our PokerBaazi PRO team which has one of the best poker players like Abhishek Rathod, Maria Kirloskar and Abhishek Panda, all of whom are playing the game professionally, representing us at various tournaments. Recently, Muskan Sethi was honoured by India’s President for being a performer in a skill sport. As the nation gives up its regressive approach towards poker and supports the ambition of the young poker enthusiasts, we would have a lot more poker pros, making the country proud at international formats.
How has the government supporting you?
The judicial system has been quite favourable to us and the government is following suit. While we have been living under a rock, letting a Colonial Law dictate the fate of poker and poker players, the Public Gambling Act of 1867 was challenged in the Karnataka High Court in 2011. In the verdict, the High Court upheld the skill involved in Poker. In fact, the Supreme Court has already clarified the difference between games of chance and skill. Only the games with the outcome dependent on chance are put under gambling. To the same end, the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act of 1957exclude Poker and other games like Rummy, Bridge, and Nap, from being classified as gambling. Furthermore, the Nagaland Act of 2016 allows licensing of online games of skill, such as poker, fantasy sports, Soduku etc. This marks the initiation of the change and we’re hopeful that more state-governments would follow the same suit.
Who are your players?
Our players are any and everyone who is enthusiastic about poker. From pros to amateurs, we cater to a wide range of poker enthusiasts and provide something for all. Most of our players are young adults: college students or young professionals who want an adventure from their life.
Don’t you think players should play responsibly?
Unlike popular notions, poker pros are very responsible and stable. In fact, over the years, they have perfected their ability to stay neutral and calm amidst stressful and uncertain situations. As far as the beginners are concerned, they come with a lot of anxiety and self-doubt and hence, we allow them to play without cash. Furthermore, we make it a point to advocate bank-roll management, so that people don’t run out of their money within the thrills of the game.
However, being responsible, especially with one’s hard earned money isn’t limited only to poker. Poker players, just like investors, students, racers, entrepreneurs and others, should all ‘play’ responsibly.