Women poker players in India are joining the race to showcase their skill, win and make money.
It’s an uneven playing field for women in most sports in India. This applies to online games like poker too. A card game that clubs skill and strategy, poker has globally been male-dominated and a quick Google search confirms the same.
However, given the profits and the money the game offers, women are breaking ranks, and betting big on the game not only in India, but globally too.
YourStory spoke with two poker players who are trying to leverage their skills in the game, break the male bastion and access the opportunity the game offers to make money.
The adrenaline rush
Twenty-six-year-old Deepika Patil, from Pune, has been playing poker for the last few years but it was only seven months ago that she started playing professionally.
Poker is a magnificent game. It brings a good feel and an adrenaline rush along with the opportunity of a big win. It’s a challenge, like a puzzle. The freedom, mental competition, and strategy are what attracts me more to the game. It has helped me to be focused.
Introduced to the game by her cousins, she spends an average of around six to eight hours on poker. “I have always been naturally interested in playing mathematically challenging games. I believe it’s my patience that helped me excel at poker. Also, whenever I get time, I spend about two hours on online forums and tutorials. I have to dedicate so much time daily because the game is evolving so in our country, and in order to be one step ahead, you have to work hard off the table too.”
Bengaluru-based, 28-year-old Lanning Thou, has been playing professionally for the past three years. A post-graduate in Women Studies, she works with an event management company.
Lanning used to play other card games but enjoys poker the most because of its four stages- preflop, flop, turn and river. She says, “I learned the game by playing on slot machines but I was introduced to live and online poker by one of my closest friends.” Lanning spends on an average anywhere between four to five hours either playing live or online.
Both women have mostly played online and on Indian portals like MadOverPoker and a few others like The Spartan Poker, Poker Nation among others. While Lanning plays live, Deepika’s game is mostly online.
Poker has not been taken too kindly in India as people think of it as gambling. However, both the women have received great support from their circle of family and friends.
Deepika feels that though its male-dominated field surrounded by gender stereotypes, she feels there is no need for gender segregation. Unfortunately, they do exist and she calls it out.
“Talking about discrimination, there’s a tendency for women to be glorified more for their beauty than their playing ability. Women players are expected to be weaker competitors than their male counterparts. Many male poker players feel women do not belong at the poker table, which is only a place for gutsy people. They often view their female opponents as novices who rarely bluff and generally play “fit or fold” poker. Honestly, it doesn’t matter who you are, just as long as you know the game and don’t abuse the other players.”
Lanning has a different view.
Yes, most of the players, especially the professionals are men but we should also remember that Muskan Sethi was honoured with the President’s Award that none of the male players could achieve. I feel nothing is impossible if we are determined to achieve the goal. I don’t think women players face challenges. I would rather that they look at it as an opportunity to be in the spotlight in a large pool of male players.
Show me the money
Poker is a good way to make money. Both women agree that it is one of the things that also attracted them to the game. Deepika who has been making profits that run into lakhs of rupees warns, “If you want to play for fun and easy money then you are in for a nasty surprise because if you enjoy a challenge, master the technique and put in the effort to learn the skill. Then you can really make a name for yourself.”
Lanning adds that the way to succeed at this game is to make sure that you have control, know your limits and maintain discipline.
Both women feel that since there is good money in the game, more and more women should be exposed to the game.
Practice and patience key to success
Lanning who has been playing for a longer time, and has played live at many clubs says practice and patience is the key to success.
It is not just about succeeding at poker but in life in general. If you love something then concentrate on it, improve your skill and just excel at that one thing you feel will help you find success and recognition.
Live poker is very challenging, and as Lanning points out, “Sometimes playing live is difficult but if you can control your emotions during the game you can catch the hand and read body language. I love the way Phil Ivey plays. He never loses his cool even when he loses a game or when someone is trying to divert his attention. Anything can happen if we make a silly mistake. Thus our dedication, read and skills matter.”