Muskan Sethi, India's first female professional poker player, and a brand ambassador for PokerStars India, gives an insight into her world.
In India, playing cards is always associated with fun and leisure but there is also a stigma that links playing cards to gambling. This prevents people from taking the sport seriously and hinders many people who want to play it on a professional level.
"In the western countries, if you have poker on your CV, you are most likely to be selected by big hedge funds groups or get a top job at Wall Street, but in India, it's looked upon as an ordinary card game," says Muskan Sethi.
Sethi feels that the stigma stems mostly from the lack of awareness about the game and also from the lack of role models available to the young generation as well.
"There is a 60-year old lady who asked me to make her account on PokerStars and she very passionately plays it, so it's definitely not a generational thing. Everyone who feels poker should not be pursued professionally has never played the game."
Muskan Sethi's journey in poker
"I was introduced to poker by my dad, who used to watch poker just to analyze people's body languages. My father was actually a medical student and used to watch poker as a spectator."
Sethi continued, "So, there are a lot of moments in a single game of poker which forces our bodies to give micro-reactions like pupils dilating, eye twitching, the nerves popping in or out, the way someone is sitting, their posture and my dad used to study that and guess whether someone is bluffing or not and he was right most of the time."
Talking about how she started playing poker, the Delhi-born poker player said, "When I started playing poker online, I didn't even know what I was doing. I was just following my passion and trying to avoid that feeling of regret that I could have done this earlier in my life."
"There is no excuse for people who have access to the internet and spend their time on Netflix instead of sharpening a skill that could potentially help them earn some money or play it as a hobby just because there is a stigma behind it."
"My dad used to be very scared and apprehensive about me pursuing something that no one in the country has even tried, let alone be successful at it. He came running into my room every morning whenever there was a silly article about poker and I had to show him how the game works to make him relax."
"I started playing poker through Zenga Poker on Facebook and I used to take it very seriously, and my boyfriend at that time helped me make an account on PokerStars. I started by playing with 'play money' and before I knew it, I was in Vegas playing with pros on TV," she concluded.
Poker: More Than A Game
Muskan Sethi feels that if you want to play poker professionally, you can't just treat it as a game you play in your living room. She said "In poker, you have to study more than you play if you are playing at a professional level. I have a poker coach who works on what I could have done in my previous games and what move I could have played with the cards in my hand in certain situations."
"I also have a team of coaches which includes a fitness coach who works on my posture, my spine and my tailbone and a nutritionist who works on boosting my memory, intelligence and also improving my gut. I also have a mind coach who helps me with meditation and hypnosis, and also helps me with dealing with personal challenges in life," she concluded.