Player Speak

‘MOLLY’S GAME’ – Why the entrepreneur in you must read this book .

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I teach Strategic Management ( Competitive Strategy in Poker ) at the Indian Institute of Management- Kozhikode.  I know, really cool. However, with so many grading assignments and other pending tasks, reading a book  has become a luxury.

Recently, I treated myself to a book that i had been wanting to read for quite some time. It is sort of a poker biography of poker entrepreneur and author, Molly Bloom – her introduction to the world of high stakes business folks, running high stakes cash games under the radar, and the inevitable fall from grace.

 Okay, this is not a book where hands would be discussed.

It is more about the business of LIVE poker. Molly’s reference to her talented brothers and how she felt she’d come up short was unexpected and kind of endearing. The folks in Bloom’s life, with the exception of one Hollywood star, are spoken about with fondness. Whether they are aggressive business folks, superstars, law enforcement or game staff, I finished the book coming to like these inhabitants of the poker world.

Bloom’s book gives us a sense of what makes for a high-society poker game – comforts, ease, action, proximity and glamour of every bit of the experience – from playing to collections. Just as she builds a unique poker experience and starts counting out her first big profits, the reader begins to wonder how long the good time would last. Bloom rolls with the punches, taking her game from coast to coast, somehow making an equally good show of it irrespective of the location. Be they Hollywood celebrities or Wall Street biggies, they co-occupy rarefied felts with the other rich and wealthy.

The business and competitive (not in poker, but the business of running a poker game) aspects that struck me are: first, how a rank outsider – Bloom – finds a niche for herself; second, how she goes about making this niche profitable; third, how or what defends this profitable spot; and finally, what might drive the heavy handedness of law enforcement. Let me elaborate.

How the astute business woman navigates the high testosterone world of the poker business is fascinating in itself. While men dominate this world, their alpha-male territory defense instincts and how all that testosterone overdose may be an entrepreneurial opportunity is fascinating to read. A powerful man bossing the game is nothing to be fearful of, just as far as you can find at least other power thirsty man – seems to be Bloom’s mantra. It made me wonder if I could use sections of the book as reading material for an entrepreneurship class.

Bloom’s CRM (customer relationship management) is fascinating. Fulfilling the silliest of customer desires goes a long way in the poker business, it appears. She recollects fascinating experiences that had her scurrying around so that the boss wouldn’t throw a fit. While painful in itself, in this helter-skelter she makes friends and gets a shot at love. Like a professional wrestler, she turns and throws the collections problem with the promise of the next, even better, even sexier, game.

Bloom’s careful documentation of her players and their needs creates a database which would take a potential rival many years to emulate. This gives her a shot at running this profitable business for a longer time. In her book lie fascinating secrets of how a poker business ticks. It takes 9 to have a game, but for Bloom any 9 wouldn’t just do. A careful selection of the 9 players is important for the experience to be fun, profitable, less of a collections headache, and a source of repeat business. Again, as you read the book, these poker business insights jump at you.

Notwithstanding the plethora of evidence of poker being a skill game, poker in general and live poker in particular, is exposed to the vicissitudes of the legal system and its enforcement. In the US, those like Bloom who run the game may sometimes find themselves in prison, a choice of cooperating or long prison sentences ahead of them.

Having taken the former way out, Bloom has had the opportunity to tell her story. It is a fascinating one. Not only poker lovers – anybody with interest in service businesses, entrepreneurship, or a woman navigating ‘a man’s world’ of poker would find this book good to read. 

Write to me in the comments below and we can discuss the book at length using the business management lens further.

-Deepak Dhayanithy, Assistant Professor, Straegic Management, Indian Institute of Management- Kozhikode

Channeling my inner poker diva at the Deltin Poker Tournament

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The only time I felt remotely like Miss Hawa Hawai,  a role the recently departed Goddess of Indian Cinema played in Mr India, was at the Deltin Poker Tournament a couple of  weeks back. Like an imposter but so totally right for the part!

9stacks was promoting women poker players.  9 of us were invited to be the 9 Missketeers to represent them at event in Goa. I was suddenly ticking off a thing on my bucket list except it had never featured there. My love affair with poker was new and passionate. From online poker to a live poker tournament, was too much to imagine. Did I deserve it? I just let all the doubts go and let the good times roll!

It was to be an all expense paid trip to play at the main event of the DPT. The ticket cost to the event was 35k. The last gift I got for that amount was my wedding set from my mother in law which wasn't even pretty.

Soon after landing in Goa, I met the team and we headed for the DPT. I was on my table by 7pm. It was my first trip to an Indian casino. The place was impressive. The tournament room itself had around 35 to 40 tables poker tables set up. The chandeliers shone bright.  About 50% of the players on those tables were wearing dark glasses. (literally guarding their expressions) I could hear the sound of the poker chips. It was music to the ears.

After signing up, I was assigned table 16 seat 5. As luck would have It, I was seated on a table of 4 sharks, 3 of whom were legendary. (names withheld to protect their ego.) It took a few hands to get comfortable. There was a newfound respect for the gaming software. It did so many things automatically- it put the small blind, big blind, put in the ante, calculated a minimum raise, warned me if I am folding when I can check -basically prevented me from looking stupid. And I did look pretty stupid that night. I made silly mistakes and that testosterone filled table was most likely thinking- what the hell is SHE doing here? She should be making bhindi at home.

Soon enough, all the poker training of so many 9stacks tourneys came marching out.

Won many hands, folded many more, piled up a nice stack, had the immense pleasure of watching 3 of those sharks busted out before me.

There were times when one of these sharks would take as much time to play his move as Erin Brockovich took to win her class action suit, but apparently that was allowed. It was unnerving the way these men studied your expression all the time.

I think women here have a distinct advantage especially the ones who have spent time in a joint family. We have mastered the art of schooling our expressions. The mother in law ranting about the burnt dal, the father in law screaming about his missing underwear, the brother in law going crazy looking for the gift from his girlfriend - and we learn to look concerned. We learn to look shattered. We learn to treat it like a global crisis. We learn to have an impassive face. Infact, a shark even complimented me with great annoyance “I can’t make out anything from your expression”.

And at that I finally gave my most expressive smile. Yeah boy! I have THE poker face. 

Players are shoved from one table to another, as players get busted out, and with the view of keeping the quorum of a table between 7 to 9 players. I was shuffled thrice that night.

I lasted till 2am.

7 hours amidst poker's best.

I was finally busted out when I went all in post flop on a hand of pocket 3’s. The flop was 663. Full House. I almost smiled there. A wee curve at the corner of my mouth. The sharks at Table 7 went all in too. Both had trips with 6K and 6A. Heavy hand All our hands were on the table. The turn is a 7. They both are already mourning the death of their hand. And the river is a 7.

The other two now have it better and I have a bad beat.

I go bust.

And I wince.

But then one thing poker has taught me, is to be present. To not let this affect my game later. Bad beats are a part of the game and there's no point rueing the loss when i can cherish the experience and the feat that i lasted 7 hours in the tournament among poker's top rung! (I cannot reiterate that fact enough)

I have had the time of my life. Every minute of the grind was sheer joy. Im back to the online game on 9stacks with a vengeance, hungry to play more and learn more.

A big thank you to 9stacks for the diva like experience. The thought of that night still thrills the cockles of my heart.

Rittweiler signs off.

Maidumji's Poker Chronicles Part 4- Maidumji debuts at the Deltin Poker Tournament 2018

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Hello!
 
This blog is going to be all about my first experience as a LIVE tournament player at  the Deltin Poker Tournament at Goa that happened between 15th and 19th February 2018.
 
Thanks to 9stacks, I got an opportunity to go to Goa along with 8 other amazing women, for 6 days and participate in various events at the DPT , sponsored completely by 9stacks. Initially I hesitated when told about the opportunity, wondering whether I was ready, or even a good enough player yet considering my very limited experience with live tournaments amongst strangers. The team encouraged me to participate, and told me that the idea was to engage more, encourage more women to try their hand at the sport, and with no pressure to win, just to have fun!
 
And so I found myself on a flight out from Delhi, with mixed feelings, some part excitement and a whole lot of nervousness. The team took good care of us, from travel arrangements to hotel reservations, and even registering us for all relevant events. The night we arrived, we played poker at the hotel, quickly trying to learn table etiquette from the old hands, all the words that are thrown around in a live tournament, and also advice on how to play better and with confidence.
 
On the day of the first event, I found myself at the casino with feelings best described, as close to being Alice in wonderland. The atmosphere at the casino is alive (for lack of a better word), with bright lights, lots of people and a hall full of poker tables, and the sharp sound of poker chips! If I was nervous before, I found myself suddenly extremely excited to be present there and just took in the atmosphere.
 
As the time for the tournament came nearer, I again found myself feeling nervous and yet, with a whole team of fellow women along with 9stacks team cheering each other on, found myself a seat at the tournament table.  The game was long and tiring, and while I came nowhere near the finishing line, I loved the grind and those few hours at the table! After sitting for hours on end patiently waiting for good cards,  I could only admire and be in awe  of players who invest so much time and energy in to the sport! It really is a lot of hard work, practice and skill that makes one a good player and discussing hands in breaks made me surer of what I have come to believe – It isn’t so much the cards you get but how you play them, and poker really is a mind game more than a card game!
 
By the second day that was the main event, I found myself less nervous, having spent the night before at the table and was more relaxed and had a lot more fun. I tried my hand at bluffing as well, and to my surprise, actually won a couple of hands! Tee hee, if that doesn’t thrill me, I don’t know what will!
 
Lots of people from our team did well, finishing in the money and some making it to the final table as well!
 
The best part of the trip for me was meeting all sorts of people in those few days, a full spectrum ranging from students to consultants to fashion designers to businessmen, not to mention the pros who have chosen to devote all their time to this sport and make a living out of it. As I interacted with people from all over the country and outside, it really hit home the point that poker really is for everyone!
 
After we got back, I got to know that Goa was abuzz with news of an all girls poker  team backed by 9stacks at the Deltin Poker Tournament. It was quite exciting and we have all been fielding queries from journalists across the country about the poker scene in India and a lot of my women friends have been thinking about trying their hand at playing online too.

In Goa, we had all been lamenting about how in India, we don’t see any women’s only tournaments and the ones that are held are usually one off affairs, done for charity. Where’s the fun?  I definitely  want to see more women enter the field and do really well. 
It is heartening to see that 9stacks has taken our suggestion to heart , and are introducing  a weekly tournament exclusively for women players.  Ladies Night will be an amazing platform for all women who are interested in exploring the game and practise in a safe and encouraging environment. 

So, why not spread the word? It is after all, India’s first weekly poker tournament exclusively for women. Ladies Night happens every Wednesday at 9:30 PM. It has a guaranteed prize pool of Rs 50,000 and a buy in of only Rs 1650! 
The first tournament will take place on 7th March, 2018, just in time for International Women’s Day!

See you!

Maidumji

Missketeer Muskan Sethi finishes 5th in the High Roller tournament during the Deltin Poker Tournament in Goa

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Leader of the Nine Missketeers, Muskan Sethi finished 5th in the High Roller Final Table during the Deltin Poker Tournament in Goa between 15th -19th February, 2018.

Muskan, who is the first Indian woman professional poker player to be awarded the President’s award for successfully carving her niche in the male dominated sport of Poker, recently, was one of the two women players who made it to the Final Table.

Muskan was short stacked on day 2 of the Highroller, with only 12 BB in hand. However, she neither lost hope, nor confidence, nor sight of her goals and survived till the Final Table with 10 BB  in hand! She finished 5th at the Final Table with 148000 chips and won Rs 4,27,600.

Muskan is one of the finest poker players in the country today  and has been continouslly shattering the glass ceiling in poker , and revamping notions about women who play poker. Muskan's stupendous grit and performance in the Highroller is testament that patience, strategy, hard work and sheer grit to never lose sight of the winning goal is what makes poker such a fascinating mind sport.

We wish her all the best for her endeavours in the future.

To get to know more about her poker journey, click here

Team 9stacks

Meet The Missketeers : Prashaste Sinha (@ChupaRustam)

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28 years old Prashaste Sinha never thought she’d ever play poker, or any other card game for that matter. 
She comes from a typical kayasth family that loves playing cards. Prashaste is the black sheep. She admits she’s been terrified of playing cards all her life. It is ofcourse, an irrational fear.

She was introduced to the game by very patient friends one evening, when they discovered to their surprise that she had such an irrational fear of poker and other card games. As she started playing the game, she realised that she actually enjoyed the game. Her colleagues and bosses are passionate poker players, so she’s had a lot of support and encouragement from them. 

An English literature student from the University of Delhi, Prashaste has been a rolling stone all her life and only very recently begun to gather moss now that she’s lived in Delhi for a decade. Her banker father’s transfers to different cities took her to different parts of the country and she loves exploring cultures and histories though folklore, recipes and walking around the cities. Her Instagram handles are filled with musings and observations about food, mental health and life. 

Poker has been an immensely positive influence in her life in many ways and she believes she has now begun to understand what discipline and patience truly mean. “I’ve always had a lot of ideas but I would never see them through. I would always be anxious and would just not have the patience to see something to its logical end. I’d kill the idea in my head even before it started. But somehow that changed after I started playing poker. It came as shock to me initially when we had to post bets pre-flop but then I realised that is the beauty of it. You need to take the leap, push yourself and just play the game. Whatever happens later will be handled in the next step or the next round. I just have to take one step at a time and focus on playing the hand I have, instead of worrying about things that will come later. Waiting for the right cards and not giving in to pressure also taught me a lot about discipline.”

Prashaste enjoys playing tournaments and goes by the name @ChupaRustam. She likes to read blogs and poker tutorials to understand the nuances of the game. She believes she learns more when she is amongst better players and likes to observe their game. “I'm brand new to poker, so I look at every poker player with awe. I am constantly gushing about how the sorted the players are. They look at life the same way they look at poker- that the game is supposed to be played and enjoyed. Whether you win or lose, you're always getting better at it as long as you're open to improvement.”
 
One thing she’d love non poker players to know is that poker is not only a very challenging game, it is also very nuanced and layered. Only skill based strategy helps you create and sustain your success.
 
 

Meet The Missketeers : Sakshi Misra (@StackAttack)

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28 years old Sakshi is a social media strategist and designer working in the development sector. She’s as passionate about playing poker as she is about travelling and reading books.
 
Sakshi discovered poker through friends 2 years ago and has been primarily a home game player. Shes started playing online poker 6 months ago. She loves taking risks and so she is a natural aggressive on the poker table.
 
The funniest thing she says that happens to her on the online poker table is that most people confuse her to be a man because of her player name, @stackattack. “The best reactions I get are when I tell them that I am a girl. They are not ready to believe that they can be beaten by girls!”
Since the time I started playing online, I have come across many types of players. I hate people who go all in all the time. The most interesting thing iswhen I play people don't take me seriously till i actually start winning. So once, someone (with whom I had played earlier) came to the same table and said "Yahan Bhi... Kahi to khelene do" “I used to earlier go by the name Smisra01 and I encountered some creeps online who used to unnecessarily pass comments and ask for my personal details. It is bad enough that there are not many girls who are part of the poker journey, and for those who want to play, creeps like these don't let them.” If there was a book/movie made on her poker journey, it would be called “Attacking the Stack”.
 
If there was something she’d like to tell people about poker is that it is not gambling and is about skills and probability, patience and luck. She believes that more and more women should take up poker and advises them to just come and play. “Enjoy the journey, doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It is a different filled which is not appreciated much in the society we live in especially for girls. So, stop thinking about others, and for once, do what you enjoy.”
 
She hopes that the poker industry will take concrete steps to encourage more women to take up the game by formulating safer policies and organizing more women specific tournaments.
 

Meet The Missketeers : Radhika Mahalingaiah (@Betazoid)

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Radhika Mahaliangaiah or ‘betazoid’ as she is known in the online poker circles is a delightful happy-go-lucky poker player, who discovered her love for the game very recently. She is a journalist based out of Bangalore and is an avid scrabbler. Extremely passionate about astronomy, traveling, gardening and playing scrabble, 60 years old Radhika was introduced to poker by one of her scrabble buddies and has been hooked to the game ever since. In fact, there are days when she longs to come back home and unwind with a game of poker after being stressed out over a hectic day of scrabble! 
 
As a newbie, Radhika hates the players who love going "All-In” and wishes she could be “putting bluffers over my knees for a sound whack.” If she could change something about the game she would “Ban all-ins, shove the concept to the moon and jump up and down on it for good measure.”
 
Radhika is a regular on 9stacks and likes to pen down her observations about the players she meets, from time to time, in her blogs on the website. Her blogs can be read here.
 
To answer the question if women poker players have a different game strategy as opposed to that of the male players on the poker table, Radhika notes that  “Women are more stoic and get aggressive only on Broadway hands. Definitely, men love to bully and project an aggressive image. Men are of course temperamental too, especially if their good hands fizzle out to better ones.”
 
The ever effervescent betazoid identifies with the Koi fish and believes that poker for her is a fun game, and wishes more people would look at it as a sport. “You win some and you lose some, but have fun," says Radhika. 
 
She believes if ever there was a movie/book to be written on her poker journey, she would like it to be called “Koi’s sojourn in Pokerland”.
 
 

Meet The Missketeers : Lavanya Thota (@AllAboutOuts)

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24 years old, Business Management student from the Indian Insitute of Management- Kozhikode, Lavanya Thota describes herself as a happy-go-lucky upbeat player with a penchant for dancing. Her love for the craft is rivaled only by her love for poker.

Lavanya loves playing tournaments and has been playing poker since 2017. She took to online poker a little over 2 months ago. Lavanya is the youngest Missketeer of the team.

Poker, in her life, started as a way to have fun with friends when they ran out of conversations to have but later on it became one of the most important ways to have fun. Being a business student helped her understand the strategic similarities between poker and business and that is what kept her interested in the game. In Business Management, they have a subject called Competitive Strategy using poker, which added on to her interest and led her to play regularly.

She likes to expose herself to the strategies of as many different kinds of poker players as she can find to get better at the game. She has played with a wide range of people starting from first timers to people who have been playing since they were 15 years old. Lavanya thinks there is so much to learn from each type of player which makes her realize that there is a lot to learn in this game.

Lavanya believes that a good night's sleep before a major tournament helps her focus and gain more clarity during the game the next day.

“Fundamentally, men and women are considered to have different risk-taking abilities and aggression levels in games. But, this difference can be eliminated with practice. With sufficient practice, the role of gender can be eliminated from the game of poker," says Lavanya to answer the question if women poker players have a different game strategy as opposed to that of the male players on the poker table. She also adds, "The beauty of online games is that you are behind a screen where no one can undermine or overestimate your skill based on gender. I really enjoy playing online because the games are played purely on an individual's skill.” 

On something, she would like the non-players to know is “Understand how poker is so much more than just a game of cards. The level of skill that is required and the strategies that go behind every hand make it a sport worth trying. Online is the best platform to try out because it eliminates the constraints of time, number of people etc.”

Meet The Missketeers: Ritu Chadha

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Ritu Chadha is the feisty “Rittweiller” on the 9stacks poker tables. The Chartered Accountant cum gym owner cum hotelier discovered poker via her scrabble friends and has been having a baller time playing the game since 2016.

 Ritu heard about poker from her husband as he hosts regular games. She played it only twice during scrabble tourney and started playing it only since October 2017 on 9stacks regularly. She was drawn to it because she loved the thrill involved in it. She finds the thrill very entertaining. Also, because it has so many combinations that one never knows what will come up. 

 Her journey with 9stacks has been a memorable one. She loves some of the hands people share on the platform. She recalls winning the first online tournament and thinking that she was going to beat the whole world only to realize she was not even a fish, but just a mere plankton. It took a lot of losses to learn something. Most importantly, she never believed poker to be a game of skill till she started playing it. "It definitely is more a game of skill than luck. Luck evens out but skill lasts," says Ritu.

 Never one to mope about and always a good sport, Ritu also mourns the losses that come “When a player has done all-in so many times and then has pushed me into an all-in, I have lost the whole pot shamefacedly. Won some too, but the losses were painful.” For me, such players are the Khatmals," states the Rittweiller.

 She does, however, think that there is a fair amount of sexism involved in poker. She would love to break the prejudices men have about women playing poker and that can only be done if women win more often than not. If there was one advice she would want to give to the women sitting on the fence on their decision to play poker, she would like to ask them to “Come on- let's show 'em, beat 'em and roast 'em!”.

The movie on her poker journey would be called  "A Fish named Rittweiller."

Meet The Missketeers : Chandni Malik (@maidumji)

 

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Chandni Malik is an advocacy and communications specialist for development who was introduced to poker by friends who swore by the game and has been playing the same for quite a few years now. However, she took to it seriously in the past one year. Playing poker online has been a recent phenomenon. She goes by the name ‘Maidumji’ on the poker table and if there was a movie to be made on her poker journey, it would be called ‘Girls just want to have fun”. Chandni is well known on tables as the fiery “maidumji” who speaks her mind in her blogs.

 Having grown up playing card games at home, what drew her to poker was the fact that it requires skills more than just luck and there is so much to learn even after you understand the basics. She believes poker is an intelligent game that requires discipline, keen observation, and confidence.

Over the years she’s met and played against different types of poker players and always cracks up when she meets the ones she likes to call “the crybabies”. According to her, not only do they hate losing, they love to consistently whine about  the loss and go on a major tilt.

 A keen observer, Chandni has noticed the quirks and eccentricities of a lot of poker players but there are a few who are more clearly etched in her mind than others. “I remember meeting a player in the casino at Goa, who had all these weird rituals around his game. Before any tournament, he would listen to a particular song 3 times because he believed it brought him luck, and he always chewed gum at the cash table. If not getting cards, he would put on his earphones and listen to an audiobook for luck!”, says Chandni. 

A diligent player and an avid reader, Chandni loves devouring poker books to stack up to her skills and is currently devouring the ever-fascinating “ Harrington by Harrington”. She likes to loosen up a bit before a big tournament, remind herself to only focus on enjoying the game and play the cards she is dealt during the game.

When she started out, Chandni faced some flak for her decision to play poker. Whenever she mentions poker as one of her passions, a lot of people perceive it as gambling and hence something unpleasant or immoral. She would love for people to see it as a sport that requires serious discipline, skill, and grit. “It is not easy to be consistently good at the game, and the same requires a lot of practice and hard work”, she adds.

The one thing that does bother her a lot about playing in a largely male-dominated field is the table talk, particularly the kinds that has people using the "man card" and trying to get under the skin with sexual innuendos and verbal abuse.

If Chandni could change something about the game then that would be the number of buy-ins involved while playing because she believes it would reduce the amount of random play and she would also ban people who abuse on the table. It's a fun-filled game of skill, and hence she would encourage more play and less talk.

She believes women are a bit more conservative players than men. She hasn't played with too many women yet, but do think women are less aggressive at the table. On encouraging more women to come up and start playing poker she says, “I would definitely urge everyone to try their hand at poker, not only is it a fun way to bond with friends, it is also a great sport that tests your intelligence, courage, and skills. Since there are lesser women players as compared to men, I think it is all the more important for more women to enter the field and give it a shot. My advice is not to be intimidated by the game or the people playing with you, but trust your own game and consistently trying to better yourself. I believe the poker industry is thriving at the moment, and there should be a different game and tournament options for people to choose from, based on skill level as well as financial viability. The more inclusive it is, the better it is for everyone. Also, I would love to see some "women only" events that encourage women to explore the game in a safe, non-threatening environment."