Poker is rapidly gaining popularity in India. And it is not just because a host of celebrities are trying their hands at a game that a certain section of the population still relates to gambling. The reason for its growing acceptance comes from the fact that a lot of sports-loving fans are realizing that the game isn't just about luck. It is much more than that.
It is a craft that involves skills and mastery over various techniques and needs an air-tight strategy. And when five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand says he finds poker similar to chess, nothing else remains to be proved.
Swashbuckling batsman Chris Gayle has been playing poker for quite some time now. For him, it is a way to stimulate his mind, relax and take some time out from his punishing cricketing schedule that keeps him busy throughout the year. Gayle has created his legend clattering fours and sixes at will around the globe. He's regarded as the best T20I batsmen and holds the record for hitting the fastest century in the format. Now, the Jamaican legend wants to use his popularity to promote the game in India and recently was appointed as the brand ambassador of online gaming website Adda52.
"Poker is absolutely a game of skill, Gayle said."
"One needs to learn the terms and techniques really well and should also have a strategy to be able to perform considerably well. As far as luck is concerned, well, that is needed in any sport, is it not (laughs)?! For example, if a person drops a catch and you go on to score a 100 - That's luck too, they say!"
So how did Gayle, who etched his legend while smashing bowlers on the cricket field, get hooked to poker? "I find poker mentally relaxing and enjoyable. We play with other cricketers during the IPL season and other leagues. And I got better at it while playing more," he reveals.
"It is a mentally stimulating game and also helps me relax and take some time out from cricket. A lot of cricketers play it too, you know," he added.
In the past decade or so, India has witnessed an explosion of sporting leagues. Right from cricket, football, hockey, kabaddi - almost every popular sport today in the country boasts of its own league.
Gayle has played for almost every major cricketing league in the world. Be it the highly popular Indian Premier League (IPL), Big Bash League (BBL) or Caribbean Premier League (CPL), he has been a hot property everywhere. And he reckons that leagues are the way forward and if other sports can benefit from the format, then it shouldn't be any different for poker.
"People need to be educated about Poker, a game of skill. Leagues will help most definitely. They are great for any game. Look all around you and see how leagues have helped in driving any particular sport- for example, IPL, EPL, NBA, PKL," he observed.
By associating himself with Adda52, Gayle hopes to make some contribution towards spreading awareness about
"Poker is growing rapidly in India. It is a good time to be in this game and witness the excitement around the growth. Adda52 are the leaders and being associated with the leaders in anything you do is always a great thing. Have full faith in Adda52 to take this game to newer heights," Gayle said.
On being asked how else can it be promoted, Gayle replies, "What immediately comes to my mind is conducting lots of events and contests around the game. It will also be great to educate the audience about poker through various programs."
Gayle, who is the first player in T20I history to score 10,000 runs, manages to squeeze some time from his cricket schedule to play poker and wants to play it more often.
"My cricket schedules and travel keeps me busy. I do look forward to a Poker session every now and then. I had a lot of fun in the last Adda52 poker tournament that I was a part of. Looking forward to playing more often," he said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)