cards on the table Entertainment

Poker player Muskan Sethi on having a winning hand

Remember that sadly sexist scene in Friends during which the girls wanted to play poker with the guys and the guys made it very clear that poker is not for girls? Well, that adage has gone out the window with the likes of Vanessa Rousso, Annette Obrestad and Muskan Sethi shouldering their way into the upper ranks.

Speaking with Muskan over the phone, the 28 year old is high on a winning streak, so to speak. In November last year, she became the first female poker player in the country to receive the Women’s Achiever Award by the President.

But her journey goes farther back than this; her curiosity towards the quick-witted game started when she was 12. She recalls, “My father, who’s a doctor, used to watch poker games on television. He also used to play poker with his students because there’s a lot of discipline and he wanted to bestow that.”

Learning curve

Studying YouTube and Facebook tutorials in detail, Muskan honed the right moves and skills, from the stop-and-go to the triple-barrell-bluff to a check-raise. Streaming platforms like Twitch are popular amongst learners as well. When she played for the first time with her friends, she cleaned the table out, much to her delight.

She says, “I owe a lot of credit to my mother who passed away in 2014. I found myself hiding away in these online games after her passing. When she had first found out I was playing poker online, it was clear there was a stigma attached to poker. But when she saw me winning, it was the motivation I needed.”

The right skills

There’s a universal saying in poker that goes ‘poker can be very unforgiving if the player is not disciplined’

“There’s a universal saying in poker that goes ‘poker can be very unforgiving if the player is not disciplined’,” she comments, adding that she has evolved since the start of her career into someone more process-oriented, versatile and purposeful. “See, just like any sport, this can be taxing so it’s extremely important that mental, physical and emotional health are taken care of, and balancing everything is an aspect of this needed discipline. Plus, whatever lessons life brings you, you bring it to the poker table and it makes you more savvy and intuitive.”

Live versus digital

The poker player’s love for the esports realm of poker has made her a brand ambassador for Poker Stars India, where she’s observing a lot of growth and maturity. This has nurtured her love for tournament-style gaming which will help her in the long run, explaining, “I’m focussing on building up that dream bankroll through tournaments before graduating to cash games.”

Players often favour tournaments due to their bigger winnings as well as the potential to play higher stakes against against lesser players who may just be in it for recreational purposes.

Muskan’s dream table
  • Upon asking Muskan who’d be her fantasy co-players:
  • Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Viktor Bloom aka ‘Isildur1’, Liv Boeree, Mike McDonald aka ‘Timex’, Leonardo DiCaprio, Drake, Mark Cuban and Walt Disney

So playing at online virtual tables has taken away the means of reading people’s faces, something we inherently associate with card games. But Muskan says that’s the fun part, adding, “See, no one in these online spaces know you’re a woman. One time, though, I stupidly told the table I’m a woman and someone said, ‘go back to the kitchen.’ [laughs] So that’s a lesson learned. That aside, I don’t see how that can really affect your game because you eventually learn who at the table is a tight player, who’s a loose one and what everyone’s tells are.”

Another advantage of virtual tables is that the return on the investments are better, given you are playing within your bankroll, shuffling between tables — or multi-tabling — and with this grows your judgement of players and the mathematics of everything.

Muskan is thankful for the reception of a platform like Poker Stars India, especially with how other countries tend to market poker, be it an advertisement with a scantily-clad woman holding a pair of aces or a glamorous setting of Las Vegas. “People here are focussed on the anatomy of the game and the potential of big winnings, which I find truly exciting and progressive,” she comments, excited for what’s to come.

All this while, she’ll never stop learning and studying, proving keeping up with the game is an art in itself.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 1:44:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/muskan-sethi-a-winning-hand-poker-india/article23947631.ece

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