Representative image. Photograph:( AFP )
The game helps in creating opportunities for friendships and helps in networking and meeting new people.
As Maria Kirloskar sits today, bespectacled, with her front locks coloured white, she exudes an aura of nonchalance, typical to that of professional poker players.
Like a hawk, she watches every move of her opponents, proceeding cautiously like a tigress out on the hunt. As a corporate-professional-turned-poker-pro, she spends nearly 30 hours a week indulging in her passion, grasping newer expertise and skill with every game, claiming to still have a long way to go. Read her story.
"When I first watched poker on TV in the US, I found it fascinating so a few years later when it was made accessible, I started to play and learn," says the 49-year old poker pro. However, simply winging it at informal shindigs isn't the same as becoming a poker pro. On her learning curve in poker, Maria added, "It was a long and slow process as nobody in my circle of friends or family knew how to play poker and we just winged it during our home games, learning how to play each other as we went along. When I decided that poker was my calling, I headed to play the big tournaments in Goa. That sort of ushered me into the world of real poker! I had to unlearn much of what I thought I knew and go back to learning the fundamentals."
On her journey
After getting her basics right, Maria finally gave professional poker a shot and joined PokerBaazi. "I started playing on PokerBaazi about 2 years ago and came 2nd in my very first PLO tournament! I consider myself extremely lucky to have been chosen by it to become one of their team pros alongside mentor Jasven Saigal, Vikram Kumar, Abhisek Panda and Abhishek Rathod. Each one of them have been extremely kind and helpful, teaching me the intricacies of poker and being the best support system I could ever ask for. I have also bothered and annoyed countless other friends to help me out with various poker concepts and strategies and they all have been gracious with their support. I'm truly grateful to know all these amazing people!"
She plays more than 30 hours a week and loves getting to know other players on her tables. Connecting with strangers on shared their passion creates opportunities for friendships to transpire. Besides, the emojis help relieve stress during stressful tournaments. She has also benefited from the tutorials available at the platform and says, "Yes, tutorials on PokerBaazi are great and have been insightful, as I'm always trying to learn how to improve my game."
"I recommend PokerBaazi to everyone as I believe it has something for everyone. It has freerolls, satellites, low buy-in tournaments for the smaller bankrolls; high-value deep structure tournaments with the toughest fields for the regulars; cash games across all stakes - and great promotions as well as tournaments series."
On being a poker pro
One would expect a poker player to be rolling in bundles of cash but Maria simply quashes such notions. When asked about earnings, she is quick to add, "Not enough! But I look at poker as a long-term endeavour and I know I will finally meet my extremely high standards and achieve my goals."
Giving up her established corporate career to pursue her passion inspired a mixed bag of reactions from friends and family. "Some people think it’s ultra-cool, others call it a risky business. But after 25 years of being in the corporate arena, I think it’s really up to me as to how I want to follow my passion. I believe poker is a sport and I do everything to approach the game as such."
On a parting note, she leaves a word of advice for poker novices. "Manage your bankroll well and if you love the game, try to learn the fundamentals so that you can be a long-term winner!"