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Last Updated : May 16, 2018 05:12 PM IST | Source:

Poker is a game of calculations, intuitions and skills: Viswanathan Anand

Poker involves creative strategy and a lot of mathematics, said the chess ace.

Tasmayee Laha Roy @tasmayee

When chess wizard Viswanathan Anand was asked to be the brand ambassador of Poker Sport League (PSL), he was not just excited but also happy. “Poker is a game I was curious about and here I was being offered a ring side seat,” said the 48-year-old.

According to Anand, poker off is much beyond just another card game. For him, it is a game of skills and strategies.

In a chat with Moneycontrol, Anand opens up about his association with poker and the future of the game.

Edited excerpts:

You have associated yourself with the Poker Sports League and your name brings a sense of credibility to the sport. How do you draw similarity between chess and poker, strategy wise?

Around 15 years ago, suddenly an incredible number of chess players started playing poker. Some of them left chess and moved to poker. Also, many of them used to do both and so got a chance to hear from them about the game. Back then, I didn’t know a lot about poker and gradually learnt how there is so much skill involved in the game. My friends would keep telling me how they are reading up books about the game and constantly would exchange ideas among themselves. All of this sounded so much like chess and I could draw parallels easily.

While I know the game, I didn’t get into poker myself because I felt I had to put in a lot of time to be good at it and I don’t want to take that time away from chess. I watch the likes of Grischuk (Alexander Igorevich Grischuk is a Russian chess grandmaster) and Gustafsson (Jan Gustafson is a German chess grandmaster) play the game and feel inspired. The way the game challenges the brain is nice and whenever I try something new it helps me in my game of chess. So when I was asked by PSL to come on board, I was very excited because it is a game I was curious about and here I was being offered a ring side seat.

With the various leagues, players across professions and corporates investing in the game, do you think poker has made a good headstart?

The mainstream view of the game can be mixed. Often one cannot understand that while an individual hand can be a matter of chance, over a large number of hands, the skill takes over. So it’s a game where probability comes into play. Secondly, the difference for me is that in chess, the complete information is on the table at any given point and there is no hidden information. But here in poker, there is information that is hidden and so it is interesting to see the skills and strategies being put to use to understand the opponents. One has to do a lot of calculations and intuition always plays a great role in the end. The whole process requires creative strategy and a lot of mathematics. With a lot of educated youngsters taking up the game, poker has bagged some amount of limelight and it is a good start.

Do people still call it gambling?

In the last couple of years, we have seen a pattern in the shift of people's mindset for poker as a sport. Like I said, a lot of professionals are taking up the game  and that has been beneficial to promote poker as a mind game. I would like to convey that it is a gripping game to watch, a very nice game to play and it is intellectually very challenging.

Where do we see the game heading? Can we expect it to be as popular as the Kabaddi league?

First of all, for a sport like Kabaddi, the team element is natural. But poker is not naturally a team league. It is innovative that PSL has a team league and I think there is a lot of scope for expansion, especially those who want to play the game online. It is very similar to chess. The availability and accessibility on the internet, combined with good commentary explaining what is happening drives a lot of interest. The number of people playing poker is not huge right now but it is consistently growing with more and more people taking interest in the same.

Most of the teams have been signed on for eight years. For how long do you also wish to continue your association with the game?Oh yes, I would definitely want to continue to be a part of it. Like I said, the way the game challenges the brain is nice and it helps me in my game at the end of the day.
First Published on May 16, 2018 05:12 pm
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