Up until Sunday, it had been a rumor that had yet to come to fruition. After running its draft for the 12 teams that make up the league, India’s Poker Sports League has gone from just a rumor to preparing for its first ever season.
On Sunday at the Playboy Club in Delhi, the 12 franchises that make up the league met to choose players for their teams. The squads, blindly picking numbers, arranged themselves from the first pick to the twelfth. Then, utilizing a “snake” draft (the first round would go 1-12, the second round 12-1, the third round 1-12, the fourth 12-1, etc.), each team picked first their pro player from a pool. The next pool was for players who had qualified for the draft from live play and, rounding out the process, players who had qualified for the league from online play.
What was perhaps the most interesting thing about the Poker Sports League is, from the start, there are individual owners for each of the teams that are major businessmen from India. These are the 12 owners of the teams and the businesses they represent:
Bengaluru Jokers – Kunal Shah (Co-founder, FreeCharge)
Chennai Bulls – Girish Mathrubootham (Co-founder, FreshDesk)
Delhi Panthers – Rishi Kajaria (Kajaria Ceramics); Ruchirans Jaipuria (Jaipuria Group); Abhishek Jain (Leela Jewels); Gaurav Goel (Dhampur Sugar)
Goan Nuts – Gaurav Mohan (Eventwala)
Gujrat Acers – Harish Bahl and Manish Vij (Smile Group); Mukesh Agarwal (VITWO LLP)
Haryana Hunters – Amrish Rau and Jitendra Gupta (Co-founder, Citrus Payments)
Hyderabad Kings – Amit Shah, Karan Bhagat and Yatin Shah (IIFL-Wealth)
Kolkata Royals – Ankkit Bhadur (Playboy North);; Taarun V. Jain (Legend Group)
Mumbai Anchors – Mehul Shah (Anchor Electrical)
Pune Sharks – Rishabh Jhunjhunwala (Bhilwara Group); Shamit Kehmka (Synapse India); Chetan Kaharia (Kajaria Ceramics); Sachin Goel
Punjab Bluffers – Aditya Munjal (Hero Cycles Group); Arjun Jain (White Fox); Shiva Vig (Anika International)
Rajasthan Tilters – Purrshottam Bhaggeria (Filatex Group)
While these owners strategized through the draft, the league announced the players who were the wild card selections for each team. This is where the rosters stepped outside of Indian players and picked up several professionals from around the world. One team, the Gujrat Acers, picked up an international player in Henrik Tollefsen, who sits in the twelfth slot in all time tournament earnings for Norwegian players; he is joined by India’s Raman Gujral, who is in the top 50 players in India in lifetime tournament earnings. Samad Razavi, who has the English flag as his Hendon Mob banner and is in 50th place in all-time earnings for English players, was picked up as a wild card by the Hyderabad Kings, while Patrick Leonard – another British pro who has over $700,000 in career earnings – will be joining the Rajasthan Tilters.
Full details haven’t been revealed as to how the league will be conducted, but it is expected that it will be a combination of live and online play for the nine player teams (one mentor/captain, two professional players, two wild cards, two live qualifiers and two online qualifiers). What can’t be questioned is the money that the 12 teams are vying for. Up for grabs for the twelve teams is 3.36 crores, or 33,600,000 rupees. That breaks down to roughly $525,000 U. S. dollars; for a comparison point, the winners of the inaugural Global Poker League championship, the Montreal Nationals, earned $100,000 for winning the league title.
The Poker Sports League says their mission statement is “to promote the tournament aspect of poker across India and to provide every poker enthusiast an opportunity to play for the pride of winning and to promote responsible poker.” For the first part of the statement – promoting tournament poker – it seems that the Poker Sports League is making significant inroads. As to how well it will do in the other aspects, only time will tell.
For more information on the Poker Sports League, be sure to visit their website.