After the recently concluded February Leg of the India Poker Championship (IPC), it was all smiles from the directors– Peter Abraham and Sameer Rattonsey– of one of the most successful poker series in South Asia because of the high turnout of the event held from February 10-13, 2011 at the Casino Royale in Goa, India. Despite their busy post-event schedule, Poker Portal Asia managed to interview both directors as they talk about poker in India and the success of the IPC…
PPA: Tell us about the poker scene in India; we’ve heard it’s starting to become a very popular sport in the country. What was your first experience with the game of poker, particularly Texas Hold ‘Em…?
SR: The poker scene in India is a growing one and as far as a global poker perspective is concerned India is the final frontier for the game to make its mark. While there have been home games happening in most of the big cities in the country, the popularity of the game has now spread to even the smaller towns and cities. A lot of this can be attributed to online platforms like Zynga poker on Facebook and other well known poker sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt. The best thing that has happened to the game is that lots of youngsters have picked it up and really, this is the only way for the game to grow anywhere. Goa has become the destination for poker lovers in the country to come to as far participating in big poker tournaments held in a professional setup is concerned. Things are only going to get bigger and better from here on. Poker has well and truly arrived in India.
PA: We have been playing cards for over a decade now and in the initial years, the game of teen patti (Indian 3 card poker) was our game of choice. However the almost absolute gambling nature of that game turned me off after a while and I was looking for a better choice of game which allowed for more ‘thought’ and less gambling. It lead me to reading about Stud Poker and I introduced it into my regular homegame of which Sameer was also part of. The turnaround for us really happened when we saw the World Poker Tour being telecast on a television channel. By the end of that first viewing, we were hooked! That was back in 2003-04 and since then we’ve been almost obsessive about our passion for this game discussing strategy and tactics for hours on end. We’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity to go to venues like Las Vegas and Macau to experience first-hand the way the game is played internationally and all of this combined has propelled us into creating the India Poker Championship.
PPA: For the unfamiliar, and the ones not based in India, what’s the India Poker Championship? Can you tell us what this event is all about?
PA: The IPC is the biggest tournament poker brand which operates in India. The venue for our event is the Casino Royale which is an off-shore casino ship moored on Mandovi River in Panjim, the state capital of one of India’s favourite vacation destinations, Goa. We started with our inaugural event in March 2010 and today a year down the line, we are extremely happy and proud about the fact that poker players in India consider our event to be the top poker event in the country. An IPC tournament weekend has 4 featured tournaments which have buy-ins ranging from INR 5000 – INR 20000 (INR 47 = USD 1).
SR: The highlight of our poker calendar is the Main Event which takes place every December where we crown the India Poker Champion. We try to provide players with the best value for their money at all buy-in levels so our tournaments have deep stacks and comparable blind levels to match them. More details about the Championship can be found on our newly revamped website www.indiapokerchampionship.com and you can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries regarding the event.
PPA: Handling a big poker event in India, what do you think is the influence of the IPC to the players around the country particularly as players who want to test their skills in higher level tournaments?
SR: I think events like ours provide a platform for both the serious and semi-serious poker player. As far as the hobbyists and semi-serious players are concerned, playing at the Championship allows them to rise above the home games they’ve been used to – a chance to play bigger fields (and stakes) which they otherwise would not be able to back in their own cities. For the serious players, the IPC is like a stepping stone… a national level competition that one can participate in on a regular basis. You get to sharpen your skills against some of the best players in the country. This in turn also allows you to gauge where you stand as a player.
PA: And the introduction of the IPC Player of the Year leaderboard just adds to this. The POY is a way of tracking and rewarding the most consistent players across our events. At the end of the year the IPC POY receives a sponsorship worth INR 100,000 from us. Besides the games on offer, the POY is a great incentive for the players to come and participate. We actively encourage our players to keep learning and improving their games and even treat the IPC as a sort of training arena where you can match and sharpen your skills. We hope the next big names in the poker world emerge from this part of the world and would be delighted if the IPC played its part in helping those players achieve an international breakthrough.
PPA: You’ve had successful events last year and this year, what factors do you credit for its success; and which people are responsible for running it? What difficulties did you encounter when you were starting this?
PA: Being players ourselves, we wanted to create a Championship where we ourselves would be interested in participating so really all our efforts go towards making this as best a player experience as it possibly can be. Regardless of your appetite, win or lose, we want our players to walk away from our event feeling they had a great time and were part of a world class poker experience. Since advertising on traditional media has restrictions, a big part of our success has been the Internet. Creating awareness about the Championship through the online mediums like our website, Facebook, Twitter and of course our blog has been hugely responsible for the large turnouts we get.
SR: As far as the on-ground execution of the event is concerned, our host venue the Royale Cardroom has been a wonderful partner to the India Poker Championship. We’ve been working with the management team of Phil Sanders and Craig Wildman from our very first event in March 2010 and they provided a lot of support in helping us pull off our events. In Craig, we have someone whose past experience as a player makes him the ideal TD who keeps the game flowing smoothly and can deal with any situations which may arise on the felt.
PPA: What’s ahead for the IPC this year? Can we expect even bigger events in 2011 and beyond?
SR: The road ahead is quite an exciting one for the IPC. From a quarterly event in 2010, we will now have 6 events in 2011. Broadly speaking, going ahead our primary goal will continue to be about increasing awareness about the IPC across the country. We hope to introduce different formats and buy-ins as time goes on.
PA: We would love to do big events and our aim will be to become a well-known quantity in the Asian region. As of now Macau and the Philippines are the major tournament poker event destinations in the region. Singapore too with its Integrated Resorts will join that list in due course. We hope to ensure that the India and thereby the India Poker Championship rises to the same level as these other destinations. It would be fantastic for the IPC to be a sought after event which attracts poker pros and enthusiasts like from around the region and world.
(All photos courtesy of the India Poker Championship)
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