Poker has been a male-dominated game in India but this is fast-changing with a growing participation of women in the game. Indian women are taking to poker in a big way and many of them are doing pretty well by cashing and winning both live and online events. Among these talented ladies, one name that deserves a special mention is Niharika Bindra. A foodie and an avid poker player, Bindra started playing back in college days after a close friend came back from the States and taught her the game. She immediately fell in love with the sport and since then there has been no looking back.
A role model for many aspiring female players, Bindra has inspired a lot of women in the country to take-up the game and continues to do so. She has been around the circuit for over a decade. Her first live tournament cash dates back to 2011 when she final-tabled the India Poker Open 5K NLHE Rebuy. She won her career-first live title in the India Poker Legend NLHE Turbo Rebuy. She has been playing the game full time since 2018. This turned out to be a big year for Bindra as she not only won PokerBaazi’s The Endeavour but also went on to finish deep in the WPT India 25K Big Bounty.
Widely considered a cash game player, Bindra has been putting in a lot of volume playing online MTTs of late after the nation-wide lockdown and the results are showing up. Just a few days back, the Delhi-based player stormed past a reg-infested field of 1700+ entries in the 60 Lac GTD AOPS Mega Suits. Eventually, she finished runner-up for INR 9.90 Lac prize. We caught-up with her to know about her deep finish in the event, her poker life, achievements and more. Here are the excerpts:
OPN: Hi Niharika, thanks for speaking to us! This past Sunday was a blockbuster one for you that saw you walking away with INR 9.90 Lac for finishing runner-up in Adda52’s Mega Suits! How does it feel?
Bindra: It feels awesome! It was my biggest tournament win, so it feels amazing, and I hope to win the next one.
OPN: The Mega Suits drew 1700 + entries that included many top pros and crushers. What was it like playing in such a huge field among the top pros of India? How did you manage to finish so deep?
Bindra:I have played with most of them at some point or the other over the years, so it was all about playing the player and taking that 30 seconds to review each decision in my head. No snap decisions which often tend to happen online with me.
OPN: Can you share some interesting hands or any tough spots that you were in?
Bindra: Nothing in particular!
OPN: The Final table had some solid pros. Any particular opponents you were a little more cautious about? How it all went in heads-up with Arunkumar Anandan?
Bindra: To be honest, everyone was playing super solid, so I was concentrating more on my hands and play while obviously absorbing what was going on the table. Like who was opening a wider range or who was 3-betting more than the other. While we were heads up, it was very swingy for me. I ended up being short-stacked twice or thrice and then making it back to even stack and eventually losing a flip 77 to AK! It was fun and I was pretty hopeful, but there is always next time!
OPN: What are your thoughts on a flagship series like the AOPS on Adda52.com?
Bindra: I think, all the online websites are doing a fabulous job. There are so many different tournaments with insane value catering to all buy ins. So, it’s perfect for everyone – from someone who is just starting out to the pros! There’s something for everyone and specially at this time of the lockdown! There is so much to choose from in terms of online tournaments now!
OPN: Talking about your poker life, when and how did you pick up the game? What attracted you towards it?
Bindra: I actually started playing back in college! A friend of mine had just come back from university in the States and taught us poker. The whole lot of us were avid Flash players during Diwali, so the love for poker came naturally and since then there has been no looking back.
OPN: What are your biggest poker achievements till date? One poker dream you want to achieve?
Bindra: I have been a cash game player for the most part, but winning a tournament or even cashing big is a completely different kind of high. This has been my biggest score yet, so was definitely exciting. I won The Endeavor on Pokerbaazi a year or so ago and won a live tourney in Goa ages ago! And obviously hope to do better in tournament poker as time goes by! Poker dream – isn’t winning a WSOP bracelet every poker player dreams somewhere 🙂
OPN: Can you elaborate on what you have been doing to get better in your game?
Bindra: Discussing hands and my play with friends who have been playing tournaments for a while! Reading here and there about tournament strategy and just trying to put in more volume these days.
OPN: You are a cash game player but of late you have been putting in a lot of volume in online MTTs especially after the lockdown. Your comment on the same?
Bindra: Haha, this score is most definitely thanks to the lockdown! I’m barely home normally, so I don’t get to play too many tournaments, coz like you said I am primarily a cash game player.
OPN: How does your family look at poker? How did your family react when you told them about winning big in Mega Suits?
Bindra: Initially, my parents weren’t too thrilled with the prospect of me only playing poker for a living! But I have worked hard and they have seen me work hard and do well, so now they most definitely get it and are proud to hear of me doing well. They were super happy to hear of my score. My mom has been encouraging me to play more tournaments, so obviously her reaction was “I told you so” haha!
OPN: Poker in India is a male-dominated sport and in any tournament or cash game you are often surrounded by men at the poker table. Does it intimidate you?
Bindra: Nah! I’ve been playing since a long time and am very used to being surrounded by guys on every poker table anywhere in the world! And in the Indian poker circuit a lot of them are friends, so it’s all the more fun.
OPN: Women participation has grown in the past few years and many of them have been doing really well. How do you think of women taking to poker?
Bindra: I think in India, it’s still a big taboo because at the end of the day it is considered gambling. But I do hope more women take up poker professionally! And all the women who are in the industry as of now are actually doing very well, so kudos to them and I really hope many more follow!
OPN: What is your daily grind routine like?
Bindra: Poker poker and more poker. I would’ve gone crazy during this lockdown If it wasn’t for poker! It has kept me so busy each and every day.
OPN: Finally, any advice for new female players who want to make a mark in poker?
Bindra: Good luck and don’t shy away from poker because you think it’s a male-dominated sport! Work hard on your game and make your mark amidst all these boys and you’ll stand out more than any of them!