‘Poker Has A Bright Future In India': Says Chess Maestro Viswanathan Anand

After trying his hand at poker and realising the skills required to win in it, the 5-time world champion chess maestro Viswanathan Anand feels that the game of poker has a bright future in India. For him, poker is a mind sport, which needs to be promoted by us and the perception revolving around it should be changed so that more and more people from across the country join in the game.

The 48-year-old Anand believes that there is a strong connection between the game of chess and poker. For him, both are the mind games as they both require intellect and skills to win.

Anand feels that the psychology plays an important role both in poker as well as in chess.

“The role of psychology is very important — probably even more salient in poker than in chess because in the latter all the information is on the table. But in poker some of it is hidden. Also, the game trains you a lot of skills that chess also prepares you for. The most vital is restraint. You may have seen us, chess players, keeping a blank expression or ‘poker face’. The idea is to not give away any information to your opponent and ensuring that you’re not taking any impulsive or rash decisions.” said Anand.

Considering the skills involved in poker and the craze currently going around the game, Anand sees a bright future for the game in India. According to him, the game has the potential to make it big in the near future. “There is a lot of scope for expansion. It is very similar to chess to be able to access online. It drives a lot of interest among people in India. Right now it is a very small base but you need people to play consistently. It is all about the public perception. We have to convey that it is about skills and mind. Probably after the first broadcast, I think people will see it as a sport,” said Anand.

Talking about his association with the game, Anand said that he got interested in the game when he learned that many chess players shifted their focus to poker.

“About 15 years ago, many chess players started playing poker. I had a chance to hear from them about the game. I didn’t know about the game back then. They would tell me what skills it would involve, the training and other parts. It sounded so much like chess to me. I think anything that challenges your brain is nice. Whenever I try something new, it helps me in my game of chess.”

Viswanathan Anand was recently roped in as the Brand Ambassador of India’s largest team-based poker league – Poker Sports League (PSL). Ever since his association with the PSL, his attempt has always been to establish the fact that poker, like chess, involves a lot of strategies. He was also there during the PSL Season 2 finale that concluded on Sunday at the Deltin Royale in Panaji, Goa.

The PSL Season 2 turned out to be a complete thriller for Anand and he was all praise for the teams competing in it. Talking about the winning team Goan Nuts, the Chess Grand Master & Brand Ambassador of Poker Sports League said, “I would like to congratulate the winning team and all the other teams for being such a sport. Today we witnessed some amazing match where we saw the tables turning with Goan Nuts taking away the glory at the last minute by beating the rest of the teams.”

As an ardent fan of poker, Anand wants to see the game thrive in the country because he believes that the game requires high intellectual level to win in it. “I didn’t get into poker because I need to put so much time into it to get better at it. I don’t want to take so much time away from chess. But I would like to convey to the public that it is a gripping game to watch and it is intellectually very challenging.”