It's an unusual profession for women to aim towards, but I think that it's as satisfying as being a sportsperson, says Muskan Sethi
Hailing from Delhi, 28 year old Muskan Sethi is breaking stereotypes by making a space for herself in the male dominated game - poker. Sethi is India's first female professional poker player who was awarded 'Women's Achiever Award' by the Ministry of Women & Child Development in India.
In conversation with this correspondent, Sethi, who believes there is no profession in which women cannot dominate, shares insights into what got her interested in poker, reasons behind so little of women seen in the game and her own future aspirations.
What got you interested in poker?
I always enjoyed playing card games and tricks. As a kid, I remember persuading elders to teach me card games and used to play bluff with my friends. I used to like watching poker games with my dad, but it was only after college, while helping my mother with her NGO, that I found poker and started playing it for free on Facebook.
I started reading, watching videos and assimilating information available on social media on how to play the game. So much was my involvement towards poker, that I began to realise how much I really enjoyed it. Ever since I have discovered my love for poker, it has been my dream to bring glory and respect for the game.
Do you remember your first game of poker? How was it?
Before I had even played my first hand of poker I was in love with the game, because I used to watch a lot of it on TV and on YouTube.
I still remember the rush, I can still feel it even today, that sense of happiness you get from doing something you love. Like in any other sport, job, business or profession poker does have its ups and downs. It’s an incredible game and enables you to dream larger than life. You can start from scratch and aim for the sky.
India's first female poker player. How does it feel?
I’m so happy that I followed my heart and passion. It wasn’t easy to get this dream opportunity, but my immediate family and close friends respect the game as a sport, so that helps to keep me motivated.
How difficult is it to be a part of an otherwise male dominated industry?
The gender of someone playing poker makes no difference. Our skills are based on our mental capabilities and strategic acumen. I particularly recommend poker for students that are interested in numbers. The game is male dominated, but that’s only because most women have not tried it yet. In my opinion, online poker is the best place to start, you can enjoy it alongside any other commitments you may have, as a recreational hobby, that is relaxing and can be rewarding.
Why do you think there is a lack of interest among women in poker, at a professional level?
It’s an unusual profession for women to aim towards, but I think that it’s as satisfying as being a sportsperson. Social stigma attached to cards can be a barrier. For anyone that may be curious about poker but has their doubts, my recommendation is to learn how to play and try the game out for yourself. This way you can form your own opinion and in the process, you may find a new interest that could change your life too.
What are your future plans and aspirations?
My plan for the future is to become even better at poker and win a big tournament, along with finishing my social work projects. I’m currently in Las Vegas and proud to represent India at the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
I’ve worked hard for this and regardless of the results, I want to play my best. I consider this practice for the Global Poker League (GPL) which has just started to help my eventual team win a Platinum Pass for the PSPC in the Bahamas in January 2019.
Five tips for aspiring poker players
- Study to improve your game - There is lots of free learning material online, always keep an eye out for new content and stay updated. PokerStars.IN is launching in July. Its India’s first PokerSchool so me and my fellow PokerStars Ambassador Aditya are already creating content for this and of course Twitch. It is always wise to consider yourself a student so there will be something for everyone!
- Always consider risk versus rewards
- Play regularly and put in large volumes to beat the variance
- Talk to other poker enthusiasts and discuss hands
- Get on platforms like PokerStars Twitch which will help.