IIM-A graduate & National Poker Series podium finisher Anirban Das sets sight on representing India at Las Vegas
Das, who pursued his MBA in Marketing from IIM-Ahmedabad, has been one of the stalwarts among Indian poker players having a flourishing career of over 12 years in the sport.
India has opened its arms wide for Poker for over a decade now. The sport has become increasingly popular with the flourishing culture of online Poker, endorsements by A-list celebrities and, of course, the hosting of international poker tournaments.
Akin to popular outdoor sports, Poker has gained a massive following and social acceptance, leading to the convention of India's most coveted poker series, the National Poker Series (NPS) hosted on PokerBaazi.
The grandeur of the third edition of the NPS in 2023 scaled new heights by witnessing 18 gruelling days of action where India's top 3 players battled out for glory and a ticket to Las Vegas to represent the tri-colour on a global stage in the World Series of Poker.
While Vikram Mishra from Bihar secured the summit spot in the series with three gold medals and two silver medals to his name, a riveting showdown saw Anirban Das from Haryana beat Uttar Pradesh’s Abdul Aziz Ansari for the second spot.
The 37-year-old Das was tied with three golds and a silver medal with Ansari, separated by the number of hands played between them.
The Bridge caught up in a freewheeling conversation with Anirban Das, who seemed ecstatic with his podium finish despite not having a good start.
"It (the result) felt special! The win gave another level of satisfaction, which came due to a late surge since I did not start the series on a good note," recalls Das, who finished #3 on the NPS series and #2 on the NPS podium leaderboards.
Das, who pursued his MBA in Marketing from IIM-Ahmedabad works in the Product Management department of a reputed company in Bengaluru. He has been one of the stalwarts among Indian poker players having a flourishing career of over 12 years in the sport.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Das' fascination with Poker came from his habit of finding his name in the leaderboards.
"I have been a sports enthusiast - be it cricket, football, badminton, chess or video games - since my childhood days. My parents and grandparents were supportive of my interests and I also happened to do well in academics, consistently ranking in the top 3 of my class during my school days. Maybe that is where my fascination with chasing leaderboards comes from," says Das.
As Das grew increasingly fond of the sport, he realised that Poker involves logic and skill which prompted him to take a sabbatical from work and pursue poker tournaments seriously. Since then, he has achieved an impressive record of title victories and has never looked back.
Das says, "The journey so far has been rewarding, even though it had its fair share of ups and downs. I would like people to know that the game is the best test of analytical thinking under stress, an important generally applicable skill in other domains as well."
When asked about his passion for the sport, Das explained why poker could be a better career option than other traditional jobs for many.
"The sport requires deep analysis and agility where the results are seen immediately and unambiguously. Like any other job, one also needs to show up and grind it out in Poker," says Das.
He adds, "Often in traditional jobs as well as poker, making the best decisions will not lead to the desired impact. Poker drills this into your head very often and is also applicable in careers. Both in poker and traditional careers, an honest reflection of where you stand and what you should focus on for improvement is one of the keys to success. And lastly, understanding people’s motivations is important to achieve team success. Similarly, in Poker, reading people at an incredibly granular level helps in predicting their decisions."
Das is quite happy with how today's Indians understand the dynamics of Poker and how the perception of the sport is changing every day. For instance, the NPS 2023 edition broke all its previous records by registering more than a 25% increase in the total entries from 96,000 (in 2022) to over 1.25 lacs. Additionally, the tournament witnessed a 33% surge in the number of female players on the roster.
"I think India has been quite progressive in terms of how they look upon Poker and other sports and games at least in my immediate circle. One thing I would want to change is to bring in more team aspects to the sport since currently, it is primarily positioned as an individual sport," says Das.
With his eyes set on the biggest Poker series in the world, the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Das wishes to make "all the correct decisions at the grandest stage of Poker where I will be representing my country.”
Being an inspiration for the new generation of poker players, Das finishes his interaction with his advice for those who want to take up the sport of Poker professionally.
"Try Poker out on a shorter vacation first before jumping in full-time. Be prepared to grind it out similar to most other jobs. Keep an open mind for advice and information available in the community and internet however create your own systems for improvement that are specific to you as an individual," concludes Das.