Dec 02, 2016
Meet Muskan Sethi – India’s First Female Poker Pro
By RTR Dennis
One country primed for poker growth is India, which is seeing more and more of its 1.3 billion population playing the game. And one person who could serve as a driving force to draw more Indians to poker is Muskan Sethi.
Billed as India’s first female poker pro, Muskan is showing that poker is more than just a male game. That said, let’s take a look at the 27-year-old’s poker beginnings, her first big break, how she’s treated by male players, and her social causes.
Muskan Hated Poker Growing Up
Muskan Sethi was first introduced to poker through TV since her dad used to watch major tournaments.
“As a kid, instead of watching cartoon, I had to watch poker and I hated it,” she told India Today. “When I turned 20, I started playing it on Facebook for fun. It was then that I realized that I was good at it and started enjoying it.”
Sethi taught herself the ins and outs poker strategy, rather than relying on somebody else to teach her the game.
"Poker can be compared to stock market and chess. It is a dreamer's sport. I could have chosen anything but Poker chose me," she said.
The Delhi resident only furthered her belief that she was a poker natural by dominating home games with her friends.
“Every time I sat to play, I would clean the table out. So I decided to take it up seriously and started entering tournaments online”
The Turning Point
The first big break in Sethi’s poker career was when she came across a promotion where you could win a prize package to EPT Barcelona. She won a seat and got to compete against some of the world’s best poker players.
Inspired, Sethi again challenged herself by going for a spot on the PokerStars TV show Shark Cage. After playing in qualifiers, sending audition tapes, and conducting phone interviews, she ranked fourth out of 700,000 players and won a spot on the show. The end result was an opportunity to play against more elite players.
"There was a rule in the challenge that if you can bluff them, you can cage them,” she recalled. “It was like living a dream. They introduced me as the Indian girl fighting for one million dollars."
“The Poker Community Treats Me like a Guy”
Considering that poker is a male-dominated game, some women have trouble dealing with the stereotypes and breaking into the industry. But this hasn’t stopped Muskan from pursuing her dream.
“I feel no one should be dependent. There is no profession where women can’t dominate,” said Muskan.
As for whether she’s dealt with discrimination as a poker player, she experienced some of this initially but was able to persevere.
"I did get it initially. Usually the poker community treats me like a guy because the poker face is a man's face, an anonymous face. But when they find out that I am a girl, they tell me 'Go back to the kitchen.'"
Breaking into poker’s male circles is even tougher when considering that Muskan lives in a country where women are told to do their own thing during Diwali and leave the guys alone. However, things are changing for the better in recent years.
"Times have been changing. I am still experiencing the change,” she said. “Earlier they would not be too keen to have me play with them. But now they know how good I am at the game and enjoy playing with me."
Poker Is a Growing Game in India
As mentioned in the introduction, India is seeing major poker growth right now. And Muskan pointed this out while mentioning all of the online sites that are springing up in the country.
“People are very welcoming abroad, unlike India,” she explained. “But having said that, the game is fast growing in the country as more number of sites have been coming up on a daily basis to promote it.”
This has definitely benefited Muskan, who has used India’s poker growth to find better games. She’s also taken her skills abroad, making stops on the EPT, WPT, and WSOP as Indian’s first known female poker pro.
Muskan Is Active with Social Causes
Much like fellow female poker pros Liv Boeree and Vanessa Selbst, Muskan promotes social causes to help better the world.
The cause closest to her is Muskan NGO, which she started not long after her mother’s untimely death. In addition to this, she also created an iPhone app called ‘Doggydoo’ that helps dog owners chat with each other about different pet-related issues.
Given her success in poker and willingness to help others, Muskan Sethi appears to have a bright future in poker and beyond.