Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Indian poker players

Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, asks the question "Where are all the Indian Poker players"? He is mystified because:

Whenever I see a poker tournament on TV or wander through a casino, I am always struck by a particular absence: there seem to be very few Indian-Americans playing poker. Considering that there are so many Indians of poker age in this country who thrive in finance, computer science, engineering, and other fields that incorporate math, probability, risk, etc. — i.e., the kind of fields that produce a lot of amateur and pro poker players — why should this be so?

The blog post includes thoughts on this question from a number of people including from Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociology student featured in Freakonomics who accidentally befriended a drug gang and discovered that such gangs operate like major corporations. Readers have also weighed in with opinions. There are many opinions, ranging from hypothesizing cultural taboos (but Indians have grown up playing other card games) to being risk averse (but what of all the start-ups founded by Indians?). Naturally, there is no agreement and certainly no hard data,.

I don't have a good answer either. I don't play poker, but some good friends of mine do (including some readers of this blog!). What do you think?


AV said...

Oh boy, where do I start? :-)

1) First, I would personally like to take six months off and become a professional No Limit Texas Hold 'Em player. But work (yes, one of those high-risk entrepreneurial jobs) consumes every waking hour and the wife won't allow it (because she says I am not very good at the game!).

2) If I cannot figure out the economics of this high-risk game, and I really cannot articulate or quantify my differentiators/advantages, I am loath to make this my profession. This is the biggest reason why I have not seriously considered pulling the trigger on 1) above. Also, this is the difference when we choose to start ventures - we clearly understand that while there is a risk, we can kick butt because of certain inherent advantages.

3) Don't know the statisitics, but is it possible that a majority of the Indians who come here, have some intrinsic skills in say, engineering, math, sciences, which leads them into these other competing high-risk jobs?

4) I believe that more American-born Indians are likely to do well on the professional poker scene, for two reasons: i) The average age of the crazy poker player is in the mid-twenties, and ii) You need a certain ballsiness and brashness, one that is almost devoid of rational thought, to win big. Not sure we see that in most Indians who come here from India. [In fact, in the latest World Poker Championship, there was a completely crazy 20-something dude from NY - Hevad Khan - who did pretty well. His signature psych technique was this ridiculous dance routine that was comical at best, embarrassing at worst].

I could go on, but would like to say in my defense that I AM a good poker player (despite what the wife says) and maybe one day you will see me in one of these nationally-televised tournaments.


batman723 said...

I am with you my man,,same same,,working on wall street but wanna get into poker and become a noted player,,especially when people are questioning our skills and all.

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