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We wonder if there is anything Shilpa Shetty Kundra (cover image) can’t do? From starting her career as a model, to becoming a successful actress in Bollywood, to juggling between a businesswoman, reality TV judge, writer, producer, fitness – nutrition expert, youtuber and the most important and dearest job to her – being a full-time mother to her five-year old son Viaan, Shetty has truly blown us all over with her versatility.
Apart from her multi-tasking abilities, she is somebody who believes in doing well for the world by associating herself with social projects that help eradicate the social stigmas, like the one attached to poker. This lady is striving to achieve excellence and brilliance in whatever she takes up.
Shetty launched her successful Yoga DVD and turned author with her award-winning book, ‘The Great Indian Diet’ that revolves around health and fitness. She has also launched a second book ‘The Diary of a Domestic Diva.’
For nearly 25 years, we have watched her grow, learn, stumble, then pick herself up and reach new heights and we have all discovered that the irresistibly determined, and vivacious woman is clearly a lot more than just a Bollywood actress.
If the above looks elaborate, she is also the co-founder of Match Indian Poker League (MIPL) along with her husband Raj Kundra and the latter couldn’t have asked for a better partner, given their experience being part of one of the most successful sport leagues in the world – the Indian Premier League (IPL). Shetty learnt poker through cricket legend Shane Warne when he was the captain of their team – Rajasthan Royals and it was only time before she started playing poker with her celebrity friends like Shahid Kapoor, Harman Baweja, Rohan Gavaskar, Rannvijay Singh, Sidharth Anand, Kunal Khemu and Kunal Kohli.
Both Raj and Shilpa then decided to venture into the poker industry and what started with the plan of a celebrity poker site led to one of the most unique poker league the country has ever seen, the Match Indian Poker League (MIPL).
Now, in an exclusive conversation with PokerGuru, Shetty shares her love for poker, her views on Match IPL, how the second edition of the league is giving players a unique opportunity to represent their country on the international stage and what she thinks about poker as a sport. Here are the excerpts –
We are curious to know how your company Viaan Industries got introduced to Patrick Nally and how did the idea of Match IPL come about?
Our gaming lawyer Mr. Vidushpat of Krida Legal made the introduction to Patrick. We were planning to launch a celebrity online poker gaming site but when we received the opportunity to represent IFMP and launch Match Poker in India, it seemed like a much bigger idea.
We are sure many of our readers know that you learnt poker from Shane Warne, but still, if you could tell us about your initial tryst with the game. Has the poker bug bitten you?
Haha, yes Shane is the culprit during the Rajasthan Royal days we would all chill in the evenings and play poker. I really enjoy the game it's quite addictive and really requires some sharp thinking skills. I love poker!
Shane Warne, Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra
A lot of Bollywood couples have confessed to playing card games together. Do you and Raj also play poker together? If yes, who wins most of the times?
Well I have my ways to beat him but overall, he is a more regular player so whilst I never really like to admit it but I think he is a 'little' better than me 🙂
Who are the other celebrity friends you play poker with? Who is the star player in your group?
Oh yes, we have a few friends who enjoy playing poker with us but from our celebrity group Harman Baweja is by far one of the best celebrity players. Shahid Kapoor, Rohan Gavaskar, Rannvijay Singh, Sidharth Anand, Kunal Khemu and Kunal Kohli play really well too.
Harman Baweja and Shilpa Shetty
Poker is fast catching up in popularity especially during festival seasons like Diwali. Do you host poker games at Diwali or attend other Diwali poker parties?
We love playing Teen Patti on Diwali but I must say I have seen the trend change and more and more people are playing Texas Poker. It’s good to see that change happening.
The general perception of poker in the country is still not all positive. What are your suggestions on ways the sport could become mainstream?
That is the reason we tied up with IFMP and brought Match Poker to India. Our league is the only official poker league in the country where Team India comes from the winning team in the two seasons hosted in a year and represent India in the Asia and Nations Cup respectively. We need to make people understand that Match Poker is not gambling and is completely a skill game.
Match IPL has seen participation from a lot of celebrities, do you feel that helps change the social stigma attached to poker?
As I said when you can tell your parents you are now wearing the blue jersey and representing Team India, it surely helps change the stigma attached, it suddenly becomes serious. In season one Harman’s team Mumbai All Stars won the league and represented India in the Nations Cup which took place in Oxford UK. My husband attended and said the experience was surreal, with an old British charm venue and the world’s best poker players coming together under one roof. India came 5th and Ireland won the cup.
Mumbai All Stars
Hollywood has made quite a few cult classics on poker, which have even been nominated, for the Oscars. Do you feel Indian cinema could do something on those lines?
It’s just a matter of time before a game of poker turns into a Bollywood script.
Share your views on Match IPL and where do you see the league in a few years from now?
Well we are now a sold-out league with 10 teams representing 10 states of India. We don't plan to increase the teams for the next two years but just grow the sport and maybe increase the number of tournament days in this format. We have a nice TV broadcast deal with MTV so the reach and awareness is growing and we hope to see Match Poker as an Olympic sport in the near future on the lines of chess and bridge.
Thank you Shilpa for talking to us and we are equally excited for the second season of Match Indian Poker League!