As one sits and takes in all the magic, Chuck Palahnuik’s famous quote rings in their ears-“There is always an underground”.

The underground is this sacred level which is often untouched by governed authority. It is like the elephant in the room, in most cases- people know it exists but still choose to ignore its presence.

Gambling culture has always been prevalent in our country, but more often than not it has no positive associations. Poker, as compared to Rummy, is still a game which thrives in the grey area as far as the law is concerned, but that does not stop Poker Enthusiasts to indulge in the captivating game once in a while.

Like any hush event, an underground Poker game bubbles with excitement too. A lot many articles have quotes people who are frequent players of the underground, saying that the games are “classiest” in Mumbai, and are often attended by people of all professions, mostly by those who have money to burn.

A game with disposable income has its own charm, and has been proven to be a “perfect gig” for a lot many players from all around the country. In almost every neighbourhood in the city, card games are played. Be it at a house party, or as a customary Diwali play- the pot is hot and high.

These days card culture has become endemic among college students, especially those of the South. Every student is in need of money, and the best way to make it is by enjoying yourself, and putting your skills to use- playing Poker. Small games are often organised up and around campuses, and that helps one enter the circle, and become an insider as far as the underground circle is concerned.

There is a whole new legion, full of students, knowns as grinders which are surfacing in India.These are people who have decided to take Poker up professionally, in a way giving into their calling.

When asked by such up and coming individuals in the circle why they prefer playing Poker over a secure day job, most responses hovered on the lines of how they would not earn as much money.In addition to experiencing the thrill of the game, the players tend to often compare themselves, to FBI agents- because of their skillset for reading people and patterns, which further hone their game play.

Rubel (name changed) has been part of the inside circle for quite sometime now, and when asked how long her Poker sessions last for, with a smirk she revealed that a 10-12 hour game is considered normal for them. She started playing Poker at University abroad. Talking about how players tend to stay alert for so long, Rubel unveiled the shocking statics of drug users in the Poker circle- three out of every five players tend to use drugs to heighten their level of attention, and alertness, in order to stay in the game for as long as possible.

Yusuf, another underground addition confessed that Poker has taken over his life, and the
sacrifices that he had to make in order to reach the level of professionalism. He narrated his experiences wth Diwali games in his hometown, Delhi. One story that stood out was one where started playing at his friend’s house in the evening of Chhoti Diwali, and only finished the game two days after; taking a two-hour break every day, and merely wishing his friends on the day of Diwali and getting back to his game.

This story reminded me of the kind of madness and drive that can engulf one while playing a compelling game of Poker; and how it further affects the relationships that one shares with others. Yusuf’s story does not even come close to the kind of obsessions that underlie certain players, and the only surface later, when it is a little to late to fix the tarnished relationships. There have been people who have blamed their love for Poker as a reason to get a divorce.

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What one learns from all these stories is that there are all kinds of players that are involved in the game, there are people from both extreme ends of the spectrum. Underground playing is addictive, because of the kind of environment that one is introduced to- it is hard to come by such a scintillating environment anywhere else.

One of the most well-known legends behind the crazy drive that people have for Poker is that of Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker is the famous person who made $2.5 million out of mere $40. Such great success stories are what make people more attracted to the game, and make them a little more reckless- which in turn makes them turn a blind eye towards shady organized games.

Sood, who is an investment Banker in Bangalore suggests that the Poker scene would be so much better if the whole thing was made legal fully, and not just to the extent of it not being illegal. Sood says that people are indulging more in the underground circuits which are often formed inside people’s homes, because one can fully taste the extent of Poker as there is no limit when playing at home. The downside to having such an uncontrolled environment is that people tend to become irrational, and that can end in big losses, and huge debts.

Having a controlled environment, like in a tournament, one recognizes, and acknowledges their tilting phases, and are a little more receptive to their rationale. A solution to this would be to organise legal tournaments, occasionally and in turn there will an immense reduction in the emotional betting.

Underground has its own charming aura, but like everything it has its own set of pros and cons. But unless and until the game of Poker is fully legalised, there will always be the underground, where people from all walks of life would enjoy the game to the dregs, because sometimes being tenacious is the push one needs to achieve greatness.