The success of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the richest T20 cricketing league in the world has spawned a number of sporting leagues in the country such as the Hockey India League (HIL), Pro Kabbadi League (PKL) and the Indian Super League (football). Now poker will have a league of its own as the Poker Sports League (PSL) is scheduled to have its first season this year.
Playboy Club Hosts PSL Draft
The PSL had a successful team draft where the 12 franchises picked their players on 6 May at the Playboy Club in Delhi. There are only three states in India which currently allow gambling but that will not stop the PSL as the founders are promoting poker as a game of skill and not of chance.  The Snake Draft process was followed during the team selection process as franchise owners went after the players they thought would work best for them and help their franchise become the first PSL champions.
The PSL is scheduled to start on May 22 and will commence with a 48 hour boot camp. Each team will have 9 players, bringing the total number of participants to 108. The final of the PSL will take place at the Deltin Casino Royale in Goa and will be held from May 24 to 28. The PSL Champions will receive a total of 3.36 crore rupees.
PSL Franchises
The PSL was founded by Pranav Bagai, Anuj Gupta and Amit Burman and in some ways takes a leaf out of the Global Poker League (GPL) which was founded by Alex Dreyfus. The PSL also has similar goals in popularizing the game of poker in India and also promoting it as a game of skill and not of luck. The 12 PSL franchises were purchased by businesses and wealthy individuals from all across the country.
The twelve franchises for the 2017 PSL are Hyderabad Kings, Goan Nuts, Rajasthan Tilters, Punjab Bluffers, Kolkata Royals, Pune Sharks, Mumbai Anchors, Gujarat Acers, Chennai Bulls, Haryana Hunters, Delhi Panthers and the Bengaluru Jokers.
PSL Selection Process
The PSL draft was also a promotional event to create interest in the league and to encourage poker enthusiasts in India to follow the league. The draft process was split into three stages with the first stage focusing on the Pro Draft, the second stage on the Live Draft and the third and final stage on the Online Draft. The first stage was based on a pre-defined region – north, south, east and west with an order from 1-12. The second stage had an order from 12-1 and based out of any reason. The third round was similar to the second round.
There were a total of 133 poker players who were auctioned during the PSL draft process and franchise owners battled it out to secure the players they thought would have the biggest impact on the tournament. Each franchise bought four players during the draft process 2 from the live qualifiers and 2 from the online qualifiers. The remaining 5 players include 1 mentor, 2 wild card players and 2 professional players. Wild Card players were also bought during the auction process and they included well known poker players from both the domestic as well as the international poker circuit.
Some of the international poker players who will be part of the PSL 2017 include Tomi Brouk who was picked up by the Haryana Hunters, Dong Kyo Kim and Calvin Lee for the Bengaluru Jokers, Erik Riise by the Delhi Panthers, Bryna Huang and Thomas Ward for the Goan Nuts,  J W Prodigy by the Kolkata Royals and Henrik Tollefsen  by the Gujarat Acers.
Poker In India
The game of poker has been growing at a rapid pace in India and online poker giant PokerStars has already confirmed that it has plans to target the lucrative Indian market. However there is still a lack of clarity regarding poker being legal in India as many states are unable to make a decision as to whether poker should be classified as a game of skill or chance. The PSL hopes to bring clarity to the game of poker and prove that it takes a considerable amount of skill to be successful at poker and in doing so help make poker legal throughout India.