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Valentine’s Day – the day of love, friendship, and camaraderie is here again! We know that it’s tough being a poker player, and it can get impossible if the love of your life doesn’t understand that part of your life.
This seemed as good a time as any to speak to some poker couples to find out more about their love connection. We connected with a few poker pros and their partners to get an insight into what they do while traveling for poker, their favorite poker holidays, and more!
It was encouraging to hear from almost everyone we spoke to that they share a strong emotional connect with their partners and have found boundless support and understanding in them. Most couples have also managed to blend poker in their together-time. It seems traveling for poker is quite the thing. While Goa seems the most convenient option, many Indian poker couples have been globetrotting around poker destinations like Las Vegas, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Sri Lanka, etc. In this Valentine’s Day Special feature, we take a look at some of the prominent poker couples in the country and how poker binds them together.
India’s poker power couple, Aditya Agarwal and Shuchi Chamaria Agarwal are the personifications of ‘love at first sight.’ Despite living just 100 meters away from each other in Kolkata, it took the couple almost 30 years before they finally ran into each other. But when you’re destined to be together, love always finds a way.
For a poker pioneer like Aditya, Shuchi was indeed the perfect match with her natural knack for the mind sport. Together, the couple has traveled to several poker destinations, with Macao and the Bahamas topping the list.
“Adi and I used to travel to Macao very often. The casinos there are very grand. We also traveled to the Bahamas for the PSPC, and it was gorgeous,” revealed Shuchi.
“The food and shopping in Macao are just the best. The famous restaurant Din Tai Fung right next to the PokerStars poker room was our all-time favorite,” she added.
Talking about their most memorable trip, she said, “Our most memorable trip would have to be our honeymoon. Adi was scheduled to go for the Aussie Millions, and we traveled around Australia for a month, and then we headed to another series in Macao.”
PokerStars India Team Pro Muskan Sethi and Yudhishter Singh Jaswal are among the country’s most prominent poker couples. Cupid brought them together in 2011, and after years of dating, they eventually tied the knot in 2017. Muskan’s effervescent persona perfectly complements Yudhishter’s shy and introverted demeanor. It`s not surprising that they both love to discuss poker strategy and travel for poker together.
“For us, a favorite destination would be Vegas and to some extent Barcelona as well. We both love this venue a lot, it’s a great poker destination. The guarantees are really huge, and as a couple, we also enjoy the city. There’s so much to do when you bust a tournament. We plan everything whenever we go and the first few days we go and see the whole city…different roads and areas. Even if he’s busy, I set out and explore a lot of places,” Muskan said.
Both of them are exploring Ranthambore right now. “We’re here with family and will be going for a Safari tomorrow.” Talking about her Valentine’s Day plans, she added, “We’re just going to be spending time with each other. We have been playing a lot online lately. We both study together, we play online together. So it’s time to relax. Our plan is to chill this weekend, and we’re heading to Goa on the 19th, where we will be doing a lot of yoga and meditation first before the hardcore regime begins when we will be very strict on each other and will be taking care of each other.”
For Yudhishter, the time when he won the DCPS $1,600 NLHE Bounty at the Venetian in 2018 was special, with Muskan railing him all the time. “For me, it’d be having him as my boyfriend, as my plus-1 in SharkCage,” Muskan said, remembering how they’d met through a common friend and discovered they share a common interest in poker.
“Poker kept both of us together. We were passionate about it and discussed it together. Every day, he pushes me to do my best and encourages me to study more. I feel like I’m the balancing factor in his life when things become too stressful. We’re very opposite to each other. He’s an introvert. I’m outgoing…opposites attract, they fight, and then they make up!
Businessman and former BPT champion Gokul Krishna has a strong support system in his wife Sunitha Sunder. The two have been married for 10 years now and have a beautiful, five-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Even though Sunitha is a fashion designer, things changed when Krishna introduced her to poker. Both have been traveling for poker to destinations like Las Vegas and have even co-founded the Emerald Poker Tour (EPT) cash game festival together.
“I introduced Sunitha to Poker so that I can play and travel together for poker. She absolutely fell in love with the game, and over the last two years, she is the one who is actually more proactive in poker. It was her idea to start the Emerald Poker Tour,” Krishna explained, adding, “Both of us run our own businesses apart from poker, but we have managed to streamline them pretty well, which gives us more time to plan poker.”
It’s’ going to be family time for them on Valentine’s Day. “Valentine’s Day happens to be Sunitha’s brother’s wedding anniversary. We are a close-knit family unit, and every year we celebrate it with them,” Krishna told us, revealing his plans for the day.
While they like Goa as a poker destination, they find that Sri Lanka and Barcelona are great options due to extremely high hospitality levels. Nothing beats Vegas, though. “Best destination for both of us is hands down Vegas, especially during the WSOP time. The 50 days of non-stop grind is great fun,” Krishna said.
He continued, “We like London and other places in Europe where there are so many things to do there along with an occasional fun game in casinos in the evenings. Last 5 years, all our holidays have been based around poker. In fact, it has become such a habit that we first look at what casinos are there in the destinations we plan to go for a holiday. Our dream destination would be Europe. We would love to take out a couple of months and just travel all across Europe and play poker and party and relax. Our daughter actually loves it when we travel as she can be the boss at home and spend time with her grandparents. So we have all our bases covered!”
A memorable trip for them both? “All our vacations have been very special. Even when we are hosting events and are working round the clock to keep things smooth, we don’t feel the stress. Somehow whatever we do in poker feels like a holiday even if we are pushing our bodies to the extremes. That in itself is a very special memory,” confessed Krishna, speaking like a true-blue poker zealot!
Gagandeep Malik is one of the up-and-coming names in the poker circuit, and he has found a long-lasting support system in his wife Ankita Ajay Malik. The Hyderabad based player who came to prominence after shipping the 60K High Roller at the 2016 DPT November edition gushed about his better half saying, “Honestly speaking, I am blessed to have such a wonderful partner cause from the very beginning she understood what I do and accepted the game as a sport and she was always supportive towards my poker career and I couldn’t have asked for more cause she herself has started learning the game which makes it easier for me cause now we play and plan our schedule together.”
The duo loves to travel to Goa, enjoying the relaxed ambiance of the coastal state. “Ankita and I haven’t traveled together outside India, but in India, it’s definitely Goa. We especially love the atmosphere and vibe of BPT and Casino Pride 2 cause PokerBaazi LIVE is hassle-free when it comes to registration, cash out, or any other operational aspect related to live poker, and they always listen and are open to feedback. We definitely enjoy the chill vibe of Goa, and of course, the beaches give you the perfect relaxation after a long series grind.”
Recounting how Ankita’s presence and support during the 2019 BPT Main Event helped him survive the money bubble, “We traveled for BPT and IPC in January, and this was our first trip together after marriage to a poker destination. It was one of the most memorable trips cause I was very close to bubbling the main event in BPT and eventually ended up finishing 12th. It was a special moment cause we thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of surviving the bubble period and my wife was there with me throughout the event and it was her first live experience where she observed highs and lows of a poker tournament. Being a beginner herself, she learned a lot of new things about being a poker player.”
Gagandeep revealed how his love story with Ankita began around two years back, “I and Ankita started dating around 2 years back, and in the first meeting itself, I told her about poker. Our family also supported us in pursuing poker as a sport, and we recently got married in November last year. We have been playing together since.”
Sharing the things the couple cherish about each other, Ankita said, “I love his patience and how calm he is during tough situations. He is always there for the family and balances his personal and professional life really well.”
“She is a very grounded person and helps me to not get carried away, and she is always there to support me in my poker career,” said Gagandeep.
While the couple’s immediate plan is to spend Valentine’s Day in Kerala, their eventual dream destination is Las Vegas. “Vegas is certainly one dream destination, and we might travel next year. Other than that, Vietnam is also on the cards, which might happen soon.”
Zarvan Tumboli has his heart firmly captured by Shanaya Contractor. The couple has been together for over five years now and got married only last year. Shanaya, who is a flight attendant with Swiss International Airlines, has been Tumboli’s emotional support system all through his tough poker regime. She travels with him when she can. In fact, when Tumboli was recently playing on the final table of the IPC ₹100K High Roller, Shanaya was sitting not far away from the action. Tumboli eventually fell out in second place. If he was a tad disappointed in missing the trophy, Shanaya brought in the mood for celebration with her excitement over his blistering run.
We nudged him to disclose to us his favorite poker vacation, and he said, “Best poker destination till now is Amsterdam for us! But we always enjoy and love coming to Goa for the domestic series too. Dream destination will always be Vegas which will be going this year, so we will have a new part of the map unlocked this year! Apart from the obvious reasons and what Amsterdam is known for, there are many beautiful scenic places and heritage touristy stuff. Apart from that, we always love to explore new cities and destinations and tick off places one at a time.”
But neither Amsterdam nor Goa was their first international trip together. It was when Tumboli visited Valkenburg to play the WPT Netherlands that Shanaya accompanied him. “That was four years back, and after that, we had extended to cover Amsterdam and Brussels. That undoubtedly will always be the most memorable (vacation together),” he confessed.
Their plans for Valentine’s Day? “She is flying, unfortunately. But surely have planned something for her when she’s back (varna maar padedi).”
When quizzed on how they manage to maintain work-life balance and keep up with each other’s schedule? “My wife is a flight attendant, so I don’t have to do much to balance and keep up!! Jokes apart, I just manage my dates and work around her schedule so that I can give maximum time to her when she is not flying and in Mumbai. If any big tourney or series is there online she herself understands and tells me to not miss and play them. So we have a very good understanding between us in that aspect.”
This is what they also like about each other. “We have a very good understanding of each other’s passion, likes, dislikes, and goals in life. Without a doubt, I’m more ambitious and all out of the two, but we love traveling and share similar views about life and the way we like to live it.”
Their dream poker destination? “It’s coming up. Vegas Vegas Vegassss!,” said Zarvan!
Star commentator, gamer, and poker player, Aditya Wadhwani, is a man of many talents. We recently did a feature on him canvassing his foray in the game and his work on the production side of things.
The Delhiite got married to his girlfriend of six years, Gayeti Singh, last November and considers her his rock of support.
Their preferred poker destination? “Goa,” says Wadhwani, “because outside of poker there’s so much couple stuff you can do in Goa. Outside India, anywhere in the European Union (EU), since the continent is so small, you can hop from country to country and experience such a vast range of cultures. Monaco stands out as it’s got a very old charm, and I love wearing a suit at the table.”
For Wadhwani, a special memory together with Gayeti is their honeymoon in Kenya. “It’s great to disconnect from the wired world. Experiencing nature and wildlife in its natural environment is something that cannot be beaten for us personally.”
He recounted how it was difficult at first when Gayeti didn’t understand poker hours and the lifestyle-related to it and admitted, “Now it’s really balanced. Since I don’t play too much, we plan ahead, knowing I’m going to be grinding a series, etc., for that week or so, and she gives me my space. I’ve got a separate room for playing during the late hours so that I don’t disturb her.”
The thing they like about each other? “There’s total acceptance of who we are as individuals and mutual respect for what each of us considers work. The companionship, the emotional support, and the fact that living with your best friend is just great fun!”
Though they haven’t made any special plans for Valentine’s Day, they intend to find a spot and spend some time together. We asked him if he had any dream destination in mind, with poker thrown in, and he replied, “Nothing in particular, but next time I do an international trip, if the schedule permits, I’d like her to come with me for sure. But first, I want her to come see the Goa scene first and meet all the crazy folk on the Indian circuit!”