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Raj Kundra is a British born Indian and not many would know that this multi-millionaire who became one of the richest Asians in the UK is a college dropout. Kundra was ranked as the 198th richest British Asian by SUCCESS magazine in 2004 and began his entrepreneurial journey by importing Pashmina shawls that were supplied to all major fashion houses in London in the 90’s.
He next invested in a number of businesses including Diamond Trading, Mining, Real Estate, Renewable Energy, Entertainment, Hospitality and last but not the least Sports Leagues. Kundra is an avid sports enthusiast and after dipping his toes in the ever-popular Indian Premier League (IPL), Kundra is now back with a unique poker league named Match Indian Poker League (MIPL).
Kundra has also written a book titled ‘How Not to Make Money’ and is a firm believer that there will come a time when poker players in the country will earn even more than professional cricket players!
— Raj Kundra (@TheRajKundra) October 14, 2017
In an exclusive conversation with PokerGuru, Kundra talks to us about his foray into Match IPL, how the league gives players a unique opportunity of represent their country on the international stage, the marketing campaign #PokerIsASport and how the TV broadcast on MTV will make the inaugural league even bigger. To top it off, the commentary for the League will be done by popular Bollywood celebs!
Here are the excerpts –
Hello Raj, thank you for speaking with PokerGuru. Please share your general overview about the Match IPL’s concept. How will MIPL distinguish itself from the several other leagues in the country?
I think it’s one of the most unique poker concepts of our time and being backed by the International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP), MIPL stands to be one of the most engaging poker events ever. I like the fact that there are over 60 countries affiliated with IFMP providing league winners an opportunity to represent their country in the Nations Cup internationally.
How did you get into the poker side of the business?
I have always been passionate about poker so this is an extension of my passion. I take this as an opportunity to take the sport poker global. To take India’s first Match Poker Team to the Nations Cup wearing the official national team jersey will be a moment of pride.
You mentioned that Team India of poker would be born out of the MIPL that no other league can boast about. Can you elaborate?
Simply put, any official league requires backing of a global recognized body. The IFMP is the only recognized poker federation in the world for the sport of Poker. We are their official partners in India and will be responsible for finding and taking Team India for the Nations Cup.
What is your vision for MIPL? What are the initiatives taken and what else is in the pipeline?
I want to find the best poker players in India and give them a global opportunity. I want to see amateur and professional poker players going for international events all across the world. This year the two-day first season will be hosted on November 17 – 18 and the Nations Cup will be hosted in the first week of December in United Kingdom (UK). Next year we will have full 8 – 10 months to host multiple smaller events across the country looking out for smart poker players who can then represent their country playing in Match IPL.
The inaugural season of the league is a by-invitation-only event. Care to share your thoughts on this?
Yes, we have limited the audience attending as we are creating a TV product in partnership with MTV. This will require a proper set up with minimum interference and a controlled environment. The final edited two-day event followed by owners and players after party will be available to watch exclusively on MTV.
You mentioned that owners would break even in the first season itself. Can we know the monetization options available to the team owners?
The owners have numerous options of revenue generation namely: Prize Money for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Prize, Jersey Sponsorship of 5 spots sells at ₹3 – ₹10 Lakhs per spot, Licensee fee for app registration is also shared with team owners. Satellite events hosted by team owners to select players also generates revenue and finally central sales share of sponsorship.
Tell us about the AI bot Albi players can play on? AI, in general, is debatable, so in a mind sport like poker, what utility does an AI bot bring to the table?
Albi has been made by IFMP in association with some of the best technology and AI specialists of USA. It’s said to be able to beat over 95% of the world’s best poker players. It helps improve your game as you analyze your play and each hand can be reviewed to see where right and wrong calls were made.
Please share the details about the National Cup.
The Nations Cup is organized by the IFMP, last year’s winners were Germany and they currently hold the cup. This year, the event will be hosted in UK where qualifying countries will take part for the prestigious event and a chance to win the cup for their country.
How will the final eight represent the country on the global stage?
In MIPL, we have eight teams with eight players and two substitutes (subs). A total of 100 hands will be dealt each day with scheduled breaks every 25 hands for captains to analyze their player’s play and decide on subs. Teams are scored on collective points each hand and after day two, the team with the most points will represent Team India in the Nations Cup.
This is going to be the first time an Indian poker league would be shown on television. Can you share some details on the broadcast?
Yes, we are excited by this opportunity; our entire TV commercial and marketing campaign is based on #PokerIsASport. We are shooting it on a very large scale and the broadcast commentary will be done by some of our Bollywood celebrities who excel in the game. We will start marketing on TV from next week with the commercial and opportunity for players to take part in the league.
Please elaborate on your marketing campaign around Match IPL that ‘poker is a sport’. Please share the general marketing routes opted for Match IPL’s marketing and visibility.
The campaign has just started and we are shooting the TV promo based on ‘Poker is a Sport’. It will be available next week across all platforms. We are focusing on MTV platforms as well as on heavy digital push for poker.
How has been the response to the league so far?
Selling 8 teams within a week of announcing the partnership with IFMP says it all. The owners are partners, everyone is excited to deliver a world-class league and put Indian poker on the map. Till now IFMP has worked just on app leaderboard results; India is the first country in the world to bring Match Poker in a National League format.
What is your general outlook of poker in India?
India has over 1 million potential poker players and growing. If they are given an opportunity to go pro and make a living from playing professional, I see a huge potential for this sport to grow. We all know the kind of money top poker players make and this is a platform where they can hone their skills and go on to play international tournaments.
What are your plans for future?
My future plans are to make this league format of Match poker available in the other IFMP member countries in partnership with IFMP and their local federations. My league experience will benefit these countries from making a profitable and successful platform that can grow leaps and bounds in the coming years.
Please share the details about your planned poker website. Is that something still in the pipeline?
No, I dropped the idea when I partnered with IFMP. I agreed that no gambling or poker sites will be operated by our firm.
Any parting words or anything you would like to add?
My final goal in the next three years is to have a match poker league running in the 60 countries IFMP is present in. Where the world cup that happens annually has a potential prize pool of over $6 – 8 million making it one of the highest paying poker leagues in the world.
Raj signs off!