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If poker has made significant inroads among the masses in recent years, poker leagues have been a catalyst in this growth story. The country’s first-ever poker league – Poker Sports League (PSL) – was launched in 2017, backed by Dabur India Chairman Amit Burman and co-founder Pranav Bagai. PSL has since run two seasons to make poker almost mainstream in the country.
While the PSL’s diversified parent company had kept busy these last two years with other business pursuits in poker streaming and its native poker app development, the league was put on hibernation. The league has announced its return after an almost 29-month-long hiatus, and PSL is coming back with all the shebang!
PSL has really gone all out to make up for the long hiatus – with not just one but two seasons coming up. The first of them – PSL Season 3 (PSL-V) will ride through the virtual felts over the coming months before Season 4 marks its return in the familiar live format later next year, assuming that the COVID-19 pandemic is over by then.
The upcoming Season 3 will be hosted on the Hashtag Poker app promising all the excitement as the leagues’ previous editions, but with a particular emphasis on the virtual streaming experience. The PSL has even tested the streaming format by hosting an exhibition charity tournament, the Virtual Poker League (VPL), last month.
There will be a generous monetary incentive for the PSL Season 3 teams. There is a mouth-watering ₹1.20 Crore prize pool on the platter with the winning team to take home ₹60 Lakhs. The runner-up team will pocket ₹36 Lakhs, and there’s a hefty ₹24 Lakhs assured to the team coming in third.
Given the more scalable nature of the virtual format, PSL has even opened the bidding for two new teams for Season 3. Bidding for the teams is open until December 10.
The online qualifiers for PSL – V have been underway since October 23 and will culminate on November 22.
Once the teams are selected and announced, sounding off the season will be a PSL Bootcamp slated for January 6 -12. The four-week-long League Matches take off on January 16 and will run up to February 11. The teams will be given a week’s break before the PSL-V Finale from February 19 to 21.
Chess Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand remains the official PSL brand ambassador. While qualifiers for Season 3 are already in motion, co-founder Bagai explained that some of the season’s finer details still need to be ironed out. “All the six teams for Season 3 that was postponed have signed up for a five-year, 10-season contract. Mentors for Team 7 and 8 have been finalized, who will be selecting their players and composing their team. We’re now looking for two new team owners to join us in this journey,” Bagai said.
PSL Season 3 – Virtual: A Sneak Peek
PSL CEO Pranav Bagai had announced the launch of PSL-V last month, and as a precursor to the comeback season, a Virtual Poker League (VPL) was also hosted on the Hashtag Poker app from October 14 to 17. The PSL Team Deccan Aces captained by Sam Reddy and mentored by Kunal Patni were declared as the first-ever VPL champions. All the winnings at the VPL worth ₹10 Lakhs were donated to different education-based charity organizations.
Hosting the VPL was “super challenging,” as Bagai puts it, but helped streamline their plans for the full-blown Season 3 (PSL – V).
To make the upcoming PSL – V more competitive, the brand has opened the bidding for two new teams. Instead of six teams, there will be eight finalized teams, with December 10 being the deadline for closing the two new teams.
As confirmed by Bagai, the cost of owning a team for Season 3 is approximately ₹35 Lakhs, and it goes up to approximately ₹55 Lakhs for Season 4 (Live).
The Season 3 teams will be announced at the Selection Ceremony on December 7. Each team will have 10 members, including the team owner and a mentor who will also be the team captain.
The real fun begins from January 6, 2021, and the league will have different stages – all virtual:
> Selection Ceremony (December 7)
> PSL Bootcamp (January 6 -12)
> League Matches (January 16 – February 11)
A four-week sprint where each player will play five matches
A week-long break
> PSL V Finale (February 19-21) – a two-day virtual finale
What’s New at PSL – V?
So, what’s different this time? For one, the brand has expanded the league by introducing two more teams, increasing the competition. Instead of six, eight teams are vying for the title, with each team having at least one female player as a member.
Next, everything is going virtual. Underlining how sponsor integration becomes more straightforward in the digital world, co-founder Bagai told us – “From the qualifiers to selection ceremony, to boot camp and the Finale, it’s all virtual. Production has completely changed, and we have had to reinvent the wheel. Earlier we would need a physical space that needed to be branded, and players had to fly from all over the country/world. Now, every player gets a shoot kit and plays from home. In terms of the final product, we will be broadcasting our poker content on an OTT platform to reach wider audiences. “
Another significant change is that instead of a five-day run, PSL will run for almost a month. This was possible since the league is no longer restricted by the venue and player costs, given the season’s virtual structure. “We want poker to be like any other sport,” Bagai emphasized.
He elaborated that streaming will play an integral part in Season 3. “We will have eight hours of streaming daily for three days a week, i.e., Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 4 PM to midnight for the 4 weeks of the league. A post-produced show and a lot of meaningful and entertaining content will also be bundled up for the wider audience’s,” he added.
The Teams & Their Mentors
So far, mentors for the following teams have been finalized, while the Chennai and Bengaluru teams are yet to find a team owner.
Delhi Czars – Sriharsha Doddapaneni
Goan Nuts – Dhaval Mudgal
Mumbai Anchors – Nikita Luther
Gujarat Falcons – Romit Advani
Deccan Aces – Kunal Patni
Kolkata Kings – Aditya Sushant
Bengaluru Team – Raghav Bansal
Chennai Team – Kanishka Samant
Team Composition & Selection
The team coach and influencer/ celebrity will be the two non-playing reps in each team. Each team will also need to have at least one female player with the following composition:
> 1 team mentor
> 1 team owner
> 2 pros
> 2 old Season 3 online qualifiers
> 2 new Hashtag Poker qualifiers
> 1 Wild Card player
> 1 sponsored player
PSL has confirmed that team mentors have the option to retain one pro and one qualifier from the old teams but can choose to retain none as well.
Not counting the Finale, each player will play five matches during the four weeks of League Matches. Match fees for mentor/pro/ wildcard are ₹20,000 per match, which comes to ₹1 Lakh in total. Match fees for all other players are ₹50,000, i.e., ₹10,000 per match.
There is a success fee for pros/mentors/wildcards that comes up to ₹3 Lakhs, ₹2 Lakhs, and ₹1 Lakh, respectively. For the qualifiers, it is ₹1 Lakh, ₹70,000, and ₹50,000 for the top three teams, basis the final finishing position.
PSL – Creating History
PSL is the first poker league to be hosted in India. The inaugural season was hosted in May 2017. It played out amid 12 teams, each having one mentor, two local pros, two live and two online qualifiers, and two wild card entries. The edition wound down to a Finale that was played onboard Casino Deltin Royale in Goa. Delhi Panthers emerged champions to pocket a prize of ₹1.50 Crores.
Bagai and his team rolled out Season 2 in May 2018. Goan Nuts won the season for a whopping ₹2 Crores.
PSL had first announced Season 3 in October 2019, confirming all-new management and a new and improved league format. However, the comeback season could not take off as planned once the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the live qualifiers.
With PSL – V, PSL has taken another pioneering step to bring the elements of a live poker league to the online felts.
Keep following PokerGuru for all the latest updates from Poker Sports League (PSL)!