Today, to give you a rush of positivity and happiness, we have with us a life coach, Shalini Arora Kochhar. In a tête-à-tête with PokerGuru, Shalini shares her incredibly colorful story. “Life has been an adventure for me,” says Shalini, and when you hear all that she has done in her life, you’ll agree with her as well. From contending at the Miss India Pageant in 1994 alongside Aishwarya Rai & Sushmita Sen to making a career as a life and happiness coach while authoring books and running a jewelry line, and so much more. Amidst all of this, she discovered poker as a recreational activity to keep her mind off work while keeping it stimulated.
After several years of being a renowned model, Shalini decided to leave the spotlight and wet her feet in different creative genres. After many years of being in the hospitality industry, “I started my own jewelry line. That was my creative side, and I launched my jewelry brand SAK’s by Shalini Arora Kochhar in India. However, I was disturbed to see other women not reinventing themselves & going through a midlife crisis. Networking being my forte and getting people together, my calling, I decided I wanted to be the woman who helps women entrepreneurs. That’s what brought about Women on Top. A forum for networking for women entrepreneurs to grow through interdependence, an e-magazine to talk about women who inspire, coffee table books to create a platform to showcase them, and the WOT Awards – the Oscars for Women to felicitate them. It’s a Global Entity today,” she proudly adds.
Despite her hectic life, Shalini found the time to not only learn poker but also develop a strong passion for it. It happened while she was still in India and was taught the game by a few friends. Having seen her parents play card games before, she had no inhibitions about poker and soon enough was drawn to the mentally stimulating game.
Talking about her love for the mind sport, Shalini says, “While I started playing poker in cash games, I eventually moved to tournaments. That’s where I think you learn to play the game. It’s about how you could intimidate the other person. (she laughs – what better) There’s a lot that goes into it, which is why I say poker is a sport. It’s a skill game and not gambling. For all those parents telling their 20-year-olds not to do this because it’s gambling, I just want to clarify that, yes, if you give them unlimited money and tell them to go to a casino and go crazy, it’s gambling. However, if they’re playing responsibly or in a poker tournament, it’s helping their mind. They’re calculating – they are thinking. They know what’s good, what’s not good. It’s definitely helping their mind.”
Talking about how she made the transition from playing cash games to tournaments, she reveals, “As I said, we had a set of friends who would literally play tournaments every evening. Then a few of my friends suggested that I go outside my comfort zone and play tournaments at proper poker events. So, I actually went and played tournaments in Nice, London, and other places in Europe where a whole lot of men were shocked to see me! Proud to say, I won the tournament there and the tournaments in Nice and in London.”
In fact, poker happens to be a passion she has in common with her husband. “It’s a common saying when you’re growing old you need to share some common passions with your spouse. So, fortunately, we both took to it, and we both would go and play poker. This continued for a long time till the pandemic hit us. And that’s when online poker struck us. So, I started playing a lot on pokerrr2 with a group of friends & also indulged on Adda52 with the unknown to upskill. The best part of online poker is that you can play the game anytime. And I’m actually contemplating this to be a profession I could pursue.”
Given that Shalini likes to don multiple hats, being just a poker player was not enough. She also happened to be the co-owner of the Poker Sports League team Bengaluru Warriors. Sharing her experience, she says, “It came about through some of our friends who initiated us into poker, they were intensely into it, and they got an offer to buy the team. So, we decided to get together and buy the team and support the game. So, it was a joint effort on all our parts to buy the team, patronize it, travel with them to poker tournaments, etc. However, I sold the team two years ago as I was living in Monaco, and it became very difficult to be with the team when they traveled to various places to play in tournaments. But yes, it was a thrilling experience because whenever we traveled for tournaments, it was great to see such amazing youngsters owning the world.”
Speaking on the gender imbalance in poker and specifically online poker, Shalini states, “Well, so as far as poker is concerned, I just want to tell you that if you want to make poker a profession, it’s all-in or nothing. That’s your focus. We have to make sure that there are viral videos of women playing poker to bring about a gender balance on online poker platforms where I see that there are not that many women.”
To conclude, she quips, “What I like about the game is that you can either choose for it to be a hobby or a time pass. You can also choose for it to be a profession. And that’s a huge opportunity shining through one game!”
A big shoutout to Shalini for inspiring so many women both on and off the felts! She’s ALL IN!!! And she nails it