When I realized that Cardplayer Lifestyle hadn’t done a new installment of our ongoing Get to Know the Poker Media series in a good few months, my immediate thought was “I think it’s time to approach Anuj!” A relative newcomer to the poker media scene, Anuj Arora has quickly made his mark with loads of excellent work produced for the Fuse Media group of publications.

In an era when increasing numbers of people are taking interest in the corporate side of the online poker business, Anuj’s work has become nothing short of indispensable. His thorough research pays off in excellent articles that have chronicled the ups and downs of some of our industry’s most important companies.

But what do any of us know of Anuj beyond the bylines?

I am so glad to be sharing this interview with you all, so that we can take a few minutes to properly recognize and appreciate not only Anuj’s work, but also to learn more about him, how his career in the poker industry got started, and what fuels his passion for poker.

Anuj Arora
Anuj Arora

How did you first get into the game of poker?

I discovered poker during my school days back around 2009. At that time, there was this Zynga Poker craze going on and I’d often get game requests from my friends and cousins on Facebook. So I finally gave it a try and I absolutely fell in love with it.

Around that same period, I also stumbled across poker on TV when one of the sports channels here used to broadcast the World Series of Poker. I didn’t know back then how big the event was, but I was fascinated with all the coverage, the commentary and interviews, how much money one could win, and the fun and excitement.

That led me to venture into real money sites and eventually I made my first deposit. Since then I have been playing poker recreationally.

To the best of my knowledge, your entry into the poker industry was about two years ago and you’ve exclusively worked with Fuse media (Pokerfuse, F5poker, Poker Industry Pro). How did you first become employed by them?

Yes, that is correct. I joined Fuse Media in April 2018 as a freelancer, and later that year I began working there full-time.

Before joining them, I used to be quite active on 2+2 and Twitter, I’d often partake in forums, giving suggestions and feedback to operators – many of which were liked and implemented by them.

I also used to write about the upcoming new PokerStars’ games and features (thanks to my snooping skills, haha) well ahead of their deployment.

Also, around that time, PokerStars had obtained a license to operate in India and were very close to launching in the Indian market but with a segregated player pool (prior to the official launch, players in India had access to the dot-com player pool).

I was keenly following the PS.IN launch, plus I had a little background knowledge of the Indian online poker market.

On April 6, 2018, Nick Jones, our Managing Editor, reached out to me and asked me if I’d be interested in writing for Poker Industry PRO/pokerfuse, and here I am. J

What does your day-to-day work schedule look like?

Working from home allows me to have a very flexible schedule, but at the same time, I often end up mismanaging my time. This is something I really need to work on, as often I’ll be working until late at nights because I take a lot of frequent breaks during my work hours.

My typical working day starts a bit late – around 12 PM IST which is early morning in most of Europe. Usually, Mondays are busy days as it involves a lot of catching up from the weekend, and most of the press releases go out on this day.

Your degree is in Marketing from Calcutta University. What sort of career did you originally envision yourself having?

Honestly, I wasn’t very clear with what I was going to do after graduating. Sure, I did opt for marketing, but I always wanted to have a career in an industry that I was passionate about.

Poker was one of my passions, and I’m really glad to be working in this industry and very grateful to Nick Jones and pokerfuse team for getting me into this field.

What sort of job(s) – if any – did you have before getting into poker?

I did not have a job yet before getting into poker as I was still in my school and college days. Though there was a time where I was in a dilemma about whether I should pursue further studies or get a part-time job.

Working in the poker media is my first job and I’m very happy with it.

Tell us a bit about your personal life; where you live, family, etc.

I was born in Kolkata, India. I’m currently single, living with my parents, and the only child. I had an elder brother who passed away 14 years ago.

I have pretty much lived my whole life in Kolkata, a city with a population of 4.5 million. Think I may be one of the very few people from my city or even my country that actually works in the poker media industry.

How often do you play poker? Online only or perhaps in home games and the occasional visit to a live poker room? Cash or tourneys?

I don’t play as much as I used to play during my school and college days. I’d grind on for hours playing sit & gos and tournaments, but those days are long gone.

These days, I only play once in a while like when there is a big tournament series going on.

You may find it surprising, but I have never played poker in a proper live poker room or a casino. We don’t have too many casinos in the country. We do have a few live poker rooms in most cities in India, but I’m not sure about their legality, so I avoid them.

I prefer playing tournaments, and I am a big fan of mixed games. No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw is my favorite poker variant, but I also like playing other lowball variants such as Badugi, Razz, and 2-7 Triple Draw.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about people who work in poker media?

I think the biggest misconception, at least in my country where poker is still in infancy, is that people associate poker media with just live reporting.

The greater worldwide poker audience likely doesn’t know too much about poker in India, aside from perhaps some ambassadors like Muskan Sethi, Aditya Agarwal, and Nipun Java. Tell us a little bit about the country’s poker scene; both online and in the live realm.

India’s poker landscape especially the online market has grown rapidly over the past few years. A lot of people are starting to know about poker, which a few years back was unheard of.

If you take a look at India’s online poker cash game traffic (available on the Poker Industry PRO platform), it has quadrupled in the past 12 months or so.

online poker traffic India
Online poker traffic in India | courtesy: pokerindustrypro.com

However, India’s live poker scene hasn’t replicated that success because of restrictive gaming laws. Goa is among the few states in India that allow live gambling in casinos.

Around 2010-2012, live poker did show signs of growth with back to back record player turnouts. But all that changed following a crackdown by the tax authorities on live tournament organizers and the implementation of 30% TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) on poker tournament prize winnings, which made them less appealing and ultimately led to their downfall and the rise of Indian online poker rooms.

Some of these Indian poker rooms have even started doing TV campaigns. PokerStars, which has its own segregated room in India, signed up one of India’s biggest Cricketing star, MS Dhoni to promote poker in the country.

So yeah, I think online poker will continue to grow in India unless there is some interference from the politicians or state governments.

What other hobbies do you have? Tell us about them.

Besides poker, I like to spend my free time watching TV series, videos on YouTube mostly on the topics of science and technology, travel and vlogs, that kind of stuff.

I also love gaming, though I don’t get to play as much as I used to. I also like watching cricket like most Indians, haha.

These last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic have been incredibly unique. Can you tell us in what ways (if at all) your work has been different or more interesting for you since March as opposed to pre-pandemic?

So, we have always been working from our homes, so that aspect of our work did not change a bit.

Since we mostly cover news that relates to the online poker industry, this year (especially the last three months) has been one of the busiest periods.

Obviously, with the live poker industry getting affected and people staying at home, online poker got the most attention. Operators and live organizers started moving their live tours online, private home games surged, and global cash game traffic nearly doubled within a matter of weeks causing a mini-boom.

We did an estimation of all the tournament series that were paid out between March and May and per our calculations, over $800 million was paid out during that period. I don’t think there has been any year in the history of online poker that paid out that much in tournament prizes.

And it’s not over. July is the month that we don’t see much activity from online poker rooms, but with no WSOP taking place this summer, operators are keen on running online series as a replacement.

We just heard the big news about GGPoker running WSOP online bracelet events on its online poker platform, which will be the first of its kind for international players. Partypoker will also be running a big series with the WPT, and PokerStars have also got something up their sleeves for the months of July and August.

So yeah, over the last three months we’ve had plenty of interesting news to write about. It’s a period that otherwise would have been much less exciting had it been any other year.

What are some things you haven’t yet done/accomplished in poker that are on your bucket list?

Like I said earlier, I haven’t played poker in a casino or a poker room yet. So yeah, this is something I’d like to accomplish. But to be honest, I’m not really keen to play in a live poker room any time soon given the ongoing circumstances, haha.

 Alright, the stage is yours – go ahead and let loose about something you just HAVE to get off your chest.

I think I’d use this opportunity to highlight the importance of responsible gambling.

I think most operators do good job with creating awareness of responsible gambling, but I think it would be great if it was possible to create a system that would detect “tilt” play and enforce a cooldown by temporarily suspending them from playing poker or any other gambling activity on their site.

I have personally seen many players start playing destructive poker especially in cash games when they are running badly, repeatedly going all-in after receiving a bad beat, some even moving to the highest stakes and spending their entire bankroll to chase their losses.

I understand this could be hard to design or implement, but if done properly, I think it would do a lot of good for everybody.

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