From parties to Vegas tournaments, Bollywood’s Minissha Lamba now has a poker career

In it to win it.
In it to win it.
Image: Reuters/Vladimir Konstantinov
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You probably know Minissha Lamba, the actor, but do you know Minissha Lamba, the poker player?

The 34-year-old made her Bollywood debut back in 2005. In 2018, she made her first foray outside the silver screen on two new mediums: television and theatre. Amid these varied acting gigs, she discovered her penchant for poker at a Diwali party eight years ago.

Since then, Lamba has made an appearance in some of the country’s renowned tournaments like Deltin Poker Tournament (DPT) in Goa and the India Poker Championship, where she was placed fourth in the 15K Weekend Kickoff Tournament in 2011.

In 2017, she played her first international tournament, participating in WPT500 Aria Poker Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a celebrity pro for Adda52, India’s largest online poker and card games site.

This year, she’s back there. When Lamba and I spoke on July 4, she was all charged up. “I just won a seat in the satellite tournament this morning!” she said on a call, shortly after the qualifying event was over.

Below are edited excerpts from Quartz’s conversation with Lamba.

Minissha Lamba.
Minissha Lamba.
Image: Adda52

How did you get into acting? And then poker?

I’ve stumbled upon everything in life. I used to model and do ads as a child. I stumbled upon acting when I did an ad with Shoojit Sircar and he offered me Yahaan (2005).

As for poker, I never used to play cards. But seven years ago, I learnt poker at a Diwali party and got hooked. About two years ago, I was signed by Adda52 and started playing tournaments.

So, is acting still the priority, or is it poker?

It doesn’t have to be either-or. I play poker between acting jobs. If I sign something binding, then that will become the priority.

How is tournament poker different from playing casually?

In tournament poker, everyone starts with the same number of chips. It’s an equaliser. Playing a cash game is like having an ATM whereas tournament poker is more like getting pocket money from your parents and if you run out, you’re done.

Also, once you’re wearing the team gear and playing, there’s more responsibility.

What skills do you need to play poker?

Everyone says you need to be good at math but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I’m an instinctive player.

And it’s not gambling. It is a sport. You train for it and then you have good days and bad days. It’s like trading or playing sports. It’s a mind game not because you have to be intelligent, but because you can be your own worst enemy on the bad days.

Do you have any role models in the poker world?

I have people I take advice from and mould them to my style of play but I don’t imitate them.

Is the community of poker players in India small? Is it growing?

The community is growing a lot. I’ve met lots of people and made lots of friends. It’s mostly still young people. And few women travel and play but hopefully, that will change. I’ve met people who lie to their parents and play and when they win, the parents support them. Like anything in life, if you’re successful, it becomes kosher.

I also try to post about it on Instagram and spread the word. Maybe people will look at it and think “if she can do it, maybe we can also try.”

Where do you like playing the most?

My favourite tournament is DPT because that’s where I started and have played the most. My second-favourite would have to be playing in Las Vegas.