PokerStars India has signed professional poker player Sharad Rao as an official Twitch ambassador, the first dedicated streamer signed by the site.
The 25-year-old Rao has been playing poker for six years, taking up the game after dropping out of college in India.
Rao Known for Online Winnings, Streaming Challenges
Rao is the third Indian player to be signed as a brand ambassador for PokerStars, following Aditya Agarwal and Muskan Sethi. On Twitter, he announced that he would be streaming live on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings on the PokerStars India Twitch channel.
The Hendon Mob only lists a little under $20,000 in live winnings for Rao, including a small cash at the 2017 World Series of Poker.
But his online exploits have been far more impressive. He is credited with more than INR 30 million ($433,000) in online earnings, and earned a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship last November by beating a field of 408 players in the Diwali Rush freeroll.
I have been playing poker professionally for three years now and making a career in this domain was a conscious decision,” Rao said in a statement. “Looking at the changing dynamics of the poker industry, I sense that live streaming is the next big thing. Through PokerStars.in, I get access to Twitch and a large audience, which will help me share my poker playing skills to all those wanting to learn.”
Even before signing with PokerStars, Rao had built an audience for himself in India. Earlier this year, he streamed the entirety of a bankroll challenge in which he started with INR 2,000 ($29) and ran it up to INR 10,000 ($145) across various online poker rooms, doing so in just over 12,000 hands.
Analytical Approach Breeds Success
In an interview with the Pune Mirror, Rao expanded on his poker background. While his parents were initially stunned by his decision to drop out of college to play poker, he said, it has now paid dividends, as he has been able to pay off both his own school loans and those of his younger brother. He credits an analytical approach honed by coaching from European pros with his success.
At the highest level, poker is about seeking information and conveying narratives through betting and other aspects,” Rao told the newspaper. “These narratives are verified through mathematical models, which kind of create a guideline of how you play. Your narratives of play either adhere to or deviate from the guidelines.”
Online poker has been growing exponentially as of late, with major online tournaments becoming more common every year. Yet the game still faces legal challenges in the country, which means not everyone looks highly on professional poker players. But that’s something Rao says he’s not worried about what the public at large thinks of his work.
“There is a lot of social stigma attached to a lot of things in India,” he told the Mirror. “Girls are not supposed to play cricket, says society, but it you are passionate about something, just f—ing do it, no matter who is judging you.”