Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a bona fide cricketing legend. Still, only in his late thirties, Dhoni is easily one of the greatest players of the modern era, representing India in everything from single-day matches to Test cricket, as well as leading the national team to victory on numerous occasions.
From 2007 to 2016, Dhoni captained both the limited-overs team and India’s Test squad. He’s the only captain in the entire history of the sport to have won all the major international trophies, starting with the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, then the 2011 Cricket World Cup, before moving on to the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013.
He was ranked higher than soccer player Lionel Messi by Time magazine in their 2011 edition of the 100 most influential people in the world, and in 2015 he was ranked 23rd in the Forbes Rich List of the world’s highest-paid athletes.
Beloved by every cricket fan in the country and widely regarded throughout the international cricket industry, MS Dhoni brings star power to everything he does. So it’s incredibly fortunate for India’s burgeoning online gaming industry that he’s just become the new face of online poker for the nation.
Taking the mind sport to the next level in India
Recently, PokerStars, the global leader in online poker gaming, announced that MS Dhoni was officially on board as a brand ambassador for its Indian gaming platform. Securing the Captain of the Indian Cricket Team as the new spokesperson for its latest campaign is a massive coup for the gaming brand, which first launched in the country in 2018 and also has championship players Muskan Sethi and Aditya Agarwal in its pro team.
Since its 2018 launch, PokerStars.IN has been an associate sponsor for the ubiquitously popular Bigg Boss (which is currently in its 13th season), and even ran a number of themed freeroll competitions last winter, where the grand prize was an exclusive trip to see Bigg Boss live. Viewers of the Season 1 of the GPL (Global Poker League) India will also recognize the brand as one of the official sponsors of the competition, which was broadcast on Colors Infinity in 2019. Meanwhile, the platform’s 2020 INSCOOP Championship, which ran for two weeks in May, was the largest yet with a combined prize pool of over 8 crores and the 1 crore-guaranteed Main Event.
The country’s appetite for online poker is growing and the appointment of MS Dhoni as an ambassador is an exciting step. Dhoni has one of the largest social media followings of any celebrity in the world, let alone India. His endorsement of this emerging mind sport will no doubt take online poker in the country to the next level. As a spokesperson for the brand explained in an interview with PokerGuru: “we have been working on this partnership for some time…the signing of MS Dhoni brings something brand new to poker”.
The online gaming boom in India
Being a game of skill, strategy, and effective decision making, poker is primed to take over from Rummy and Ludo as a popular pastime in India, particularly as the country as a whole embraces the new wave of online gaming.
Since 2016, digital gaming in the country has been growing at a rapid pace and is set to bring in revenues equivalent to $3.7 billion by 2024. The industry encompasses console, PC, mobile – itself a massive sector with 150 million gamers, who downloaded around 5 and a half billion mobile gaming apps last year – and real money gaming, to which poker belongs, and there are currently over 628 million active online gamers in India.
To get an idea for the potential that online poker has as a lucrative sector in the gaming industry in the country, we only need to look at where it stands right now. At just a few years old, the online poker market is still very much in a developmental stage, but it currently boasts over 3 million active registered players. In March, usage figures shot up, with new player registrations increasing by 10%, while average player spending and revenue increased by 18% and 25% respectively. In fact, the market has been projected to grow at a rate of 35-40% by 2023, but if the performance of the past few months is anything to go by it’s likely to surpass that.
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