Meet the 62-year-old who quit journalism to become a professional poker player
Requirement: more than just a poker face
Most people tend to steer clear of risky business post-retirement — the last thing you want when you have no steady income is a string of failed ventures. But Bengaluru-based Radhika Mahalingaiah’s gamble paid off. At 62, she is living a life straight out of Casino Royale. She is a professional poker player.
The former journalist who opted for voluntary retirement operates under the alias Betazoid within the online poker community. Star Trek nerds will simplify a betazoid for you: human-like individuals — super talented with a superlative sense of telepathy.
Mahalingiah is all those things in human form, but is aware of her weaknesses too. “I am a three-year-old poker noob. A little fish among the sharks,” she says.
For decades, the only constant in her ever-changing life has been travelling across continents to participate in Scrabble tournaments and finding stories (as a journalist for Deccan Herald and other publications).
One such tournament in 2016 planted the seed of professional poker in her mind. Her Scrabble friends taught her poker and she discovered a new passion.
“One of them started an online poker-playing portal called 9Stacks, and convinced me to join. That’s how I started playing poker, professionally. I am the oldest member in my poker group now,” she says.
The poker noob is all in
While the professional poker player loves taking risks, she confesses that she had a tough time keeping up with the “bluffs” initially. “I hate to lie. I just fold when I know I have a bad hand. I haven’t learnt to lie with a straight face yet. Perhaps, that’s what is standing between me and really big wins,” she says.
The ex-scribe plays every night and thrice a week on mornings too, viewing it as a workout for her old, wrinkly brain.
But she issues a warning in public interest: “I encourage people to play poker professionally. But first, know your financial limits. Greed and lack of discipline is the difference between a professional poker player and a shoddy gambler.”
Poker also has its share of corporate shortcomings. The community is majorly testosterone-led and the men can be patronising. “Every once in a while, men will make sweeping statements like they are better than us. But that’s a man problem across fields,” she laughs.
Interestingly, Mahalingaiah has become the de facto agony aunt of the online poker community.
“What more can one ask for at 60 than being surrounded by so many young people?,” she says. “They respect me and some have even read my stories. They’ll often message me and discuss their life problems,” she says.
Her poker income is helping fulfil another lifelong dream — Mahalingaiah has already travelled to over 25 nations, and she can’t wait to head to Europe once again.
“The best part about being a professional poker player is that I can keep earning even when I’m travelling. Betazoid can be online from anywhere, for a royal flush.”
WATCH NOW: Everything you’ve ever wanted to ask a gynaecologist