How Popular is Poker in India?

How Popular is Poker in India?
Highlights

India is known for many things Bollywood movies, a booming textiles industry, taste sensation cuisine, andpoker While the land of vibrant celebration wears many hats for the qualitiesit is known the world over for, expertise in poker is not one that would automatically make the list

India is known for many things: Bollywood movies, a booming textiles industry, taste sensation cuisine, and…poker? While the land of vibrant celebration wears many hats for the qualities it is known the world over for, expertise in poker is not one that would automatically make the list. But, it’s surprising just how interested in the game of strategy, skill and a little bit of luck the nation of India actually is. But when did poker begin in India, do some of the peculiar gaming laws impede the market capitalization and what does the future hold for India and its newly-cultivated love of poker? Is poker the next big industry that India will be taking by storm?

The History of Poker in India

Poker has been played in India since the days of the British Raj, with other games such as gin and bridge also being popular and a mainstay from the period. Indeed, even games from America were adopted into the culture of playing cards. Indian poker variant Teenpatti gained interest in 2006 and Indian digital companies were eager to take the game to the next level by capitalizing on the swathes of online games available to play. Now, we see that India is the fastest growing online gaming market in the world, with those reticent to play the game increasingly acknowledging the skill it takes to play poker. The size of the online poker industry in India is anticipated to be between $110 and $120 million, with 1000 professional poker players. While poker may not be as traditional in India as elsewhere, it hasn’t stopped the boom from simmering away in the Delhi heat. There are a reported 50,000 people playing online poker in India at present, despite some of the difficulties in various regions with playing the game. But how do these peculiar laws effect poker players?

The Peculiarities of Playing Poker

Not everywhere in India is as in favor of poker as its neighbor. The main difficulty for players is whether or not poker is considered a game of skill, which would be permitted to play freely. Some states oppose the game, while others permit it if only for the fact that there are no clear rules prohibiting it. Gujarat, for example, is still awaiting a high court classification on poker being a game of skill. Southerly neighbor Goa allows poker to be played – indeed 90% of the poker hands exchanged and legal gambling in India is done in Goa and Sikkim. While Karnataka has given the all-clear, it’s easterly neighbor, Kerala, however, is still awaiting a high court decision. Northern states of Assam, Odisha, and Nagaland permit the game due to the skill involved and are proponents of playing poker. To their south, West Bengal permits poker, along with other card games, yet requires a license for playing in public. Yet, despite such stringent rules on whether or not the game can be played, the industry is on the rise in India. Online poker offers opportunities for those who are less allowed to play the game to see what it is about, while rules on poker are less enforced and as the country sees how profitable the industry can be, they will no doubt continue to be relaxed.

India’s Top Poker Players

In the middle of January 2019, eight top poker players from India were chosen to participate in a tournament in the Bahamas and each received an investment to participate. The investment shows that the game is considered a viable past time in the country and one that India could be known for on the world’s stage. The goal was to popularize the game, and the players each won a $25,000 entry ticket. Of the 1039 players entering the tournament, 250 were eliminated on the first day. The starting stack of the game was 60,000 and one of the Indian players was able to hold onto his. While all eight players busted out of the game before the final, another Indian-origin player was able to last until Day Three of the event when only 38 players remained. Arguably the best Indian poker player is Nipun Java, who has racked up $394,601 of online poker playing winnings and $1,977,177 in live winnings. Playing his games in a hoody and signature sunglasses, Raghav Bansal is another of India’s top poker players, ranking 245th in the Global Poker Index. Aditya Agarwal has made headlines in the USA by cashing out at several WSOP (World Series of Poker) events.

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