In the start of 2014, if a poker wished to play a poker tournament in India, player the only options available to him were restricted to Goa. In a way, the poker tournament scene in India had become restricted to the floating casinos of Goa. Goa casinos had become the hub of the poker tournaments in India. They were the epicenter of all poker activity in the country making Goa the undisputed ‘Poker Capital‘ City of India. This was despite poker being declared as legal in Karnataka and many poker rooms cropping up in Bangalore.
Poker in Goa – The Current Situation
The last few months have seen the winds of change blowing and Bangalore emerging as a major city to play poker in India. Poker in Bangalore seems to be picking up not only because the poker rooms are upping the ante but also because the casinos in Goa have seen a poker tournament drought. It has been 4 months that an open poker tournament happened in Goa. While Golden Aces Poker League(GAPL) hosted their April Edition during a 4 day schedule in Pride Poker Room, Casino Pride; the DR Cup had its last open event at the Casino Deltin Royale in March. After that poker in Goa has only seen a downfall with tournaments getting cancelled and schedules getting scrapped. The Pride Poker Cup was announced and cancelled, the July schedule of GAPL was cancelled and the DR Cup chose to go from an open poker tournament to a loyalty based freeroll tournament. Thus there is little that the tournament regs can find in Goa besides the sun and sand now.
Poker in Bangalore – The Current Situation
In a historic verdict in October 2013, the Karnataka High Court declared that skill games like poker can be played in recreational clubs in the state. This led to a mushrooming of poker rooms in Bangalore which had an already thriving and intensive poker circuit. But it is just now that these poker rooms are intensifying their poker activities and cashing in on their legal stand in poker. It may be recalled that a poker tournament was organised by ‘The house of Spew-THOS’ pioneered by Rishab Chawla and Sangeeth Mohan in March 2014 in Hi-5 Poker Room. But it is with the announcement of the ‘Independence Weekend Tournament’ at Rockets Poker Room, Bangalore that a new league of poker tournaments that promise to take Bangalore to the poker centre stage has emerged.
While THOS also opened to a packed house, but it went into some controversies when Hi-5 Poker Room owners decided to disappear but the professionalism that Rockets Poker Room is showing in organizing their Independence Day tournament is setting a precedence. Following close, there have been some other smaller poker announcements from other poker rooms in Bangalore. Poker in Bangalore is getting a face lift with new poker rooms like Kings & Queens Poker Club organizing small weekly tournaments to keep the poker pace going. CardRack Poker Lounge also operates a weekly Bounty Tournament in their endeavor to spice up the poker scene in Bangalore.
We spoke to Rajeev Raut on whether he thinks there is a shift in the poker epicenter. “Goa is never gonna take a back seat but definitely is losing ground on popularity. Bangalore is the latest destination simply because of the number of clubs that have mushroomed recently. There is definitely more choice of games which starts at Micro levels compared to Goa. Also there are no high costs of entry and flights and stay as compared to Goa. Every small detail is very important in this shift of interest.Now the biggest comparison is the rake structure which Goa will never be able to match. This definitely effects every player for their longevity and survival in the battle against RAKE.”
Though it is agreed in the poker fraternity that when it comes to cash games, Goa still has the maximum footfall with the Deltin Royale poker room continuing to be the No 1 destination to play poker in Goa. But it seems for the poker tournament reg the scenario is changing. Bangalore is now being discussed in the same breath as Goa was a few months back. Rockets Poker Rooms along with Golden Aces Poker Room, Kings and Queens Poker Club and Card Rack Poker Lounge are holding poker tournaments and events which if sustained can shift the poker tournament focus to Bangalore for times to come.
Read more about the Legality of Poker in India here.