Bengaluru, often called India’s Silicon Valley has now become the country’s preferred destination for playing poker. The state’s High Court decision in 2014 declared poker as a game of skill, making it legal and only the state of Goa provides any real competition to Bengaluru’s poker industry. The city has subsequently seen an upsurge of people playing in poker clubs which are rapidly spreading across Bengaluru.
Kings and Queens Poker Club, located in a trendy suburb of Koramangala is among the top poker clubs in the city said to be drawing over 2,000 players. Started by an IT professional Suresh Ganapathy in August 2014 with just one table, the poker club today hosts weekly tournament with a prize pool of around 2 to 3 lakh Indian rupees.
Ganapathy started playing poker in the United States while studying there and then played in casinos across the country. He decided to start a poker club in Bengaluru after he moved to India in 2014, the year poker was legalized, realizing that there was enormous potential and opportunity in the poker market. At that point in time there were just a couple of poker clubs in the city and the Kings and Queens Poker Club has gone on to establish itself as being one of the best in the city.
Poker clubs in Bengaluru need a court approval to start operations and government authorities retain the right to inspect the premises at any time. Ganapathy’s club started in a small way, offering training classes and tournaments with a prize of Rs. 1 lakh.
Due to the increase in demand, the club was forced to introduce a weekly tournament that captured the attention of poker players all over India who started to flock to Bengaluru to have a crack at these weekly poker tournaments. With an entry fee of Rs 3,000, around 100 people come into play at the club every week. A satellite qualification game is conducted where around 10 people pay Rs 300 compete. The winner gets Rs 3,000 and qualifies for the main tournament.
Poker in India is often confused with Teen Patti which is a game of chance, giving poker a negative reputation. According to Ganapathy, there are currently around 5,000 poker players in Bengaluru. He said that Indians, mostly IT professionals aged between 21 and 35, play poker on pokerstars.com, the biggest online poker website in the world. These players often switch between poker and rummy while playing.
Jai Prakash is a one of those poker player who lives in Chennai and travels to Bengaluru every week to just to get the chance to play live poker. According to him, Bengaluru is the best city to play poker as there is more aggression in the game, even more than Macau and Singapore where he has played as well. He also feels safer playing in the city given that it is legal here and there is no reason to hide from the authorities.