Poker in India – Through the History Pages
Poker is one of the most popular and arguably coolest card games in the world. Mostly depicted as a highly-strategic game played in smoky casinos, today, it’s much more than that.
The introduction of online poker and especially Texas Hold’em, its most popular variation, helped the game quickly go global.
One of the biggest countries that have experienced a significant surge in poker players is India. Let’s take a tour through the history pages and see how poker has shaped the Indian gambling industry over the past century.
Poker in 20th Century India
Poker has always been a touchy subject in India in terms of legality. The country has very outdated gambling laws, as the general governing gambling law in the country was passed back in 1867.
This was at a time when the country wasn’t even independent yet.
That said, gambling in India is mostly subject to individual state laws. Each state has enough freedom to set its own regulations.
This also means that only states in this country can formulate gambling laws for their respective jurisdictions, so no law can entirely apply to the entire country.
In some Indian states, gambling laws haven’t changed for more than a century. In Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, all forms of gambling, including poker, aren’t allowed. There are no live casinos or legal gambling sites.
In India’s recent poker history, states have slowly started to open up to the possibility of wide legalization.
However, these attempts are still slow, as many opponents of gambling criticize that the spread of the industry could lead to an increase in crime and money laundering. Currently, the only operating live casino India venues are those in Goa, Daman, and Sikkim.
Even though the legislative side of poker is troubling, this game is by no means taboo for the Indian community.
It’s believed that poker has been played in India for over a hundred years, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, possibly even earlier.
However, the game was mostly underground for the best part of the last hundred years. Even though many Indian people played poker, it never achieved mainstream status in the country until the 1990s.
Although poker laws in most Indian states make it unclear whether public gambling is allowed or permitted, there’s no such confusion when it comes to online poker platforms.
The law is clear when it comes to this: Indian online casinos and sites can’t offer any poker games. Only offshore gaming companies can provide such content.
This brings us to the next important chapter of India’s poker history.
The Popularization of Online Poker in India
Poker has seen a rapid rise in popularity at the turn of the current century. This is mainly because of the wide adoption of smartphones and computer devices.
Recent estimates show that there are around 430 million smartphone users in India. Of those, some 40% gamble online.
But, there’s one even more fascinating statistical piece of data. Some estimates show that around 80% of the adult population enjoys gambling of some sort.
Besides betting on football and cricket as the most prevalent forms, poker ranks very high in popularity among the Indian gambling population.
Since the introduction of online poker a few decades ago, this game has become so prevalent that it took a whole new form on its own.
With a population of over 1.3 billion people, many of whom are active computer and smartphone users, India has been one of the prime emerging markets in the past couple of years.
Many renowned poker platforms and online casino sites have opened up their sites to players from India.
Nowadays, the Indian poker industry maintains a very steady climb, growing at a rate of over 30 percent per year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend received an even more significant boost, with millions of Indian poker players joining the action in 2019 and 2020.
Most Notable Indian Poker Players
As the country that gave us one of the most strategic games in the history of civilization, chess, India is highly receptive to many other strategic games. Poker falls into this category.
There have been hundreds of noteworthy Indian poker players throughout the years, but several stand out as the most successful ones. Let’s wrap this article by up looking at a couple of the best Indian poker players of all time.
Vivek Rajkumar is by far the top-earning Indian poker player of all time, with total winnings surpassing $8 million.
His most prominent money finish came when he landed 5th place at the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in London in 2019. For this achievement, he netted just over $3.6 million.
Besides this most significant live cash result, he also holds a World Poker Tour title, having won one back in 2008 at the WPT Borgata Poker Open in Atlanta.
In total, he has ten money finishes and three finals tables at the WPT. Although he hasn’t managed to win a WSOP bracelet, he has 14 money finishes in this competition as well.
In terms of titles and tournament wins alone, Nipun Java is the most successful Indian poker player ever.
Although his career poker winnings are far behind Rajkumar’s and stand at a little over $2.7 million, his achievements span much further than just pure money winnings.
Nipun Java is the only player from India to have won multiple WSOP bracelets, achieving this in 2014 and 2017.
The biggest live prize he’s ever won is $270,000, which he got for finishing in second place in the $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha event at the 2015 WSOP. He’s also won the 2017 WSOP Tag Team Event.
At WSOP competitions alone, he has over 40 money finishes. In total, Nipun Java has over 200 money finishes in poker, making him the most prolific Indian poker player of all time.
His success at the felt has also brought him the 2018 GPI National Player of the Year award.
If you enjoyed this article and have some ideas of building a poker career of your own, it’s good to know a bit about proper live game etiquette. So, check out this article on slow rolling in poker and why it’s usually a bad idea.