HISTORY OF POKER IN INDIA
India has been a country where the games were always played for entertainment by one and all - we have references of the same repeated in history of India going back till the days of the Mahabharata. Card games were ever popular in the 20th century and teen patti and rummy stole the limelight during home games and during diwali all over the country.
Interest levels in the game of poker in India started picking up after poker was broadcast on Indian televisions. It was in the latter half of 2004 that Indian audiences were first exposed to the World Poker Tour courtesy of Discovery's Travel & Living channel. Another factor which increased player numbers can be attributed to returning Indians who brought back the game with them after a study/job stint abroad. Though such players got the game back to India way back in the early 90s, it was only after friendly games could be played by people online (mainly facebook) that the masses started to learn the game from 2008 onwards. The internet is proving to be an effective catalyst in bringing together poker enthusiasts locally as well as from all over the country.
The only major international tournament which was held in India was the Asia Poker Classic held in 2007.
The popularity of the game is still fairly scattered at the moment due to the legalities in question, despite the fact that there are plenty of underground poker games which are taking place all across the country. While there are many poker groups in various metros that organize tournaments and cash, even the smaller towns have shown marked interest levels in the games. Besides home games and tourneys organized by poker groups, the only place right now one can experience poker action is at the casinos in Goa. While land-based casino gaming is strictly electronic, there are 'floating' casinos which are moored on the Mandovi river which provide the live gaming experience to players. These casinos somewhat mirror the riverboat style of casinos prevalent in Mississippi and other places in the United States. Poker was first offered on one of these floating casinos in mid-2009. Slowly but surely it has begun to grow with more and more players coming from within and outside the state to get their kick out of this game.
We would soon get you an interview of the key people involved at the 2 said floating casinos of Goa who were the pioneers to get the game on their live tables.
Few Tournaments have also started to be held at these casinos of Goa, which is adding to the popularity of the skill based game.
The game's popularity in India is growing day by. Texas Hold 'em as a game appeals to the Indian gambler as well as the savvy Indian card player who knows there is much more skill to this game than what is presumed. After conquering the Americas and Europe and more recently Asia (till now in Macau), poker is all set to take on the biggest destination - India because India has a huge population and also has traditionally been a country where people love to keep themselves entertained during evenings and weekends and holidays.
There are prominently three poker tournaments held in India as the status stands in 2010, namely, IPRT, IPC and IPS. Bharat Agarwalla (of IPS or INDIA POKER SERIES) from Kolkata learnt how to play poker in the early 90s when his close friend returned from the USA and taught him the game. There were barely a handful of players on Kolkata in those days who knew how to play poker so it was difficult for them to play the game. It was teen-patti (Flush) which was more popular amongst the Indian crowd.
The void was filled up only in late 2008 when facebook became popular in India and people started to play online poker on facebook. In Kolkata, the players were mainly online players and still had not much exposure to the live game.
In April 2009, Bharat Agarwalla organised a friendly tournament in Kolkata which got a fair bit of response (37 participants). Players were keen that he holds an event every month but he wished to make it more systematic. He held friendly tournaments every 2-3 months in Kolkata (including one which had over 100 participants) and at the same time the game also gained popularity amongst the youth. As the game requires sharp skill of judgement and calculation, the younger lot found it extremely entertaining. It is indeed one of the most popular indoor sport in the USA and now also in India.
In July 2009, he thought of organising an event on a National level sometime later in the year closer to the end of December 2009. Creating an all-India database became the first hurdle. He started his work on it the target date of December 2009, which was missed because the logistics were not working out as he had aimed to hold the tourneys in Nepal but the airfares to Nepal were extremely high and also access was not easy from all places in India. He then booked himself for a research trip to Goa for December 2009 to have a look at the Casinos in Goa where he had heard a few poker tables had come up few months back. As the travel could not materialise in December because of certain teething problems with the travel dates, he then rescheduled his dates and then in mid-January 2010, he went to Goa and visited Casino Pride and Casino Royale. The game was semi popular there but very few tables were there at both casinos. He did his survey and research and came with a view to wait till the infrastructure improves and more tables (atleast 10) were there at any venue (Casino). In March 2010,
Phil Sanders who has been connected to casinos for over 2 decades came and met him in Kolkata with a proposal that Bharat Agarwalla hold his intended tournament in Casino Royale Goa in APril 2010. Within a week of that India Poker Series was formed and it went ahead and announced India Poker Series' first event which was Chapter 1 to be held in Casino Royal Goa from 23rd to 25th of April 2010. Three weeks was all that Bharat had to "market" his event with promos. He swung into action and he was also to make people from all across the country aware of the event. A lot of support came from Phil Sanders and also the Sales team of Casino Royale Goa as also the expert Tournament Director Craig Wildman (also Poker Room manager at Royale). The event went of successfully and since then there has been no looking back. India Poker Series has been holding poker tournaments in India regularly every alternate month plus a couple of additional events each year since then and is one of the pioneers of the industry.