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Poker face!

Season 2 of the Poker Sports League, held in Goa, tried to shun poker’s image as a form of gambling and to promote the sport as a “game of skills”, finds Kunal Roy.

Kunal Roy |


Life’s a game, all you have to do is to know how to play it. There are many uncertainties that occur during a game played with certain rules. And with a game of skills like poker, the tables turn within a flash of cards.

Poker in India still remains stigmatised as “gambling” and perhaps removal of this stigma and promotion of poker and other card games as “game of skills” was the sole aim behind organising Poker Sports League at the Deltin Royale Casino in Goa.

Poker is permitted in casinos of Goa while Karnataka, West Bengal and Nagaland are the only states that have classified poker as “skill-based game”.

West Bengal excludes card games such as rummy, bridge and poker from the definition of gambling. However, online startups do offer a platform to poker lovers to stake their claims and portals like Adda52, Poker-Baazi and Spartan Poker are among the popular ones.

Poker league

Season 2 of Poker Sports League ~ claimed to be world’s only team-based poker league ~ with 11 franchise teams, competed for a prize pool of Rs 4.5 crore and saw its finale in Goa.

Poker Sports League is the brainchild of Amit Burman, vice-chairman of Dabur India; Anuj Gupta, founder,; and Pranav Bagai, CEO, PSL. It was established last year, with a mission to establish poker as a sport in the country.

It is India’s first professional poker league, which gives an opportunity to state-level teams and all poker lovers to become a part of the league and learn from the best poker players in India.

The league witnessed commitment from 11 teams and 20,000 player participation across India. To add credibility to the game, which is mis-conceptualised as gambling all over the country, the organisers roped in Indian Chess Master Vishwanathan Anand, who said, “The whole idea of my association with the league lies in the fact that I find poker no different from chess and through this alliance we are hopeful that we are able to give the sport the long due prominence and acceptance. The sport has been internationally acknowledged and recognised, and Poker Sports League is an attempt to furnish a platform for the immense poker talent we have in the country.”

Overall, the complete arrangements of the tournament reflected the attempts of the poker players to promote the game as a “game of skills”, and not gambling.

The thin line that separates the game of skills from gambling still appears translucent and if the lackadaisical approach of the stakeholders continue, the dishonour attached with card games in India will continue.

The restrictions which limit poker and other card games inside the boundaries of game of skills are yet to be decided and till then the players will have to continue with their Poker face!