In the past couple of years, more and more Indian poker players have been heading out of the country to catch a taste of the regional poker action. Popular poker destinations within India continue to be toplined by Goa followed by Bangalore and other cities in the eastern part of the country such as Kolkata and Gangtok. As far as regional destinations are concerned, the Asian gaming hotspot of Macau sits squarely on top of the heap followed by Manila and Cebu in the Philippines.
While tournament events in India are usually a four day affair, in the Asian region tournament events typically between one to two weeks. Given that one needs to spend a fair period of time in the city, decent accommodation is a vital element in such poker trips. So here’s our pick of where you can catch some poker action as well as a quick list of Luxury, Intermediate and Economy stay options one can consider. In this first of a two-part series, we will focus on venues within India:-
Long considered to be the nerve-center of the Indian poker scene, Goa has lost a little bit of its sheen in recent times due to the indifferent attitude of poker rooms, postponement/cancellation of events and lack of incentives to attract players. That said, it is still top dog as far as an Indian poker destination is concerned simply because of the scale it operates at in the casino ships.
Royale Poker Room – Deltin Royale is the biggest vessel on the waters of the River Mandovi, so it’s no surprise that this newest ship on the river has the biggest poker room. Located on the second level of the ship, the Deltin Royale poker room has the capacity for 20 tables. However not all of these are in use, as typical action through the week happens on 3 to 5 tables. The smallest cash game at Deltin well is 100-200 with minimum buy-in of INR 10,000. Higher stakes are available as per player request. Presently the only tournament series that takes place in this poker room is their own Deltin Royale Cup although the last edition of this event took place back in March this year.
Pride Poker Room – Located on the main floor of Casino Pride, the Pride poker room has long been serving many a poker player coming to Goa for some action. With its top-notch service and genial staff the pride poker room is a favourite with many of the regulars in Goa. The smallest game offered here is similar to the one offered in the Deltin poker room. This poker room has posted many tournament events the most recent being Golden Aces Poker League.
Deltin JAQK – This poker room is also part of the Deltin group although it is operated by a different management. The poker room in this ship has been sporadically operational and over the last few months has been shut. However from 1st August, new management has taken over the operation of this room and it is expected that action will resume in this venue like in the old days. The relaunch bring with it promises of better services, games, loyalty programs and other comps towards player benefit.
Pride II Poker Room – a few months ago the Pride group of casinos purchased what used to be known as Casino Carnival. This vessel has now been rechristened as the Pride II. While the previous Casino did have a poker room, it is unclear if the current one will cater to poker or stick with only Indian games like teen patti, paplu and others.
The sunny state of Goa has long been a favourite tourist destination for domestic and international tourists. The introduction of casinos over a decade ago has added to the tourist demographic and lots more people are flocking to catch some sun, sand and waves in the day to the clinking of the slot machines and swish of cards at night in the casinos. While there are more land-based casinos scattered across the state, live gaming is only available on the 4 off-shore casinos located on the Mandovi River running through the capital city of Panjim. So if its poker and other gaming that interests you, Panjim is the ideal place to stay given its proximity to these venues.
Luxury – Goa Marriott Resort and Spa and Taj Vivanta
Intermediate – Salida del Sol, Hotel Fidalgo and Crown Hotel
Economy – Hotel Ginger, Hotel Palacio de Goa, Panjim Inn Hotel
Ever since the Karnataka High Court judgment in October 2013 declaring poker to be game of skill, poker rooms have been flourishing in the Garden City. While these poker rooms/clubs cater to all kinds of stakes, the regular game in most places ranges from 25-50 to 50-100 with minimum buy-ins starting from INR 2000 upwards.
IPA – Considered to the first poker room of Bangalore, the Indian Poker Association is spearheaded by legal eagle K Suresh. The fight to give poker some legitimacy as a sport has been long fought by Suresh and the Karnataka High Court judgement was passed in a petition filed by him.
IPA @ YMIA Club, Assayee Road, Near Body Craft, Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore – 560042.
Telephone – 99000 76537
Golden Aces – Run by brothers, Vikram and Deepak Chawla, Golden Aces opened its doors not long after the IPA. After solidifying their player base in the city, Golden Aces launched a Poker League called the GAPL which hosted events in Goa onboard Casino Pride. More information about the games offered can be found here.
Golden Aces, Old Airport Road, Domlur, Opp Petrol Bunk, Bangalore – 560071.
Telephone – 99000 55757
Rockets Poker Room – A relative newcomer to the Bangalore poker circuit, the Rockets poker room is operated by Rajeev Raut who was earlier associated with Goa’s Deltin Royale. Raut intends for this room to be the most opulent setup in Bangalore offering players an upscale recreational experience.
Rockets Poker Room, 159, 1st Main, Sheshadripuram, Above State Bank of India, Bangalore – 560020.
Telephone – 95900 95900 76537 / 90110 42000
The Poker Lounge – Ankit Bhartia is a well known quantity on the Goa poker circuit and in his hometown of Baglaore, he decided to convert his passion for poker into his business. The Poker Lounge is a smaller set up than the others with no more than 4 tables operational at any time.
Kareem Towers, 1st floor, next to CCD, Cunningham road, Bangalore – 560052.
Telephone – 80959 00104 / 99868 45631
Others – Besides these, there are other poker rooms like the Cardrack Lounge, Kings Queens, Royal Flush and Andy’s Fish n Chips. The latter was recently rebranded from its earlier Hi5 Poker Room avatar where there was a fair bit of controversy recently regarding refunds of player deposits during a THOS event. The former operators are absconding and Andy’s is under a new name and new management.
Bangalore is host to the headquarters and regional offices of major tech companies and other industries. As such there are a whole bunch of top-notch hotels which can cater to every need and budget. The city is both famous and infamous for its nightlife. Famous because if there was a title for pub-city of India, Bangalore would certainly be a top contender. The downside is that there are fairly early deadlines with nightspots closing down by 11:30pm on weeknights and stretched a bit longer over the weekends.
Luxury – Taj West End, Oberoi Bangalore and Vivanta by Taj
Intermediate – St. Mark’s Hotel, Chancery, The Elanza and Lemon Tree Premier
Economy – Hotel Ginger, Arte Boutique Hotel and Confident Propus
The east of the country has two hubs of poker namely Kolkata and Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. Kolkata has a relatively large number of players who were dependent on home games or traveling across the country to Goa for a game. But with the opening of the Amator Poker Room, operated by Vipin Chaumany players are able to get their action minus the travel.
Amator Poker Room, 11A, 2nd floor, Parma Building, East Topsia Road, Kolkata – 700046.
98119 65835 / 96740 00067 / 98309 44375 / 98308 95251
Luxury – Taj Bengal, Oberoi Grand and Hyatt Regency
Intermediate – New Kenilworth Hotel, Jameson Inn Shiraz and Hotel Park Premier
Economy – Tatvam Residency and Southern Plaza Hotel
PLAY & STAY
The north-east part of India is truly blessed with some of the most beautiful and mountainous green landscapes one has ever seen. But this beauty comes at a price at least for poker players as one of the bigger downsides of visiting picturesque Gangtok is the travel time in getting there. The typical route is to fly into Kolkata and then onto Bagdogra following by a 20 minute chopper ride (sporadic frequency) or a 4 hour drive by car. The latter option is not bad at all as it puts you as close as possible to hills and valleys of Sikkim.
Onto the poker, there are two main venues where you can catch some poker – the Casino Sikkim’s poker room at the Royal Plaza Hotel and the Mahjong poker room in the Mayfair Resort and Casino. Both venues have their fair share of mostly high roller action with punters from the North and East of the country coming in. Cash games are usually the norm here and you’d be hard pressed to find a tournament event in these parts.
It is usually best to stay in the same hotel where the poker room is located for the sheer convenience factor. The Mayfair in particular has a lovely property which surrounded by beautiful, natural surroundings and greenery.
Hotel Royal Plaza, Upper Syari, Deorali, Gangtok – 737102
Mayfair Spa Resort and Casino, Lower Samdur Block, Ranipool, Gangtok 737135