In an official statement made earlier this evening, Bengaluru entities Indian Poker Association (IPA) and Stars Poker Room have come together to form a strategic alliance to further the cause of poker in the Garden City. The first step taken by both parties is in regards to the operations of an existing IPA room in Ulsoor.
The IPA headed by well known poker player and legal eagle KN Suresh has been operating in Bengaluru for a long time now. Considered by many as the first, and at the time lone crusader for legalising live poker, Suresh is single-handedly responsible for the sport and by extension business connected to poker in the capital of Karnataka. It was back in October 2013 that the Bangalore High Court gave the historic verdict for poker games to be run in Bangalore. This verdict came on the back of the appeals made by Suresh against the police harassment of the patrons of his establishment despite having the necessary clearances in place. The HC’s ruling of poker being a skill game and thereby greenlighting it, opened the floodgates in the city. From a mere couple of rooms, the poker scene in Bengaluru virtually exploded overnight with all sorts of operators, big and small, opening up anything from one to 10-table setups. Not all of them were being run in a professional manner though with many cases of cheating and other squables coming into the news on and off.
“That’s really a big part of what we’re trying to do here. Suresh has a vision for the growth of the sport and really wants the local base of players to keep growing while at the same time providing them with the best poker experience possible. I support the vision and in my own way want to give back to the community which is why I chose to be a part of this,” said Abhishek Goindi, one of the top pros on the Indian circuit not too long ago. Goindi now works in sports management but the beautiful game is ever close to his heart. He is passionate about wanting to do his bit at the grass root level and has joined hands with Suresh in a consulting capacity to further the cause of poker in Bengaluru. “The idea behind this tie-up is that Stars will looks after the day-to-day activities and management of the co-branded room and leave Suresh free to pursue the legal side of things leading to opening up more markets and therefore players for the poker ecosystem,” said Goindi.
And that could turn out to be a tremendous boost for the game in India because Suresh has been quite dogged in his approach to getting a favourable legal atmosphere for poker to operate in. In recent weeks, he managed to get a favourable verdict for his poker operation in Kolkata, a room he is jointly operating with Aditya ‘Bitti’ Agarwal. That ruling may do the same thing for the City of Joy as it did for Bengaluru. “The IPS-Stars poker as it will be called will launch on 23 October and the focus continues to be squarely on the smaller market that Bangalore is currently. We have entities like the India Poker Championship operating in Goa which is the topline tournament for poker players across the country and we want to establish IPA-Stars as base for local players and a stepping stone to events like the IPC, Asian tournaments like MPC, APPT, APT and even beyond,” continued Goindi.
And speaking of Stars, the man behind it is by no means a stranger to the domestic poker landscape. A player for the last many years, Rajeev Raut turned operator with his stint at the Deltin Royale poker room followed by running his first setup in Bengaluru called the Rockets Poker room. Following his departure from Rockets, Raut joined hands with city businessman G Krishnaji to work on their new set-up in Indiranagar which is expected to open up sometime in November. “Presently we are tying up with IPA for managing only their Ulsoor Lake property but I am quite keen on opening up at least 4-5 poker rooms across the city. Bangalore is quite spread out and so if we could do one poker room per geographical zone, that would be the ideal scenario. I would be quite happy if we go on to partner with IPA in more rooms as we share the same vision,” commented Raut on the new partnership. They are keen to cater to the tournament loving crowd and in his Indiranagar Stars room, Raut has a 12 table setup which will look doing tournaments on a regular basis for buyins in the range of INR 3000-5000. “People want to play poker and we need to provide with a safe and comfortable experience. It can get dodgy here with a couple of rooms recently who opened up and not even properly licensed to do so. That creates a bit of a fear factor then when such places attract negative attention of the authorities. This is especially bad for those new players who get turned off when they hear about things like this” said Raut.
Raut’s thoughts are echoed by Goindi who says safety and comfort are two important things any poker player desires and if that were provided, there is no reason for the scene to not grow. “Let’s make a fair assumption that there are 300 players in Bangalore who are well aware of the local scene as well that in Goa, Sikkim and elsewhere. But there are easily at least a few thousand if not more who have no idea and that’s what we want to tap into,” said Goindi. “The idea is to provide a safe platform for people to come enjoy the game, cater to the smaller stakes players and in due course grow the numbers in Bangalore to a point where it becomes an attractive option to visit for even outstation players. Having been a full time player myself for a long time, I understand what a player is looking for so the idea is to give as much back to the players as possible. So we will do small weekly events and tournaments, provide training to locals who are keen on learning and/or improving their game. There is also a plan to host a tournament series to find and nurture homegrown talent so I am pretty excited about that. We intend to institute good loyalty programs and rakeback plans to help put back into the poker economy rather than many others who have sucked the life out of it,” expanded Goindi on their plans for the new room.
“Bottomline is we got to grow the player base!” is the mantra being chorused by both gentlemen who are expecting this new collaboration to provide new impetus to the burgeoning landscape of Bengaluru poker. It will be interesting to track their progress over the coming months and we will keep you updated on all of that and more right here on GutshotMagazine.com!