New Delhi: What is the favourite card game of Indians on Diwali? As much as people like to deal in poker throughout the year, their love for gambling with “teen patti” - also called “flash” - in the festive season remains unmatched.
"During Diwali, it`s teen patti for me, otherwise it`s poker!" says Delhi-based photographer Avin Chhabra.
Many boys and girls, mostly above 18 years of age, are nearly addicted to poker thanks to social networking sites, especially Facebook, where games like Zynga Poker and Poker HoldEm Face are extremely popular.
Some even own poker sets, which they either bring from abroad or purchase from local shops for around Rs.2,000.
But Diwali is the time for teen patti parties, where everyone can participate, they say.
"For starters, poker is a very international game...something we`ve taken from the US and casinos. But teen patti or flash (as most people call it), is something we`ve grown up watching our parents and friends playing. It just feels more desi and during the festival, it`s a must," said 23-year-old Archit Anand.
Chhabra, who also prefers playing poker, says people enjoy teen patti because "it is easier to play".
"Teen patti is more fun because of variations (Lallan-Kallan, Muflus, AK47, AK56, Aflatoon, King little, etc) in the game and since it is simple, more people get involved. Poker is complex and not everyone knows how to play it," he added.
Diwali is also a time for homecoming for many, and families like to organise huge gatherings where everyone - whether 15 or 50 years of age - can enjoy something together. Teen patti is an easy option.
For Sunita Goel, a 49-year-old housewife, card parties are an annual affair at her place.
"My husband is very fond of playing cards and so am I. We have a huge friends` circle and every year we have a Diwali bash at our place. Our friends, their friends, our children`s friends, all join in and it`s great fun playing teen patti," said Goel.
In teen patti, each player gets three cards to play with, whereas the technique in poker is different.
While playing poker, each player gets two cards in hand first, after which in each round, a set of cards is opened. In all, there are seven cards to play with, out of which the player has to choose the best five.
A seasoned poker player, on condition of anonymity, said, "Poker is a game of face reading more than gambling... which is why youth these days are crazy for poker. It involves skills."
Once the mood is set for cards, people don`t even bother to get up for crackers or dinner. But hosts often organise elaborate parties with either barbecues or a huge spread of food, along with drinks.
But Goel says mostly people enjoy light snacks and drinks.
"People don`t want to get up to have dinner once they sit. They want regular snacks and drinks served to them at the table so they can play non-stop. Also because if you get up to eat a proper meal, it does take an hour or so, plus you lose the momentum and the feel of it," she said.
Losing the momentum is something that most avid players don`t like because often a huge amount of money is at stake.
While some play for as little as Rs.5-10, college students don`t mind splurging Rs.50-100 per move. But a day or two before Diwali, the stakes can even go up to Rs.500-1,000.
However, in high society parties, people hardly care about spending anything between Rs.5,000 and Rs.25,000 per move.
The card fever also seems to be catching up with Bollywood star Aamir Khan, who said, "Diwali approaches and so does my annual card playing day. Wish me luck."