Visiting poker rooms and casinos in different cities in India ought to be on your to-do-list this monsoon season, says Pooja Bhula.
This beach state can easily be called India’s casino capital with three off-shore, live casinos housed in yachts, and several onshore. The newest, fourfloored Deltin Royale–sprawled over 40,000 sq. ft. with 26 games, 123 tables, 850 gaming positions, 24x7 operations, luxurious services and suites, exotic live acts, drinks and world-cuisine–is currently Goa’s most happening casino. Besides Texas Hold’em Poker, its poker room also offers Cobra, Pot-Limit Omaha and Open-Face Chinese Poker. Its Taash Room hosts Teen Patti and Rummy. Deltin’s Jaqk is smaller with fewer games, tables and positions, but provides good service. While Deltin’s casinos with their modern, classy appeal are more popular among players of western games, the Pride Group’s Casino Pride, which provides most of the games that Royale does, is more flashy and attracts high rollers of Teen Patti. It hosts big poker tournaments too. Think 30,000 sq. ft., three floors, 40 tables, 24x7 operations, a multi-cuisine restaurant with unlimited buffet, separate 10, 000-square-foot weather deck and Bollywood-style live acts. By law, onshore casinos can only have electronic games; Pride owns: Casino Palms, Casino Pearl and Casino Paradise (possibly its best). Then there are independent ones like Chances Casino, Crown Casino and many more.
We love Sikkim for its natural beauty and beautiful people. But for gambling enthusiasts, there’s one more reason to visit–Gangtok’s Casino Mahjong, an onshore casino that is part of the palatial Mayfair Spa Resort and Casino. At 7000 sq. ft., it’s not as big as the ones in Goa, but it is open 24x7 with 15 live gaming tables offering Black Jack, Roulette, Marriage, Flush, Mini Flush, Baccarat and Kitty. There’s also a VVIP gaming room, slot machines, a separate poker room and friendly staff. Other hotels’ guests can also visit; the `3,000 entry fee includes: taxes, a food and beverage voucher and 2,000 worth of playing chips. Prerequisites: age–18 or above, formal attire and identification proof.
If Goa is the casino capital of India, then Bangalore is the poker room capital–with plenty of them having mushroomed since the Karnataka High Court ruled in favour of Suresh Nathuvad of the Indian Poker Association (IPA), differentiating poker from gambling, by terming it a game of skill. IPA’s poker room in YMIA Club is open to members and their guests. Separate membership to the poker room is also available; tourists can enter with references. The Golden Aces Poker Room came up around the same time as IPA’s in 2011; it currently has six tables over two levels of a three-storeyed building, 15 CCTV cameras, food, beverages and some board games. Only members and their guests are allowed. Golden Aces also holds quarterly tournaments at Casino Pride in Goa, with amazing prizes are in cash and kind. There’s also Royal Flush in Chamrajpet, Andyz Fish & Chips in Indiranagar, Card Rack at Jayanagar and many more. One of the newest poker rooms, Rockets in Sehadripuram, has one floor fully functional with six tables. By mid August it plans to start a VIP poker room on the second floor and a recreation space on the third floor with a TV, food and beverages as well as foot spa services. It aims at being the biggest and most luxurious in Bangalore. A token fee for membership helps keep tabs on the quality of crowd, but tourists can contact them in advance for entry. It also hosts small weekly tournaments.
The West Bengal Prize Competition and Gambling Act, 1957, which prohibits almost all forms of gambling and betting, exempts ‘skillbased’ card games such as Poker, Bridge, Rummy and Nap. But while Bangalore, where Poker was legalised only in 2011, has plenty poker rooms, Kolkata has only one that is well known–Amator Poker Room. Open from 12pm to 9pm, it has five tables; players can walk in, hire tables and play amongst themselves. Food and beverages are served complimentary. IPA plans to start a poker room in Kolkata in a few months.
With inputs from Suresh Nathuvad, Rajeev Raut, Deepak Chawla, Ankur Dewani and Sherap Lepcha