Online poker has become increasingly popular in India as dozens of online poker operators continue to attract players from different parts of the country. While some players turn to poker solely for recreation, the game can also become a great source of income for those trying to make a living out of competing in real-money tournaments.
Real Life Example
Kunal Patni decided to leave his high-paying finance job in 2014 to pursue a full-time poker career. He had to travel outside the country to participate in his first poker tournament. He attended the Asian Championship of Poker in Macau shortly after quitting his job and enjoyed the experience of playing with top poker players.
The former bank employee scooped €96,000 (roughly Rs 75 lakh) at the 2019 World Poker Tour India. He is now being considered as one of the best poker players in the country. Given the fact that he started when poker wasn’t very popular, he is happy to see how fast the game of poker has captured the interest of the younger generation and the confidence they are showing in quitting their full time jobs and playing poker for a living.
India’s Top Online Poker Sites
One main reasons for the sudden popularity of poker in India is due to the increase in online poker websites. The Indian market has witnessed a number of international and domestic poker operators launch services in India. Top online poker rooms like Adda 52, Spartan Poker and PokerStars currently account for more than 70 percent of player traffic, as they mostly host high-value tournaments.
Apart from these top sites, there are dozens of other online poker rooms operating in the country offering real money poker games. Almost 5,000,000 players have signed up to these games, according to gaming industry experts. Looking at the numbers, it’s safe to say that the online poker market is booming in India, but will the country as a whole be legally prepared to embrace the sport?
Legal Issues  
Up to this day, the legal status of real money card games including poker and rummy remain in limbo in India. The Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that rummy is a game of skill and can therefore be legally played in clubs, but the ruling lacks clarity when it comes to the use of stake money. This resulted in various high courts all over India giving different interpretations of the law, leading to conflicting verdicts. Indian states also implement their own gambling laws, adding to the legal ambiguity surrounding these games.
Several states are currently taking a tough stance against card games, such as the states of Assam and Odisha which have implemented a ban on all card games that involve money. Telengana also prohibits stake rummy games, while Andhra Pradesh has promised to change its laws to ban online rummy. The courts in Gujarat and Delhi are presently hearing lawsuits on the matter. Its only Nagaland and Sikkim, which are two of the smaller states in the country that offer legalized online poker.
Poker Is A Game of Skill
Citing the 1967 Supreme Court ruling, online poker operators insist they’re operating in accordance with the law, but this does not make them immune to legal repercussions especially if the respective state government decides to interfere.
Online poker executives have been calling on numerous state governments to hear them out and give them a fair chance to prove that poker is a game of skill. According to Ankur Dewani, the Chief Executive of PokerStars India, poker is mostly a mind sport, driven by the numerical capabilities of players. The same view is shared by Delta Corp Chairman Jaydev Mody who said there’s more skill involved in the game of poker than luck.
Online poker platforms normally charge  3 to 5 percent commission on the winning pot or deduct commission from individual deposits. This is how they make their money. However, they also need to invest in top-notch technology to ensure game security and integrity of their online poker software. A number of poker operators including have also decided to invest in responsible gambling measures that include setting time and money limits.
Online poker operators in India are fully aware that their operations can be halted in the event of unfavorable court rulings, but they seem to be unfazed by this prospect. They continue to increase the guaranteed prize money in their major tournaments which attract the attention of the state government. Within the next 12 to 18 months, the stance taken by different state governments on online poker games will become a lot more clear!

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