Poker continues to be a niche sport in the country although the number of players has been steadily growing especially over the past 5 years. As with the United States and the rest of the world, interest levels in the game here in India started picking up after poker was broadcast on Indian televisions.
It was in the latter half of 2004 that Indian audiences were first exposed to the World Poker Tour courtesy of Discovery's Travel & Living channel. Satellite broadcasts and cable television made its way into Indian homes in 1990. Never before in 14 years since C&S broadcasts began in the country had there been any kind of programming exclusively focused on card playing. Rather ironic for a nation where card playing and gambling goes back centuries! Another factor which increased player numbers can be attributed to returning Indians who brought back the game with them after a study/job stint abroad. A good indicator of growing popularity of the game can be gauged by examining the effect of this game during the Diwali season. This extremely popular religious festival signals the beginning of the New Year for the Hindu community. Diwali has always been celebrated in great style across the country no matter what your religious affiliations might be and card playing or Teen Patti nights are an integral part of the celebrations. Over the past couple of years, there has been a tremendous upswing in the number of tables which are being dedicated to poker at these Diwali parties.
The only major international tournament which was held in India was the Asia Poker Classic held in 2007. The organizers had guaranteed a USर1 million prize-pool for this event. This tournament couldn't really be classified as 'Indian' primarily because the tournament's main targets were the foreign players from Europe and Asia. Less than 10% of the playing field comprised of players from India. The thing that Indian poker fans will take most heart from is the fact that an Indian player (from Mumbai) finished in 3rd position taking home just under र100,000 outlasting over 140 players.
The 'scene' is fairly scattered at the moment due to the legalities in question. Despite that there are plenty of underground poker games which are taking place all across the country. While there are many poker groups in various metros that organize tournaments and cash, even the smaller towns have shown marked interest levels in the games. A good indicator of all this is the burgeoning number of poker groups that have an online presence on networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Orkut. The internet is proving to be an effective catalyst in bringing together poker enthusiasts locally as well as from all over the country.
Besides home games and tourneys organized by poker groups, the only place right now one can experience poker action is at the casinos in Goa. While land-based casino gaming is strictly electronic, there are 'floating' casinos which are moored on the Mandovi river which provide the live gaming experience to players. These casinos somewhat mirror the riverboat style of casinos prevalent in Mississippi and other places in the United States. Poker was first offered on one of these casinos in mid-2009. Slowly but surely it has begun to grow with more and more players coming from within and outside the state to get their fix of this game.
The game's popularity in India is growing day by. Holdem as a game appeals to the Indian gambler as well as the savvy Indian card player who knows there is much more skill to this game than the traditional teen patti played in a lot of homes and clubs. After conquering the Americas and Europe and more recently Asia, poker is all set to take on the final frontier – India.