A long-form piece in Quartz India looked at how a dark and seductive poker obsession has possessed urban India—and the stakes are high.
Legally, cash poker games in India only exist in a few scattered places such as Goa, Sikkim, and Bengaluru. But everyone plays poker and, of late, it has arguably become an underground national obsession. This includes online poker which has six lakh registered Indian users on a single website, adda52.com. Scores of young people have given up lucrative careers to play full time. Yet, there are no regulations in place to ensure it is played responsibly.
The poker scene often operates in plush neighbourhoods in top cities in friendly sessions. But alongside these casual games, homes and farmhouses are often rented out for “raked games.” Here the house operates like a casino, taking a percentage of the pot (rake cap) in exchange for administrative hassles such as paying off cops and deciding who gets to play on credit. Since the operational stakes are so high, many believe poker’s illegality has made India home to some of the highest rake cap games in the world.