Poker Sports League signs broadcast deal with DSport

Amit Burman and Adda52 owned Poker Sports League (PSL) has signed an agreement with Discovery Networks India, which gives the later exclusive rights to air the second edition of the league on their flagship sports channel DSport.

The tournament will be covered in English in the first year. It is understood PSL’s choice of broadcast partner was made after careful evaluation involving multiple bids.

Commenting on the development, Amit Burman, co-founder of PSL told Economic Times, “PSL’s biggest challenge has been to overcome preconceived notions & change people’s perception with regards to Poker. Hence, our positioning has been clear from the very start & this will further get established by getting the league broadcasted on a sports channel. DSPORT’s wide coverage of international sporting properties made it the natural choice.”

Padma Vibhushan awardee and chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who was recently appointed PSL’s brand ambassador reacted to the development and said, “Poker as a sport has ample potential & it’s about time that we Indians realize it and give the sport, the kind of attention that it deserves. PSL joining hands with DSport sure looks like a step in the right direction.”

TS Panesar, head of DSport business said, “Poker is broadcast on sports channels across the globe since 1978. In India, this will be a first & considering that PSL is the world’s first franchise based poker league, we are excited to partner with them. The PSL team is committed to creating an excellent broadcast friendly show – to reach out to sport lovers across the subcontinent & make this an exceptional experience for them. We are elated to associate ourselves in this first of its kind journey.”

While the qualifiers and tryouts for selecting the players for the twelve competing teams of PSL is ongoing, the finale is scheduled to be held in May this year and will have a total prize pool of Rs. 3.60 crores.

Last year, Raj Kundra and International Federation promoted Match IPL hosted a poker league last year that was broadcast on MTV and had total prize money of Rs. 2.50 crores.


Pokeryaar joins Microgaming Poker Network, operated by Lucknow-based Club Empire Tech Pvt. Ltd., has joined the Microgaming-led India Poker Network, as per a company announcement.

Available through download, instant play and mobile, is live with Omaha, Hold’em and Five-Card poker variants, alongside MPN’s Fish Party, the industry’s only progressive jackpot SNGs. The poker site offers players a range of integrated payment gateways, as well as a localised user interface specifically designed for Indian players.

Aman Shahpuri, Commercial Director at Club Empire, comments: Poker Yaar will completely revolutionise the skilled gaming sector in India. With state of the art technology and a customised product for the Indian market, we aim to take poker mainstream and give an entertainment platform to our target audience. We want to be the number one online poker platform in India and working with Microgaming and their world-class poker product puts us in the best possible position to achieve this.”

Commenting on the development, Jean Luc Ferriere, Director of Network Games at Microgaming, said, “It is fantastic to welcome yet another dynamic, young brand to our Indian Poker Network. We’ve made significant progress with the network, particularly in product and operations through 2017, and 2018 only promises even bigger and better things. We are extremely positive about the prospects of this important segment, and now is a great time to get involved.”

Poker Yaar is the fourth poker operator to go live on the Microgaming’s Indian Poker Network. Essel Group-linked Pokernation and Mercury Poker as well as Sugal and Damani Group-linked Khelplay are the other three websites that are part of Microgaming’s India network. 

Microgaming operates the India Poker Network through their Kolkata-based software company Corundum Software Pvt. Ltd.  Last year, Club Empire Tech had obtained a license from the Nagaland government to operate online skill games.

Legal & Regulatory Poker

KN Suresh files division bench appeal against Gujarat HC order on poker

Exclusive Three weeks after a single judge bench of the Gujarat High Court passed an order stating poker is a game of chance, with betting being an important element in the game, it is understood that one of the petitioners in the matter, Kizhakke Naduvath Suresh, Secretary of the Bengaluru-based Indian Poker Association (IPA) has filed a Letters Patent Appeal in the Gujarat High Court, challenging Justice Rajesh H. Shukla’s order dated 4th December, 2017.

Suresh filed his appeal in the High Court registry on 26th December, 2017 and the matter has been officially lodged by the court and is pending vetting, approval and removal of objections (if any) by the registry before it can be listed before a two-judge bench for hearing.

Confirming the development about the filing of a Letters Patent Appeal, Suresh said, “The order of the single judge bench is totally absurd and cannot be sustained. By the logic of the single judge bench’s order no game or sport can be played for stakes. We are confident that we will succeed in our appeal and hope that truth will prevail.”

Apart from Suresh, there were eleven other parties against whom the single judge bench of the High Court had passed the order. While none of the other clubs have filed an appeal yet, it is understood that a few other clubs are in the process of filing their appeals and may file the same in the second week of January, once the court reopens after the winter vacation.

The appeal is likely to come up for hearing before a division bench of the High Court after the third week of January 2018, as courts will be on a winter vacation from 29th December, 2017-7th January, 2018.


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Viswanathan Anand endorses PSL, compares poker to chess

In an important announcement that will give an impetus to the mind sport of poker, chess grandmaster and Padma Vibhushan awardee, Viswanathan Anand has signed up as a brand ambassador of the Amit Burman and Adda52 promoted Poker Sports League (PSL).

It is understood that Anand will be promoting PSL and the game of poker as a mind sport and will encourage players to join the league.

“I have been following poker for a few years now. It is a game of skill and that’s perhaps why chess players take to poker naturally. It’s got me intrigued”, Anand told the Times of India.

“What I have observed though is that poker and chess have some similarities in thinking process and being a chess player may actually influence your poker playing style,” he added.

Commenting on the development, PSL co-founder and Dabur Group promoter Amit Burman said, “Chess and poker are frequently compared as both games are based on strategic thinking and decision making. Both games also involve reading the other player at the table.”

PSL will have 12 city based teams competing with one another in Season 2 for a total prize money of Rs. 3.60 crores. The finale of season 2 of PSL will be held in the second half of 2018 as per an announcement made by the organisers.

Legal & Regulatory Poker

Analysis and implications of the Gujarat HC order on poker and skill games played for stakes [Read copy of the judgment]

Exclusive A single-judge  bench of the Gujarat High Court comprising of Justice Rajesh H. Shukla, in an 85-page judgment dated 4th December, 2017, in Dominance Games Pvt. Ltd. & Others v. State of Gujarat, has ruled that poker is a game of chance and amounts to gambling under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by poker clubs seeking non-interference from the police and other government authorities and seeking peaceful conduct of the game of poker. The petition also sought to challenge a letter dated 15th March, 2017 issued by the office of the police commissioner of Ahmedabad that said poker is a game of chance and falls within the definition of gambling, while rejecting an application by one of the clubs for a ‘no objection certificate’ to operate the poker room.

Justice Shukla in his order observed that ‘the submissions made by learned counsel contending that the poker should be held to be a game of skill, cannot be readily accepted nor it can be accepted that it would be outside the purview of the statutory provision of the Gambling Act‘.

He also noted that even games of skill played with stakes may be considered as gambling.

The following are the salient points covered in the detailed order of the Gujarat High Court:

Arguments of the petitioner clubs

Mihir Thakore, senior counsel appearing on behalf of the poker clubs contended that Section 13 of the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act exempts games of mere skill from the ambit of gambling. He noted that every game of skill has an element of chance and therefore a game having substantial and preponderant element of skill is exempt from the provisions of the Gambling Act. He placed reliance on the 1967 judgment of State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana that held rummy to be a game of skill, 1996 Supreme Court ruling of Dr. KR Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu ruling horse racing to be a game of skill (that also reiterated the 1967 judgment) and the RMD Chamarbaugawala decision that held that games of skill enjoy constitutional protection of free trade and commerce.

Thakore also contended that a poker player can alter the expected outcome of the game by reading other players and analysing the hand strength. Other arguments pertaining to provisions in the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act, Nagaland Online Skill Games Act were advance and certain foreign judgments were relied upon.

Other counsels also contended that the refusal of ‘No Objection Certificate’ by the police without going into the merits of the game of poker and hearing the petitioner clubs was arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of principles of natural justice.

Arguments advanced by the state government

The government pleader ML Shah noted that gambling was a social evil and cited various religious scriptures to highlight the stigma attached with gambling. She further elaborated the format of the game of poker and noted that betting or wagering was an essential component of the game and there was betting at every stage of the game, during turn of cards.

Reliance was also placed by the government on Britannica dictionary to indicate that the game of poker can hardly be played without betting or wagering. Previous decisions of the Supreme Court alluding to the ills of gambling and how innocent children and people lose hard earned money in noxious activities like video games was also alluded to by the state government.

Ruling of the court and reasons

Justice Shukla while noting the ills of gambling and impact of gambling on the moral fibre of society noted that while certain countries like USA, UK and Australia had regulated sports betting, ‘one must not overlook the ground realities in India or the country like India, where the majority of the population is struggling for the basic necessity and there is lack of awareness amongst the people and if they are permitted by betting in the craze of easy money, they do not know what to do if the things go wrong.’

On the point of the right of petitioners to free trade and commerce and the denial of the right to organise poker games without the authority of law, the court noted:

The submission made by learned advocate, Shri Syed that the petitioners are having fundamental rights, which cannot be denied without any authority of law and it has to be shown that the game of poker is a gambling covered under the definition of Gambling Act, is misconceived. The authority has to implement the law and it is for the petitioners to establish that it is not a gambling and till the finding is given that the poker is not a game of chance or gambling, the authorities are within their right to implement the Gambling Act in exercise of statutory duty. It is again required to be stated that the petitioners have not conveniently challenged the validity of the Gambling Act and are only joining an issue with regard to the order/communication by the authority contending that it is a game of skill and, therefore, the authority should not prohibit without any justification.

The court also observed that the game of poker originated from flush or Indian teenpatti which has been held to be a game of chance and consequently, as a corollary, the game of poker also should be held to be a game of chance.

The court also stated that the game of poker depends on the game of circumstances of the player and the amount of money he can spend on the game.  It said that a person with good luck and/or money may have more temptation or inducement to play game even if he has average card. On the other hand, a person with consecutive upbringing with lesser amount of money would be slow while betting. Thus it will depend how deep pocket one is having on that day and/or flow of money.

The court even went as far to say that inducing players to bet  and lose their money through bluffing involves deception and could even constitute an offence of cheating or fraud under the Indian Penal Code.

Ultimately, the court also noted that the game of poker is different from rummy insofar as betting or wagering is not essential to the game of rummy while it is an important aspect in the game of poker.

Importantly, the court held that any game, even if it involves skill but is played with stakes would fall within the ambit of gambling.

Implications and analysis

The judgment of the Gujarat High Court is a setback for skill games and especially for poker and would have implications on both online and offline games of skill. While poker is clearly classified as gambling and cannot be played from the state of Gujarat (online or offline), the observation that any game of skill played for stakes can be considered gambling means that real-money rummy (both online and offline) and fantasy sports could also be interpreted to be within the ambit of gambling in the state of Gujarat.

The judgment however has several flaws and seems to have been based on moral, religious and social arguments rather than settling the legal principle of whether exemption of games of skill from the statute would mean that no part of the gambling statute would apply.

The court has also disregarded academic studies, legal and statutory precedents of other states and jurisdictions as well as statistical data. The matter is sure to be appealed before a division bench of the Gujarat High Court on several grounds and there is a strong case for getting the order overruled.

Note: A copy of the order can be accessed here.

Legal & Regulatory Poker

Breaking news: Gujarat HC dismisses poker clubs’ petition, rules poker to be a game of chance [Updated]

Justice Rajesh H. Shukla of the Gujarat High Court dismissed the special civil petition filed by KN Suresh of  Indian Poker Association, Dominance Games Pvt. Ltd., AAA Gaming Pvt. Ltd. and other poker clubs that sought recognition of poker as a game of skill and direction to the police to refrain from interfering in the peaceful conduct of the game of poker in their clubs.

Justice Shukla rejected the petitions filed by the poker clubs in an order pronounced today. The matter pertaining to whether poker is a game of skill and consequently whether it can be played for stakes was argued at length from July to September this year after which Justice Shukla had reserved the matter for final orders and listed it on 23rd November.

The matter was listed on board twice, on 23rd November and on 30th November, but a final order was not pronounced on those two dates. Ultimately, Justice Shukla pronounced the final verdict in court today.

Justice Shukla in his order clearly and categorically ruled that poker does not involve a substantial element of skill and falls within the ambit of gambling under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887. He further said that the letter of the Ahmedabad police commissioner’s office dated 15th March, 2017 is not illegal, arbitrary or against principles of natural justice as the police have merely interpreted the statutory provision under the Gambling Act.

The petitioner clubs have indicated that they would be filing an appeal against this adverse order of Justice Shukla before a division bench of the Gujarat High Court very soon.

The decision of the Gujarat High Court is seen to be a major setback not just for the poker clubs who approached the High Court but also for the online poker and skill games industry in India, as the adverse order of the Gujarat High Court comes just weeks after the Telangana legislature passed a Bill to ban online gambling and skill games played for stakes.

Note: This story has been updated after receiving the order of the Gujarat High Court. 


Mumbai All Stars wins Raj Kundra’s Match IPL, receives Rs. 1.25 crore prize money

Raj Kundra’s Viaan Industries and International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP) promoted Match Indian Poker League (Match IPL) concluded their inaugural season with actor Harman Baweja’s Mumbai All Stars team winning the two-day event held in Mumbai on 17th and 18th November.

The Mumbai All Stars team will now get an opportunity to represent India in the Match Poker World at Oxford, England next month. 

Seven teams representing different cities from across the country spent two intense days competed in four sessions for prize money totaling Rs. 2.5 crores. Match IPL had earlier announced that eight teams would be participating in the league, but the Pune Knights team was terminated from the league for alleged ‘breach of contract’. Consequent to the removal of Pune Knights, the total prize money was reduced from Rs. 3.36 crores to Rs. 2.5 crores.

Poker player Aditya ‘Bitti’ Agarwal’s Jaipur Jewels team finished in the second place and received a prize money of seventy five lakh rupees while Yatin Gupta’s Ahmedabad Hearts finished third and took home fifty lakh rupees.

Agarwal also received the ‘Player of the League’ award, winning a prize of one lakh rupees and also getting a chance to participate in the Match Poker World Cup. The highlights of the league will be broadcast on television channel MTV on 30th November and 1st December.

After the event, a party was organised by Match IPL at the Theory restaurant in South Mumbai. The after-party was attended by celebrities such as Shamita Shetty, Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Harman Baweja, Kunal Kohli, Anita Hassanandani Reddy and others.

Gaming Poker

KamaGames to launch new social poker app in India

Ireland headquartered social gaming company KamaGames has announced that it will partner with  leading Chinese social gaming company Yoozoo games to make a new social poker game for the Indian market, based on its popular Pokerist game.

“Together with Yoozoo Games, we are looking to offer a fully localised gaming experience that will perfectly cater for the Indian player, whilst also leveraging Pokerist’s huge global active player base”, said Kama Games chief marketing and commercial officer Daniel Kashti in a statement.

KamaGames has around one million new users a month accessing its diverse portfolio of social casino games and over 90 million users in total around the world.

Commenting on the development, Yoozoo Games India CEO Anuj Tandon said, “It has been our firm belief that any sustainable mobile gaming business that is built in India will need to bet on in-app purchase monetisation as a strategy, ad-based monetisation is not scalable and is a short-term view on India.

Social casino as a genre has shown that Indians, if given the right content, do spend money and it will certainly be one of our focus genres, but that will not be the only genre we will be focusing on – there are some midcore titles that are going to launch soon too.”

In March this year it was reported that Yoozoo Games had set up operations in India and would be setting up a unit of developers in Pune.  It was also reported that Yoozoo Games would be investing around US$10 million to start various localised games in India such as cricket, social casino, shooting and strategy games etc.


President of India to honour poker pro Muskan Sethi

In a first, President Ram Nath Kovind is set to honour professional poker player and animal rights activist Muskan Sethi with the ‘Women’s Achievers Award’ next month.

The recognition comes at the initiative of Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, whose ministry decided to honour 100 women achievers in India from various walks of life.  The date and venue of the award ceremony is yet to be announced.

“We have been felicitating unusual groupings of women for the last two years and have honoured 100 women achievers from across the country. This time, we thought it fitting to bring together women who have been the first to make a career in male-dominated professions on a common platform and laud their achievement,”  Gandhi told Hindustan Times while confirming the news.

“I was officially contacted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development of our country in July. They informed me that I was selected to receive this honor and I still can’t believe it. It’s hard to express how I feel, my journey so far is flashing before my eyes, feeling blessed and really looking forward” said Sethi in a statement to online news portal Pokerguru.

The other awardees that are set to be felicitated include Ira Singhal, the first differently abled woman to top the civil services; Punita Arora, the first woman to become lieutenant general; Priya Jhingan, the first cadet to join Indian Army; Radhika Menon, the first female merchant navy captain and Harshini Kanhekar, the first woman firefighter.

Sethi being felicitated with this prestigious award is the first instance where poker is being recognised as a profession by the central government and is likely to help the growth of the game in the country.