'Licensed' Mumbai poker club NWOS raided by crime branch, 25 arrested

NWOS, a poker club operated in the Santacruz area of Mumbai was raided by the Crime Branch of the Mumbai police on Friday evening (13th October). It is understood that the crime branch officials were acting on prior information that they had received about illegal activities being conducted by the club.

Around 25 players who were present in the club were arrested and around Rs. 2.90 lakhs of cash was seized from the premises. The players and operator of the club were charged for running a ‘common gaming house’ and being found in a common gaming house under Sections 4 and 5 of the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act. The arrested persons were released on bail by the Santacruz police station on Saturday morning after a First Information Report (FIR) was filed by the police.

NWOS sources claimed that the raid  by the crime branch was a pre-planned conspiracy to tarnish the reputation of the club and that there was no illegal activities being conducted in the club. The sources added that NWOS would be fighting the case legally and that they were waiting to hear from their lawyers on the action that could be taken.

The New World of Sports  Limited (NWOS) Club promoted by Pune-based businessman Allen Bansode had started operations in the upmarket Linking Road area of Santacruz in June 2016. The club at the time had claimed that it had all licenses and permissions in place to operate the card-room in place and was open for membership to patrons.  The club had at that time however, not disclosed the licenses that it taken nor made it clear if it was authorised to offer real-money poker.


Feature: GPL CEO Alex Dreyfus talks about the league's foray into India, growth of poker and e-sports

Alexandre ‘Alex’ Dreyfus is the CEO of  Malta-based Mediarex Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which operates the Global Poker League (GPL) and poker ranking database, Global Poker Index. Dreyfus has been involved in many poker-related ventures in Europe in the past two decades.

In August this year, Dreyfus announced that GPL would be having an India edition in 2018, which would include six city based teams competing against one another. The winning team would get a chance to compete in the  finale of the global edition of the league that is held in Las Vegas.

In this interview, Dreyfus discusses the prospects of GPL India, his plans to foray into e-sports leagues, and more.

Q. You are an entrepreneur having significant expertise in the poker, gaming and e-sports industry. Before dealing specifically with GPL India, can you tell us more about how the Global Poker League came into existence, the reasons behind starting it and also some insights on the first season of GPL?

Alex Dreyfus (AD): I have been lucky to work in the internet space since 1995 thru several ventures over my career and I jumped into the gaming space in 2004, with few online poker rooms that I successfully launched and sold (Winamax & Chilipoker). Since 2012, I started to build a new adventure under the name of Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, which aims to aggregate globally the audience of poker fans and help promoting poker players. We acquired the Global Poker Index and TheHendonMob to become the largest authority in term of rankings and database, which we became. Eventually, we realized that we needed a much bigger platform to help the game to be seen differently, rankings are great but not enough. We raised some venture capital from China and we started to launch the Global Poker League, GPL.

GPL aims to focus on promoting players and the game. Think about Formula 1: GPL is a racetrack, on which cars (GPL Teams) and drivers (GPL Players) will race all year long.  By doing a closed-circuit format, you ensure that players are exposed to fans and media.

Our goal is to ensure that this content, with players and teams competing, is seen in traditional media in India, and all over the world. That’s how we see, we can potentially – on the long term – impact this market.

About GPL Season 1, we had the best poker players in the world (Fedor Holz, Olivier Busquet, etc.) competing for 9 months. We produced more than 400 hours of live content and 180 Matches. People don’t realize the amount of work it represents. It was actually a mistake, because while we wanted the League to have the best format ever, it becomes boring and dry and we lost a hype after 5 weeks. We gave away more than $300,000 in compensation to players, which was a great achievement.

Q. You made the announcement of the launch of an India edition of GPL around August this year.  You have also stated that six city based teams will compete in GPL India and the winner will get to participate in the Global League. Subsequently, you have also made some announcements on hiring poker pros like Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal, Muskan Sethi, Vikram Kumar and Abhishek Rathod to manage some of the teams. Can you share details of the structure of GPL, the managers of teams, the format of the game and the dates?

AD: GPL started to deploy its regional strategy, which will lead to a GPL World Championships with winners of all regional leagues & conferences. We chose India, not because of its current market sizer, but more about its potential in the next 5 years. We selected 6 cities, based on our understanding of the existing poker communities and marketing opportunities. We didn’t see the value to have much more than that, at first. We already announced indeed our 6 GPL Managers who will be in charge of promoting their Team, but also choosing players participating, scheduling the matches and much more to come.

We haven’t announced our dates, because it depends of the pending active conversations we initiated with media groups. I just spent a week in India to meet all the actors in that space and it was very productive. There is no doubt that GPL will be on TV, one way or another, from Season 1. Our uniqueness of our format, our long-term vision and our international appeal is very convincing for media groups.

One thing we also learnt from GPL Season 1, was that having too many players in teams dilute the fan engagement. So GPL India will likely have 3 ‘pro’ players and a couple of qualifiers, depends of the format we are working on.

The prize is irrelevant in our narrative and competition, and we haven’t made any announcement about that yet.

The format of GPL India will be a mix of past innovations and new innovations. For example, we are not planning, yet, to bring The Cube in India. I hope to do it in 2019.

Q. What I found interesting was that you announced the launch of GPL India when already there were already two other poker leagues in India, the Amit Burman/Adda52 promoted Poker Sports League (PSL) and Raj Kundra promoted Match Indian Poker League (Match IPL). Poker in India is still at a nascent stage and the game is still growing in India. Why did you choose to start GPL in India and not any other country?

AD: I respect initiatives that have been launched in India, it definitely help to promote the game, but I don’t think it is accurate to claim that they are Leagues. As per dictionaries, League are supposed to be played over a period for a championship. Till now, the Indian initiatives looks more like a Cup or a Tournament. I hope it will change over time. That’s why we believe that our format and our expertise bring a complete new vision in the Indian landscape. After one week of meetings here, I can definitely say that we don’t see any competition – for now.

As said earlier, India do have a potential if you think long-term. You see the poker aspect of the League, I see the entertainment and sports industry aspect of it. Our goal is to create a global sports property with regional roots, that why India is part of our plans. We already have GPL China, GPL North America, GPL Europe and soon Brazil. We already operate in 10 countries.

GPI, as an international authority, ranks 550,000 players in 97 countries and we work with 1,500 organizers all over the world. We want India to grow its poker market an we are keen to invest to make it happen. It reminds me the birth of Poker in France 15 years ago, and let’s be honest India as a very strong card game culture with Teen Patty and Rummy. Everything is there to make it work.

Q. Have you decided on the venue of GPL India and how would the league be broadcast? Can you give us more details?

AD: It is too early to disclose this, but we believe strongly that we will be TV and Digital distribution. Let’s be realistic about our game, this is not mainstream – at all. I think poker entertainment companies should focus in targeting first, where the natural audience is, on digital platforms where consumers can have access to the game of poker. Because GPL format doesn’t involve gambling at all or wagering, we don’t have to do an event in a casino in Goa and actually we don’t want to. First, because there is already a property that does that, no need to do the same, and secondly because it doesn’t fit our narrative of sports, skill game and esports. We are more looking into TV studios and landmarks venues. Our year one is gonna be a test anyway, we gonna do a tons of mistakes. It is a learning process for GPL and for India to embrace it.

 Q. How do you plan to monetise GPL India?  Are you in talks with advertisers and sponsors for each team as well as the event as a whole? Will you be tying up with any Indian or International poker website?

AD: GPL India, as GPL in the rest of the world is a long-term play and investment. First of all, we believe that only global leagues can survive, because of sharing global production cost, global brand recognition and legitimacy. We have our own vision about monetization, but it will takes time. It is the egg and the chicken, first you need to create the League to get traction for potential partners to support it.

There is no discussions to have right now for teams or event, till the schedule, the distribution and the model is set. I’ve been in the poker industry for 13 years and in the media/advertising since 22 years. People get naïve that it is easy to get sponsoring for poker-related property. Look at WSOP or WPT, the largest poker brands, and still – they don’t get sponsors, or barely.

While in India, I met with most of the executives of the poker community and we definitely want to embrace and connect with online poker room that is keen to support GPL. But first thing first, let’s prepare everything J

Q. You have stated that you do not wish to give out teams to franchisees and your company will own all the teams. Why did you decide not to opt for the franchisee model, which is the most common model used by sports league not just in India but also elsewhere?

AD: Because it is a failing model. I was with leading executive of the sports industry, in India last week. All of them, told me that only IPL – which is by far the biggest sport in India – is now profitable after more than a decade. Kabbadi is barely break even and most of others leagues are loosing money. How do you expect Poker, with a niche exposure, niche product and tainted with a gaming element to be profitable by selling franchises ? It is impossible.

And that will be an issue in India, with the models chose by others initiatives. None of the franchisees will be able to recoup money before few years. It is fun, at the beginning to put some pocket money when you can afford it, but eventually it will be about the sustainability of the business model. We made the choice of being a single-entity league, where our sports company owns all the IPs and Teams, because then we can focus on the marketing, the content, the product rather than convincing every year owners that it’s going to be ok, and they should pour money in. This vision has been validated globally by all the largest sports marketing companies, and in India all the CEO’s of media groups and sports companies I met agree with this vision; That’s why they are keen to support us. We have to be realistic. Period.

Q. You have also stated that your company will be focusing on e-sports as well apart from poker. Can you throw some more light on your plans of foraying into the e-sports business? Will you be hosting e-sports leagues on the lines of GPL?

AD: Originally, GPL meant Global Poker League, but we are now heading towards Global Player League and focus more on our acronym. The long-term play is to have GPL Poker, GPL Dota2, GPL Hearthstone or whatever game that make sense. GPL will become a global digital sports league, with city-based teams. Poker is our foundation and our DNA, but we are also realistic that it may not be enough to be successful. So we will experiment new things and see how it can connect with our audiences.

Q. Finally, one question on the legal and regulatory issues around poker and skill games. There have been questions raised on the legality of poker and other skill games played for stakes in India, there are cases going on in various courts, the Telangana government also banned wagering on all skill games. What is your stand on the skill versus chance debate as far as poker is concerned?

AD: Well, as the owner of the poker ranking authority, you can imagine that it is easy for me to defend how poker is a skill game. The top players are always the same ones, worldwide. But it depends which poker we are talking about? Holdem ? MTT vs Cash Game, etc … It is like any other sport. Ski is a sport, but has many variations (snowboard, cross-country, jumping, etc …). Poker is about regularity, and GPI rankings reward the performance over time, not the chance you may have on one hand.

Q. Secondly, do you think the legal and regulatory issues that poker is facing would impact the future of poker leagues as well?

AD: Of course. Like any other sport or esports, people watch and engage into Leagues if they have a chance to play themselves the same game. If this game is banned, somehow, in India, then obviously all leagues will stop to exist, not for legal reason, but for engagement reasons. GPI and GPL will help the India ecosystem, in anyway it can, to support the fact that poker is a skill game and should be developed and promoted like this.


Match IPL lies about poker pros participation, forced to apologise

The Raj Kundra promoted Match Indian Poker League (Match IPL) is in the news and again for all the wrong reasons. Match IPL, which is promoted by Kundra’s Viaan Industries and Switzerland-based International Federation of Poker (now rechristened as International Federation of Match Poker) had made an erroneous and misleading statement on online news website Pokerguru about the participation of professional poker players like Faraz Jaka, Mustapha Kanit, Luke Schwartz, Vicky Coren, Marsha Waggoner and Kinichi Nakata in its poker league.

Alexandre ‘Alex’ Dreyfus, CEO of Global Poker League (GPL) pointed out Match IPL’s false statement on Twitter yesterday  and said he had checked with at least two poker players, Faraz Jaka and Mustapha Kanit, who denied having any knowledge about Match IPL.

Jaka also took to Twitter to disavow any association with Match IPL.  Jaka added that he did not even have any knowledge about such a poker league happening in India.

Once Match IPL’s lies and misrepresentation had been publicly called out, it had no option but to issue an apology on Twitter. However, the league tried to justify the misrepresentation by saying that it was done by mistake by an unnamed junior person handling communications.  ‘The person who made this error has been pulled up. We are not about pro names we are about creating pro’s!’ added Match IPL’s tweet.

Pokerguru has also removed the statement about participation of the aforementioned poker players from its website.

The false representation made by Match IPL is however not surprising or shocking as this is not the first time that Kundra has misrepresented about celebrity endorsements. In September 2016, Kundra had made a false claim on his website that cricketer Shane Warne and Bollywood stars Shahid Kapoor and Minissha Lamba were endorsing his website. Warne also had to clarify on Twitter that he had no association with Kundra’s poker venture.

Interestingly, users of the Match IPL application have also expressed dissatisfaction about the opaque manner in which the selection of players is being conducted. One player, Akash Pritom Saikia rued about how despite playing 11,000 hands, coming on top in the App and paying the annual fees of one thousand rupees to Match IPL, there was no guarantee of his selection in the league.


The Spartan Poker organises ceremony in Sheraton Bengaluru to felicitate winning players

Online poker website The Spartan Poker hosted the first edition of India Poker Championship (IPC) Awards in a glitzy ceremony at the Sheraton Grand hotel in Bengaluru on 9th September.

The Spartan Poker felicitated 72 poker players across 6 different categories in the presence of eminent Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi and popular standup comic Naveen Richards.

The Awards were given based on the players’ winning participation in various tournaments; Emraan Hashmi and the Directors of The Spartan Poker from the poker industry also felicitated the winners in leading categories at the function.

Commenting on the reasons for hosting the event, Amin Rozani, Managing Director & co-founder of The Spartan Poker said, “Hosting the India Poker Championship Awards was truly an exciting experience for us. It feels great to see the poker industry together and under one roof. The idea behind the IPC awards was to felicitate the amazing talents and contribution of poker players. We hope to continue hosting the awards every year to shed light on it as a skill-developing and mind sharpening sport as well as to encourage all the poker players across the country to continue contributing to this industry.”

Expressing his views on the association, actor Emraan Hashmi said, “I am truly honored to be here at the first edition of the India Poker Championship Awards and among these talented poker players and this industry’s veterans like Amin Rozani, Peter Abraham, Rajeev Kanjani and Sameer Rattonsey. Recognizing the efforts and skills of these poker players, I feel The Spartan Poker created a great platform for these players across the nation.”


Match IPL postponed to 17th & 18th November 2017

In what may be termed by some as a setback for Viaan Industries and International Federation of Poker (IFP) promoted Match Indian Poker League (Match IPL), it has been announced that the poker league will not take place on 14th and 15th October 2017 as was planned earlier.

It is learnt that the Raj Kundra promoted league will not be hosted next month as the eight team owners, who met today in Mumbai, felt there was too little time to promote their respective franchisees and monetise revenues from the tournament. The two-day league is now scheduled to take place on 17th and 18th November at the Playboy Club in Mumbai.

It is also understood that the team owners resolved today to reserve one spot in every team for a female players in a bid to encourage greater participation of women in the game of poker.

“Thank you dear team owners appreciate your suggestions and involvement. Looking forward to a grand event in November”, Kundra said on Twitter  while announcing the change in dates.

The two-day league is scheduled to be broadcast on entertainment channel MTV and entails a total prize money of Rs. 3 crores.


Global Poker League announces the launch of India edition

Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Global Poker League (GPL), a free to enter global poker competition, has announced the launch of an India edition of the sporting league.

As per the press release issued by GPL, there will be six city-based teams competing against one another in the regional edition of the GPL. The winner of the India edition of the GPL will get a chance to play the World Championship of the GPL against other teams from USA, Canada, Europe and China in The Cube, Las Vegas.

The regional leagues “will help function as a promotional platform for poker as a sport throughout the country and help tie India into the game’s worldwide community both through its connections to GPL’s main global league as well as GPL China and other national leagues in the future” said Alex Dreyfus, founder of GPL.

The six Indian teams are Delhi Diehards, Mumbai Jetsetters, Bengaluru Hackers, Chennai Sharks, Kolkata Creators and Ahmedabad Alphas. Details about the dates of the regional tournament, team owners, players, format and structure etc. have not yet been announced by GPL.

After Amit Burman’s Poker Sports League (PSL) and Raj Kundra promoted Match Indian Poker League (Match IPL), this is the third major franchise-based poker league that is set to be organised in India.


Viaan Industries announces the launch of Match IPL, grand finale with Rs. 3 crore prize money on 15th October

Although there was some uncertainty earlier, Raj Kundra-promoted Viaan Industries has announced the launch of a new poker league, namely, the Match Indian Poker League (IPL) in a grand opening ceremony at ITC Maratha Hotel in Mumbai today.

Viaan Industries, which has launched the new poker league in collaboration with Switzerland-based International Federation of Poker (IFP), stated that eight city based teams would be competing against each other in Match Poker- a specially devised format of poker by IFP in an event to be organised on 14th and 15th October, 2017 in Mumbai.

The eight city based teams are Ahmedabad Hearts, Jaipur Jewels, Pune Knights, Kolkata Diamonds, Bangalore Royals, Goa Kings, Delhi Aces and Mumbai  All Stars. Some of the notable owners of the teams include actor Harman Baweja, poker player Aditya ‘Bitti’ Agarwal, poker club owner Shammi Karira, Sachiin Joshi, promoters of Radico Khaitan and Living Liquidz.

Match IPL on their website also announced that a total prize money of  Rs. 3 crores would be awarded to the winners of which, Rs. 1.5 crores would be awarded to the winning team, Rs. 1 crore would be awarded to the runners up and Rs. 50 lakhs would be awarded to the team that finishes third. IFP has also announced that the winning team would also be representing India in the poker league of nations organised by it.

Viaan Industries had earlier announced that the franchisees would be signing a 10-year agreement to purchase the teams and would be paying Rs. 50 lakhs as franchisee fees for the first year. Further details regarding the players who would be participating in the league and the structure of the league are still awaited.

Legal & Regulatory Poker

Mad over Poker, a new website scheduled to be launched this August

Mad over Poker is an Indian based online poker website which is set to launch on 3rd August and make its debut into the ever increasing market of online poker.

As the name suggests, Mad Over Poker is an online poker platform run by a group of experienced and passionate poker players from India. Their aim is to give the other poker enthusiasts their best playing experience trimmed from the best of the best online game plays with great search functions, convenient table selection, great tiling/cascading functions for multi-tabling, an always visible cashier and a layout with 3D table graphics.

MAD OVER POKER is the reaction to the industry trends in recent years of favouring a more recreational model, jaw-dropping promotional offers, mind-boggling actions & high stakes cash games.

Mad Over Poker aims to connect the players by providing an online platform that is user-friendly and simple to understand. It promises to give its players the best, secure, safe & unbiased experience while playing online multi-player poker games & tournaments. With its efficient software, it also aims to make the game play experience worthwhile for its players.

Mad Over Poker is to start with two formats of games with its huge line-up of cash tables and tournaments hitting this August and competing directly with all the other major poker sites in India. They also have tie-ups with multiple banks and payment gateways to process payment for the poker games. The website promises some exciting launch promotions and tournament, some exclusively for those who pre-register on their website.

Mad Over Poker will be hosting the biggest free entry tournament, Loot with the format of Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament on 03rd August at 9 PM. Brush up on your hold ’em strategies and polish your poker face, to grab a chance to win from a staggering prize pool of 5L GTD real money which is of course withdrawable! The tournament is open to everyone and is absolutely free for first 600 players! Thereafter, every registration would be charged as per determined buy-in of 850 INR. Also the format for this tournament is of Re-Entry type. A player can re-enter into the tournament maximum thrice.  If you wish you can register online ahead of time, and can be a part of the biggest free tournament in the Indian Poker history. Other action filled daily tourneys includes “Hysteria”, “Daily 20K Freeroll” & “Broadway Series”, which promises to make your jaws drop!

Choosing poker over other professions, one can see Amit Kanodia, CEO of MAD OVER POKER, wearing his passion on his sleeve. He believes that poker is the new face of online gaming and is soon to become a household game in near future. Speaking about the launch, Kanodia said, “We are a gaming portal company which believes in the highest conduct of business and sportsmanship & we aspire to make poker easy and accessible to everyone in India.”

Online poker in India has become very popular and Mad Over Poker is trying to make this a flawless gaming experience.

Business Poker

Has Raj Kundra abandoned another one of his business ventures? Future of Match Indian Poker League uncertain, no announcement on teams and dates

On 1st June, 2017, Raj Kundra-promoted Viaan Industries Ltd and Switzerland headquartered not-for-profit, the International Federation of Poker (IFP), announced the launch of a new poker league called the ‘Match Indian Poker League’ (MIPL).  The move was touted by IFP as a transformational step in the development of poker in India.

However, more than a month after the public announcement by Kundra and IFP President Patrick Nally; there has been stony silence on the structure of the league, the teams that would be participating, the venue of the event, prizes and other such details.

Although Kundra announced in June that he would be announcing the league structure and team owners in a few days and that the league would be held in September, no further details have been forthcoming.

One suspects that MIPL announced by Kundra is a non-starter from its conception. This suspicion is further strengthened by the fact that Kundra has a history of making false announcements or shutting down businesses soon after starting them.

In September 2016, Kundra started a stock exchange-based game,, which was closed in a few days after SEBI and law enforcement agencies raised question marks about its legality.

Later, Kundra also started a poker website,, which falsely claimed that it had endorsements from celebrities like Shane Warne, Harman Baweja, Shahid Kapoor, Minissha Lamba, Rohan Gavaskar and others.

Celebritygames was shut down soon after this misrepresentation came to light, although Kundra tried to defend the decision to wind up the business claiming that it was due to demonetisation.

Recently, an FIR has been filed against Kundra and his wife Shilpa Shetty for non-payment of dues to their vendors. The High Court has granted anticipatory bail to Kundra and Shetty, although legal proceedings against them have not been quashed.

Kundra is notoriously famous for being involved in the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal. In 2015, a Supreme Court appointed committee had found him guilty of betting on cricket matches and consequently a lifetime ban from participating in any kind of cricketing activity has been imposed on him.

Given these facts, one cannot help but ask whether MIPL is a non-starter and whether the newly announced poker league has any future?

Business Poker

NWOS starts first 'licensed' poker club in Mumbai

New World of Sports Club Limited (NWOS), a Pune-based company has started Mumbai’s first poker club in the upmarket Linking Road area of Santacruz. Promoted by Pune-based businessman Allen Bansode and co-founded by Clifford Bansode, Rishi Nagpal and Suraj Kusalkar , NWOS claims to have secured the necessary permissions and licenses from the police for running a licensed card room for the skill-game of poker in the city.

This is NWOS’ second poker club after the poker room that they set-up in Koregaon Park, Pune, last year. The 2000 plus square feet club in Mumbai, has over six poker tables. The club provides food and non-alcoholic beverages to its patrons and is a members’ only club that conducts daily games and tournaments for its patrons. The poker room is managed by Poker Stuff India CEO Chetan Jain.

According to Jain, who is in-charge of the operations of the poker room, the company has secured approval from the police and has obtained all other local licenses and permissions. He notes that anyone who wishes to play has to apply for membership first and be accepted by the club. Each membership application is thoroughly vetted and new members are normally accepted through referrals only.

Jain also states that NWOS is paying all statutory levies and taxes on the membership fee. He adds that it is completely legal and safe to play at the club.

NWOS, through its Kolktata-based affiliate company NWOS Gaming Pvt. Ltd. also plans to soon launch, an online poker website.

Note: The claims of NWOS having secured all requisite permissions and licenses to operate a poker club in Mumbai or Pune  cannot at this time, be independently verified by us. The club has as yet, not provided access to copies of the card room license, the licensing terms and conditions and other permissions that it has secured for operating a commercial poker room with stakes. 

Further details about the licenses secured by the club will be posted as and when they become available.