“Horse racing was brought in by the British and has been legal ever since, but poker, which can easily be proven as a game of skill with mathematical equations, is still not legalised,” laments professional poker player Raghav Bansal.

His woes aren’t unfounded, but India is, indeed, slowly opening up to the card game often associated with gambling. Calcutta High Court, in October 2019, even reiterated its earlier stance that poker is a game of skill. That it’s not plain ol’ gambling.

But the real validation for the game in India could be coming from beyond the walls of courthouses. From universities. Today, one can legitimately study poker as part of their curriculum across colleges and dedicated online courses.

Bansal didn’t have the option in his time. As someone who secured the ninth place at ‘Event 47’ at the international poker tournament World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2015—the first Indian to have reached the ‘final table’ winning $39,508—Bansal didn’t always think he’d pursue poker professionally. (The winning amount at WSOP is based on the number of players registering for a tournament and their bets.) Taught by a friend, Bansal started by playing small stakes of 2-5 pounds back in university—while studying in the UK in 2006—till he joined the online poker playing bandwagon, winning and increasing his bankroll, honing his poker skills.

Soon after, Bansal cracked an interview for the position of analyst at professional services firm Ernst & Young. He didn’t step into the office, and instead, took up poker professionally.

A bold choice at the age of 21. But a choice that could be less of a gamble for a student today.

Deepak Dhayanithy, Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, runs an elective course called ‘Competitive Strategy – the Game of Poker’ (CSP). CSP, taught to second-year MBA students at one of India’s top B-schools, certainly brings some legitimacy to the game. Dhayanithy started the course in 2013-2014 with the aim of helping students develop decision-making and risk management skills.

Dhayanithy’s course has turned out to be a real gamechanger. In the past decade, poker education has come into the mainstream, with lifestyle brand Big Stack also launching India’s first online Poker University in October 2019. In 2020, Spartan Poker—a leading poker operator—is all set to start teaching the strategy game to interested players at the District Sports Club in Mumbai. The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) helps manage operators and players in India.

Witnessing this growth in poker education, Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF, says, “There is tremendous scope for education and training in poker as the number of online poker players increase. Gamers are also opting for making a career as online professional poker players, and hence, there will be a need for courses that can cater to this user demand.”

According to professional services company KPMG’s report, the online gaming industry in India is estimated to be worth Rs 4,380 crore ($617 million) for the year ended March 2018.


Gayatri Gambhir Sarin

Gayatri has over ten years of experience in writing. She works as a content writer writing blogs, articles, reviews, and stories in the industries of health, technology, games, education, and business. Gayatri graduated in Journalism from Delhi University and worked as a Social Media Strategist for four years at Value 360 Communications.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at support@the-ken.com detailing the error or queries.