Inside India’s Online Poker boom



In parallel with mobile gaming and the rise of eSports, real money gaming has grown to become a multi billion dollar industry in recent years. iGaming is now a truly global industry, with leading platforms present in major international markets like the USA, Great Britain and the rest of Europe. India too is in the middle of an online gaming boom, specifically in the realm of online poker.

The real money gaming industry in India 

Thanks to some major developments in the Indian poker industry over the past few years, including the launch of a national poker league, India’s first professional female poker player Muskan Sethi received honours, and the emergence of a poker university, online poker operators in the country have seen a surge in growth.

iGaming as a whole is reported to be worth an estimated 62 billion INR (just over $800 million USD), and the online poker space is one of the major contributors to that figure growing at a rate of 40% year on year. According to Google-KPMG, the iGaming industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.1% by the year 2023, providing even more opportunities for expansion and investment in the online poker arena in the country.

Furthermore, over 2.5 million Indian residents actively play poker or casino games via online operators, and there are a total of 1000 poker players in the country competing at a professional level. Google-KPMG has also estimated that by the end of the next financial year the industry as a whole will hit the $1 billion mark, with over 310 million active participants.

Since March 2020 the online poker industry has already seen a growth of 12% when compared to the previous month, with one online poker platform reporting an 18% increase of user daily spend.

The factors accelerating growth

Online poker in India is a young, vibrant and dynamic space, which is appealing to both national and international investors and brands. Major international poker operators have set up Indian gaming platforms in recent years, signing up the likes of Bollywood movie star and the

former Indian Cricket Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as official ambassadors.

There’s also a vast array of games now available across the country, appealing to both total novices to the sport and experienced gamers alike. In a relatively short space of time, the Indian online poker market has expanded to include a variety of platforms and a diverse range of games. Classic online games that follow the most popular variant in the world, Texas Hold ’em, make up the majority, with online tournaments like the GPL India using the traditional format for each of its events. However, variants like Omaha HiLo and sit and go competitions are increasing in popularity.

Then there’s mobile poker. Mobile tech is now more affordable than ever, and the Indian market has seen widespread adoption. Nowadays, smartphones are used more for entertainment than communication, with international hits like Candy Crush and Call of Duty: Mobile heralding a new wave of mobile gaming in India. And as audience appetites have increased for instantly accessible games offering potential rewards, poker apps have started rising to the top of the highest-grossing app charts.

Professional ambitions

Online and mobile poker games offer levels of accessibility on a national scale that has previously been unseen in the country. As a result, brand new demographics have begun to take up the discipline, challenging any stereotypical notions that poker is a game for men or affluent high flyers.

Heading up a vanguard of bright, young poker talents within the country, players like Muskan Sethi and Vidwath Shetty are also helping online poker reach a brand new audience. The pair were team managers for the Delhi Diehards and Bengaluru Hackers in the recently televised GPL India tournament, and they, like many other top poker players in the country are advocates for online play. Sethi, in particular, has been a spokesperson for online poker, as both a female player and responsible gaming ambassador she knows the value of playing poker online – “I keep polishing my skills religiously online”.

When it comes to going pro, online poker in India is proving to be as viable a career path as online video gaming, and there are no barriers to success when it comes to gender or location.