Educated Betting: Courses that Converge from Art to Science in India

“The horse race was brought by the British and has been legal ever since, but the poker that is easily proven to be a skill game with mathematical equations is still not legal,” lamented professional poker player Raghav Bansal.

His sufferings are not baseless, but India is slowly opening up to a gambling-linked card game. The Calcutta High Court, in October 2019, also reaffirmed its earlier stance that poker is a game of skill. It’s not just plain ol ‘gambling.

But the real validation of the game in India can come from beyond the walls of the courts. From universities. Today, colleges and legitimate online courses can legally study poker as part of their curriculum.


Bansal had no choice in his time. Bansal was the first Indian to reach the ‘Final Table’, winning the final 39,508 – the ninth place in the ‘Event 47’ of the 2015 International Poker Tournament World Series of Poker (WSOP). (The amount won in the WSOP depends on the number of players registered for a tournament and their wager.) Bansal, who was taught by a friend, started playing a small 2-5 pound stake at the university while studying in the UK in 2006 – playing bandwagon in online poker and playing his bankroll. Winning and nurturing, honoring his poker skills Did.

Shortly thereafter, Bansal broke into an interview for the position of analyst at professional services firm Ernst & Young. He never stepped into the office and, instead, took up the poker professionally.

21 years old is a brave choice. But for today’s student, gambling is a less expensive option.

Deepak Dhyanithi, 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, which has taught second-year MBA students at top B-schools in India, certainly brings some legitimacy to the game. The course was launched in 2013-2014 with the aim of enhancing decision-making and risk management skills for students.

The course of meditation has become a true game changer. In the last decade, poker education has become mainstream, with lifestyle brand Big Stock also launching India’s first online poker university in October 2019. In 2020, Spartan, the leading poker operator, is ready to teach poker tactical players at the District Sports Club in Mumbai. All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) helps manage operators and players in India.

Witnessing this growth in poker education, Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF, says, “As the number of online poker players grows, there are tremendous opportunities for poker education and training. Gamers are choosing a career as an online professional poker player, so there is a need for courses that meet this user demand.


According to a report by professional services firm KPMG, the online gaming industry in India for the year ended March 2018 is estimated at Rs 4,380 crore (17 617 million). It is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 22.1%. 11,880 crore (7 1.7 billion) for the year ended March 2023. Currently, the AIGF estimates the total number of registered online poker players at 5 million, with over 40,000 professional players in India.

There are numbers. But India is not an easy beast. Beyond the obvious changes of potential gambling addiction, there is a fundamental problem with the game — poker continues to be a taboo game, even in a clean, controlled environment. Whether it is a game of chance or a skill aside (gambling laws in India give an exception to skilled games), professional poker still has to make a case for recognition.