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With the recent downturn in the live poker scene in India given certain legal hurdles, it’s neighbour – Sri Lanka is fast becoming an attractive poker destination. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, this island nation has been on the bucket list of many poker players looking for an exotic poker destination.
The country has come a long way in becoming a sought-after venue for Indian poker aficionados and this was evidenced by the spurt in numbers at the second edition of the Emerald Poker Tour (EPT) cash game festival which ran from December 12-15 at Casino Bellagio in Colombo.
Beside Goa and Sikkim, Bengaluru was a hotbed for live poker in the country, but with regulatory authorities clamping down on all poker operations in the Garden City, the live scene has been inactive for the past several months now. Furthermore, the states of Gujarat and Telangana have also enforced legal restrictions on poker related activities.
In the face of these regulatory prohibitions, the cash game festival provided a much welcome release for poker enthusiasts craving live cash action for months now. With Sri Lanka being a short 90 minutes by flight, low costs of travel and stay, abundant natural beauty and visa on arrival makes Sri Lanka and its capital city – Colombo, a very attractive poker cum holiday destination for Indians poker players.
A brainchild of the husband-wife pair of Gokul Krishna and Sunitha ‘Suni’ Sunder, the EPT was named after the South-Asian country which is also known as Emerald island. Suni and Krishna are both avid recreational poker players with impressive poker resumes. While Krishna`s latest conquests include two scores at the recently concluded WPT India series, Suni took down the ₹10K NLHE – Ladies Event at the Deltin Poker Tournament in July’17.
The duo even roped in popular poker player Vikram ‘Lungi’ Kumar as a partner in the venture. The Chennai-based poker operator is one of the most vocal pros on the domestic circuit today and has dabbled in various poker ventures including his role as the Managing Partner at the PokerBaazi Live Poker Room in Bengaluru. Kumar has built a strong rapport with a large number of pros in the domestic circuit, something that played a crucial role in the success of the cash game festival.
The trio worked seamlessly with Krishna taking care of the planning and execution, Suni handling marketing and hospitality and Kumar overseeing player management. EPT also had an effective support staff of approximately 10 people to manage player logistics and the floor.
Hosted at the Casino Bellagio, the second edition saw about 45 players flying in from India with a further 15 locals joining in the action, that made for an eclectic mix of players at the cash game festival. With buy-ins ranging from රු,50,000 (₹19,316) to රු,5,00,000 (₹1,93,160), the festival had something on offer for everyone.
The cash game festival saw a number of well-known names in attendance, including the likes of Shashank Jain, Abhishek Jalan, 2018 WPT India Main Event winner Nikunj Jhunjhunwala, Pavan Garapati, Niharika Bindra, Sameer Chaturvedi, Sahaj Singh Bali, Kartik Ved and Rishabh Jain among others.
The action of the felts was also intense and exhilarating. In fact, the action on some tables was so insane that some players had to wait for almost eight hours to get a seat, informed the organizers.
“There were insane swings on the table. People were hooked onto the action and players had to wait like 8 hours to get a seat,” Gokul Krishna told PokerGuru.
The poker extravaganza was high on hospitality as well. All players were given accommodations in some of the best 5-star properties in Colombo, along with complimentary flight tickets to and from India. As expected, the players feedback was very positive. Commenting on the hospitality arrangements at the cash game festival, noted high stakes pro Rishab Jain said, “Great hospitality, amazing and extremely helpful operators and superb player pool. It was a great experience to play some marathon sessions. Best live cash game event that I’ve ever been.”
Shashank Jain echoed Jain in his feedback, “High octane action, great hospitality and very well organized.”
Another noted cash game player Sahaj Singh Bali stated, “I recently attended the EPT event held in Bellagio, Colombo organised by Vikram Kumar(lungi) and Gokul. I must say it was a great cash game event organised with high octane action running round the clock for 4 Days. Kudos to the organisers for providing such a great gaming experience. Looking forward to the next edition of the EPT.”
The EPT ran its first edition from October 31 to November 4 this year and given the positive response is now planning the third edition sometime in February 2019.
Keep following PokerGuru for more updates from the Emerald Poker Tour!