Poker in China
Poker hasn’t historically been a very popular game in China. No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) have only just started to become an interest to Chinese Mainlanders. Traditionally, the most popular form of poker played in Mainland China is Tuo La Ji (Tractor Poker), a team game that uses two decks of cards with jokers. It is ruled and regulated by the China Leisure Sports Administrative Center (CLSAC).
Casinos with Poker
Historically, the World Poker Tour (WPT) was instrumental in starting a poker boom when they started airing televised tournaments in 2002, influencing mainland China.
Although poker cash games are illegal in the country, operators and organizers have been innovative in their offerings of poker tournaments to address the growing population of poker players in the country. It is not unheard of to find legal poker rooms in Beijing or Shanghai, running tournaments that offer goods that can be converted to cash as prizes.
And because of this strategy, China has been able to hold some of the biggest tournaments in the region. Becoming quite popular as a poker destination is the island of Sanya, a beach paradise found in the southernmost part of the Hainan province. Due to its tropical weather, Sanya has been the venue of most of the poker tournaments held in China. It has hosted tournaments like the WPT, APT and the China Poker Games Event. Tournaments like this also bolster tourism for Sanya which China is promoting as a tourist destination.
– Playing Live Poker in China –
Live Poker Legislation in China
Gambling in China is absolutely illegal.
According to Article 303: “Whoever, for the purpose of profit, gathers people to engage in gambling, runs a gambling house or makes gambling his profession shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall also be fined.”
This has been reinforced by President Xi Jinping in 2014 when he declared war on gambling which has affected the whole of the mainland as well as its SARs like Macau & Hong Kong.
However, as gambling is in the culture of the Chinese, locals have found means and ways to be able to gamble without having to violate the law. This especially holds true for the game of poker.
Despite being illegal, this has also not prevented the organization of big live poker tournaments in China. The mainland’s first high-stakes NHLE poker tournament was held in December 2012 at the MGM Grand, Sanya located in Hainan province. In 2014, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour made Beijing one of its stops at the Star Poker club for a 10-day long festival, reinforcing the idea that China could carry the hopes of seeing another poker boom, with a population strong of 1.4 billion souls. In December, 2017, it was WSOP’s turn to organize their very first event in Sanya, Hainan at the Shangri-La Resort & Spa.
Live Poker Venues in China
Foreigners and Chinese are allowed to enter legal poker clubs which are few in China.
Because of the government’s strict rules on gambling, numerous unauthorized games do happen but farther away from the metropolis and far from the eagle eyes of the police. It is said that the more luscious games have moved to Changsa in the Hunan province. The games there are said to be so profitable that it has been named “Little Macau.” But the risks of getting caught in an illegal game are high in China with the penalty of grave fines and imprisonment.
The Beijing Poker Club (BPC), which was established in 2012, is the longest running and the only legal poker room in Mainland China.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in China –
Beijing Poker Club
Established in 2012, it is the longest running legal poker room in Mainland China. BPC offers tournaments with MTT and SNG formats.
– Play Online Poker in China –
Online Poker Legislation in China
Online gambling is also illegal in China, making online poker games essentially dead in the country. There are no Chinese owned or operated poker sites.
Despite this, players have found ways and means to play online. And online operators are becoming more innovative in their offerings by not having “real money” transactions but instead use alternatives that can be converted to cash.
In early 2018, it was rumored that China was considering allowing online gaming, a lottery or sports betting on Hainan Island.
But in June 2018, to the general surprise, a major crackdown – known as Chinese Black Friday -, occurred in China. The government banned all online poker applications, removing them from App Stores, and going as far as forbidding the promotion of Poker on any Social Media. This is a major issue for the Live Event Promoters too, considering that for their Sanya Event, the WSOP had the players qualified through the Tencent Poker app, with satellites running for months leading up to the event.
The Chinese have been well accustomed to getting around censorship, and the use of virtual private networks (VPN) to access the internet is very popular in general because of the Greatwall firewall.