Capitals: Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Cape Town
Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
Time Zone: UTC+2
Casinos with Poker
- Emerald Casino
- Rio Casino
- GrandWest Casino
- Shuffle Up Poker Room
Before we get to gambling and poker, we need to address something in our basic information table about South Africa: yes, the country has three legal capital cities. Each branch of government has its base in a different city: the executive in Pretoria, the judicial in Bloemfontein and the legislative in Cape Town.
As for gambling, legislation was passed by Dutch settlers as early as 1673. Unfortunately, that law banned all games of chance. In 1965, another piece of legislation restricted gambling again – this time, however, giving an exemption to horse race betting. Gambling finally became legal and regulated in South Africa in 1996.
According to a 2006 survey, the most popular game of chance in the country is by far the national lottery, with 96% (!) of the population admitting to having participated in it. Scratch-off tickets, slot machines, and horse race betting are next on the list – unfortunately, poker was nowhere near the top spots on this “popularity contest”.
This is reflected in the number of venues as well. Worldcasinoriectory.com lists 59 casinos currently running in South Africa. However, pokerdiscover.com only lists 12 poker rooms in the country. As for horse race tracks, they have 10.
Despite that, South Africa has been home to many major poker events. They’ve hosted Poker News Cup, World Poker Tour, and even World Series of Poker Africa events in the past few years. All 3 African legs of the WSOP (in 2010, 2012, and 2013) were held in Vanderbijlpark.
Famous Poker Players from South Africa
Raymond Rahme currently tops South Africa’s all time money list on Hendon with $3.546 million in career earnings. He’s best known for taking 3rd place in the 2007 WSOP Main Event, right behind Tuam Lam and the eventual winner Jerry Yang. He won $3.048 million, which is by far the biggest single live tournament cash of his career. Before the 2007 World Series of Poker, he only had a single tournament cash on his “resume”.
Second behind Rahme on the Hendon list is Jarred Solomon with $1.611 million in winnings. He too has a deep run in the Main, although not nearly as “deep” as Rahme’s – in 2019, he came in 79th place for $98,120. He also has two titles from WPT South Africa, a WSOP Africa title, and a runner-up finish in the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event at the 2011 WSOP for $354,460.
As for online poker, Ashlee de Lange has been very successful playing under the screen name “elemeNt_za” on PokerStars and the now defunct poker room Full Tilt. He has $476,000 in online MTT cashes.
– Playing Live Poker in South Africa –
Live Poker Legislation in South Africa
As we wrote in our intro, gambling was legalized in South Africa in 1996. The National Gambling Act of 1996 was repealed and replaced in 2004. The piece of legislation currently in effect was passed in 2008 by the Parliament of South Africa.
Licencing and regulation are under the purview of the National Gambling Board. You can visit their website here.
Live Poker Venues in South Africa
The WSOP Africa’s events were held at the Emerald Casino in the city of Vanderbijlpark. The last time WSOP Africa took place was in February 2013. Then, they had events with buy-ins ranging from just $150 all the way up to $10,400.
Since then, the venue has hosted their own tournament series, the Emerald Poker Series, multiple times. There, the buy-ins were between ZAR4,000 ($238) and ZAR40,000 ($2,380). However, they do not have a monthly tournament schedule available on their website.
What is available there is information about the cash tables. It seems that they’re “going old school” and only have Limit Hold’em tables running. They have tables with betting limits ranging from ZAR25 ($1.50) and ZAR1,000 ($60).
The Rio Casino, one of the largest gambling houses in the Southern hemisphere, is located in Klerksdorp. They are not affiliated with the Rio Casino & Resort in Las Vegas, home of the summer WSOP every year. But they too have a poker room with tables running 24/7.
You can also find some poker action at the GrandWest Casino in Cape Town or the Shuffle Up Poker Room in Sandton.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in South Africa –
Online Poker Legislation in South Africa
The 2004 Gambling Act gave a green light to some forms of online gambling. These include sports betting and horse race betting – however, poker wasn’t among them, unfortunately. Plans were made to amend that in 2008, but they didn’t go through.
Thus online poker remains illegal in South Africa. Therefore some major online poker rooms – for example, PokerStars, partypoker and 888 – do restrict players from the region from accessing their sites.