Currency: Turkish lira (TRY)
Casinos with Poker
Turkey’s population is about 99% Muslim. Since in Islam gambling, referred to as “maisir”, is forbidden, it’s no surprise that currently land based casinos are completely banned in the country.
However, the situation is actually a lot more complicated.
Turkey legalized casinos in 1990. However, in July 1996, Ömer Lütfü Topal, known as the “casino king” in Turkey, was murdered. Topal owned 20 casinos. Rumors circulated that the wife of Ozer Ciller, the Deputy Prime Minister had him killed.
Shortly after, in December 1996, a complete casino ban was announced by Ciller, partially because of money laundering accusations. The Turkish casino industry was generating $2 billion yearly and was employing 20,000 people at the time.
Evidently, with the prohibition, gambling didn’t disappear completely. There’s an active black market for it. You can take part in some poker games in a good amount of underground card rooms and private games.
Some other forms of gambling remained legal, however. Turkey still runs a state lottery. Also, the state-owned online sportsbook IDDAA is allowed to offer sports betting, most of their selection being soccer.
If you take a look at the most successful Turkish players on Hendon, none of their results actually come from tournaments played in Turkey. Northern Cyprus, however, which is a Turkish-controlled de facto state has plenty of commercial casinos – thus Cyprus is a popular destination for Turkish poker players.
Famous Turkish Poker Players
Orpen Kisacikoglu is the best Turkish live tournament winner of all time, according to the Hendon database. He has cashed for a total of $4.844 million during his career. His biggest score is a €905,937 payday from August 2019, when he won the €100,000 partypoker LIVE Super High Roller in Rozvadov. He defeated a number of poker superstars at the final table – Cary Katz, Kristen Bicknell and Ben Heath were bested by him that day.
Second on the Turkish all time money list is Akin Tuna with $1.317 million. He won a $10K Bellagio Cup for $430,000 in July 2019, that is his biggest single live tournament cash to date. He also has a European Poker Tour title.
As for online poker, Ozgur “PhapLap” Arda tops the list with $3.050 million in lifetime online MTT earnings. He won a $215 NLHE WCOOP (World Championship of Online Poker) event for $135,039 in September 2013. He’s also cashed for an additional $733,708 in live tournaments.
– Playing Live Poker in Turkey –
Live Poker Legislation in Turkey
Since the total casino ban of 1996, all lands casinos, along with live poker rooms, have been shut down. However, lottery and horse race betting remained legal.
Live Poker Venues in Turkey
There’s no real chance of you finding a poker game in a regulated commercial casino or card room. The gambling ban is fully effective regarding the public advertisement of games of chance. All you can find now is some dead websites for formerly operating casinos.
However, private games are still available.
You need to seek out illegal organizers on social media sites. Evidently, this carries a good amount of risks. Police raids can happen. Also, there’s no way of knowing for sure if the game is not rigged, or if you can cash out safely if you win.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Turkey –
Online Poker Legislation in Turkey
You’ll have an easier time finding a poker game online.
Online gambling is not completely illegal in Turkey. As we mentioned in our intro, the state-owned IDDAA offers sports betting to Turkish residents.
However, they do not offer online poker. Turkey is also more aggressive in enforcing the ban on foreign gambling sites than most countries.
In February 2019, for example, CalvinAyre.com reported: “Turkey’s government has launched its largest ever crackdown on illegal online gambling just weeks after it went looking for a new technology partner for the state-run sports betting operation.”
They deployed 5,000 police officers in the operation and arrested 394 people.
Because of this aggressive stance of the Turkish government, online poker rooms tend to restrict Turkish players from accessing their sites. Partypoker, Natural8 and Unibet do so among others. However, not all online poker rooms do.
Holdemturkiye.com, an illegal website, keeps a list of all online poker sites that allow Turkish players.