Poker in Azerbaijan

Introduction

Population: 10,110,000

Capital: Baku

Currency: Azerbaijani Manat (AZN)

Time Zone: UTC+4

Casinos with Poker

Azerbaijan, a small Caucasian country by the Caspian Sea, does have some legal gambling. However, it is very much limited by law.

For much of the 20th Century, however, it was part of the Soviet Union and thus gambling was completely prohibited. The communist ideology views all games of chance as an “idle bourgeois pastime”, so commercial gambling was extremely rare behind the Iron Curtain. In October 1991, Azerbaijan officially broke away from the Soviet Union, becoming an independent state.

From its independence until 1998, casino gaming was completely legal with quite a few gambling houses operating in the country, mainly near the capital city of Baku. But in 1998,  all casinos officially became outlawed in the country. Rumors claim that it had quite a peculiar reason behind it. Allegedly, President Heydar Aliyev decided to impose the prohibition after losing $6 million at a casino owned by a Turkish businessman…

Another part of the reason for it may be the large Muslim population in Azerbaijan. About 85% of the people are adherents of Islam, a religion that condemns all forms of gambling, calling it “maisir”.

There are a few exceptions that eventually gained an exemption from the new gambling prohibition. The state lottery and sports betting have been legal since 2011.

Pokerdiscover.com lists one single poker room in the capital city of Baku. However, once you click on it, it turns out that it’s actually a room in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia, near the Azeri border… If you’re willing to travel internationally from Azerbaijan for some poker action, neighboring Georgia is the gambling center of the region, with many commercial casinos and poker rooms.

Famous Azerbaijani Poker Players

Currently, Ramin Hajiyev from the capital city of Baku sits on top of Azerbaijan’s all time money list on Hendon. He has $3.626 million in live tournament cashes. In October 2016, he came in 2nd in the €25,750 No Limit Hold’em – 8-Handed event at EPT Malta for €334,400. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.

Second on that list is a man named Ilkin Savalan Amirov with $1.799 million in cashes. His biggest score so far is €391,910, which he got for finishing 3rd in the €5,300 Main Event at EPT Prague. He also made it into the money in two back-to-back WSOP Main Events, in 2016 and 2017.

As for online poker, a player who plays under the screen names “Agharazi” on PokerStars and “The_Agharazi” on Natural8-GGNetwork with an Azerbaijani location has cashed for $710,000 in online MTT’s during his career.

 

– Playing Live Poker in Azerbaijan –

   Live Poker Legislation in Azerbaijan

As we wrote in our intro, gambling was outlawed in Azerbaijan in 1998. Today, articles 190-192 and 244 cover gambling offences in Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code.

The lottery and sports betting became legal in January 2011 – however, both are legal monopolies. The lotteries are run by the Ministry of Economic Development of the Azerbaijani Republic; while only a single sportsbook has a licence in the country, a local company called Topaz.

  Live Poker Venues in Azerbaijan

As we wrote in our intro, there is no running commercial poker room anywhere in the country of Azerbaijan. The best choice for poker loving locals are the rooms near the border in the neighboring countries, Armenia and Georgia.

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Azerbaijan –

– Online Poker in Azerbaijan –

Unfortunately, the gambling prohibition applies for online gambling, including online poker, as well. Alas, there is no big, public push by any organization to change the status quo in the country either.

The lone licenced sportsbook, Topaz, does have an app where you can bet on sports over the internet called Etopaz – but they do not offer online poker.

Natural8-GGNetwork and Unibet, for example, restrict players from Azerbaijan from accessing their servers. Some other major online rooms, on the other hand, are still accessible from the region. These rooms are PokerStars, partypoker, 888Poker, and Betsson.

– News from Azerbaijan –