Currency: Belarusian Ruble (BYN)
Belarus was part of the Soviet Union for much of the 20th Century. Thus the Communist regime completely suppressed gambling for decades. The Soviet rule started to soften in the 1980’s, that’s when the first land casinos started popping up in the USSR, mainly Russia.
Belarus became independent from the Soviet Union in August 1991. In October the same year, the Belarussian Council of Ministers created the first gambling legislation. That is very quick for a newly independent country – many former Soviet nations waited many years to introduce their first pieces of gambling legislation.
With online gambling, however, it took much, much longer. According to an article on CalvinAyre.com, the head of the government’s Ministry of Taxes and Levies drafted legislation in July 2018 in which they set up a licencing scheme for foreign online gambling site operators. In that draft, he also proposed they’d raise the legal gambling age from 18 to 21. The first Belarussian online casino licenses were given out in April 2019.
In 2009, Belarus’ superpower neighbor, Russia decided to restrict games of chance in their country to only 4 designated “gambling zones”. This pushed a lot of traffic to Belarussian casinos and poker rooms, as due to the large distances in their homeland, many Russian gamblers decided to travel across the Belarussian border instead in search of some action.
Famous Belarussian Poker Players
Mikita “fish2013” Badziakouski is one of the world’s most successful high rollers of our time. He has cashed for over $25 million in live tournaments which puts him in the top 20 biggest live tournament winners of all time.
He’s a regular in the Triton high roller series’ super high buy-in events, of which he won three. In July 2018, he won the HK$2 million Triton Main Event in Jeju, South Korea. He got $5.257 million for that victory – that is the biggest live tournament cash of his career to date.
Badziakouski started off as an online player, playing under his iconic screen name “fish2013” on PokerStars. There, he played high stakes NLHE cash games and tournaments.
Needless to say, he tops the Belarussian all time money list on Hendon. Second on that list is Ihar Soika with $3.488 million. His biggest score on the live felt is from August 2014, when he won the €10,000 NLHE High Roller 8-max event at EPT Barcelona for €747,200. In 2017, he came very close to winning a WSOP bracelet – he had a runner-up finish for $675,995 in the $1,500 NLHE Monster Stack event.
– Playing Live Poker in Belarus –
Live Poker Legislation in Belarus
As we wrote in our intro, the first gambling law in independent Belarus was created in October 1991. It held the wordy title “On the procedure of giving out special permits for certain activities and state registration of enterprises conducting business without creating a legal entity”.
As of now, private companies can apply for land casino licences in Belarus. However, all applicant companies must have an office address available in Belarus. They also have to comply with a number of other requirements – for example, none of the shareholders or directors on the board can have a criminal record.
Live Poker Venues in Belarus
Casino Shangri La is located in the capital, Minsk. In their VIP poker room, you can play the table game versions of poker in which you play against the house – Caribbean and Ultimate Texas Hold’em, etc. You can also play Texas Hold’em and Omaha cash games.
On their website, the amounts are denoted in US dollars. However, all of the information is presented in a rather confusing way.
Since there’s a “maximum bid” at each table, they’re presumably all limit games. The blinds are not displayed per se, instead, there’s a “minimum bid” column – again, we can only presume that’s one big blind. Also assuming that there’s a small blind around half the amount of the big, we can find $5/$10, $10/$25, $25/$50, $50/$100 and even $100/$200 tables of both Hold’em and Omaha. If our assumptions are correct, this is a super high stakes cash room – hence it’s called “the VIP room”.
As for tournaments, the Zett Poker Club also in Minsk has a packed schedule, according to pokerdiscover.com. They run an event with guaranteed prize pools every afternoon. The buy-ins range from $10 to $150, while the guarantees are between $400 and $3,000.
The Belarus Poker Tour is taking place between January 3rd and 13th, 2020. However, the venue is not a casino or a card room – it’s a night club/restaurant called Cotton Hall in Minsk.
Outside the capital, you can find poker rooms in the cities of Vitsyebsk (No Limit Poker Club), Brest and Orsha.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Belarus –
Zett Poker Club
Guild Poker Club
Joker Poker Club
Online Poker Legislation in Belarus
As we wrote in our intro, the Ministry of Taxes and Levies created a licencing scheme for online gambling in 2018. The first licences were issued in 2019. Before that, gambling on the internet was illegal in the country.
Evidently, this turn for the better doesn’t mean that every major online room will be fully licenced in the country – the licence application is a long process.
However, that is a fact that none of those major online rooms – PokerStars, partypoker, Unibet, Natural8, etc. – restrict Belarussian players already. Players in that region can access their virtual tables easily – you can often be seated at a table with Belarussian players.
Zett Poker Club
Zett Poker Club in Minsk is part of Carat Casino in the capital of Belarus. The poker club offers daily cash games starting at 6pm. There is also a monthly series of tournaments.
Joker Poker Club
Joker Poker Club is located in the heart of the Belarus capital Minsk. It has 4 poker tables with shuffle machines and offers daily tournaments and cash games.