Currency: Bulgarian Lev (BGN)
Time Zone: UTC+2
Bulgaria is an Eastern European country with fully legal gambling, both land-based and online. What’s more, there is no legal monopoly in the gambling market by state-owned companies.
As a result, games of chance are a huge business in the country. Although worldcasinodirectory.com only lists 14 casinos in 6 cities, the industry brings in $1.3 billion in revenue annually. That is around 3% of Bulgaria’s GDP!
Bulgaria was under Soviet rule for much of the 20th Century. Thus gambling wasn’t legally prohibited, since the Communist ideology frowns upon this “idle pastime”.
Live casinos became legal after the break-up of the Soviet Union, in 1993. Online gambling wasn’t legal until much later, February 2008.
Famous Bulgarian Poker Players
In 2020, when all WSOP events had to be played online due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Stoyan Madanzhiev from Bulgaria took down the $5,000 Online Main Event. Madanzhiev pocketed over $3.9 million with his victory. Although at the time he was thought to be 2020’s Main Event champion, the WSOP later announced a separate online-live hybrid 2020 Main Event. It was won by Damian Salas from Argentina.
It was historic for many reasons – the 2020 WSOP Main Event had the biggest prize pool in online poker history, $27.560 million.
Dimitar Danchev sits on top of Hendon’s Bulgarian all time money list with $4.670 million in live tournament earnings. In January 2013, he won the $10,000 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event for $1.859 million. That is his biggest single live tournament cash to date. He also has a runner-up finish from the $1,500 NLHE Shootout event from the 2014 WSOP for $160,410.
That event was won by his fellow Bulgarian poker player Simeon Naydenov the year before. In 2013, he won the $1,500 WSOP NLHE Shootout event for $326,440. Overall, Naydenov is second behind Danchev on the Bulgarian Hendon list by a substantial amount – Naydenov has cashed for $2.686 million in total.
Atanas Gueorguiev has final tabled 6 EPT tournaments in his career, as well as a WPT event. Overall, he collected $1.174 million in live tournament cashes. He also plays on PokerStars under the screen name “NaskoXX”.
The biggest Bulgarian online MTT winner is Aleks Dimitrov. He plays under the screen name “grinder1992” on PokerStars. He cashed for over $5.4 million in online tournaments. He also cashed for an additional $450,000 in live tournaments.
– Playing Live Poker in Bulgaria –
Live Poker Legislation in Bulgaria
The piece of legislation currently in effect is The Gambling Act of 2012. The government body in charge of regulating and licencing gambling in Bulgaria is called State Commission on Gambling (SCG) – they report to the Ministry of Finance.
Thankfully, the SCG issues casino licences to private companies as well. Thus in Bulgaria, gambling isn’t under a legal state monopoly like in many other European countries.
However, unlike some countries such as the neighboring Ukraine, they do not consider poker a game of skill. Poker is under the same category in the legislation as any other card game, be it blackjack or baccarat.
Live Poker Venues in Bulgaria
Located on the coast of the Black Sea, the luxurious International Hotel Casino & Tower Suites is one of Bulgaria’s most popular casinos. They are home to the so-called “INTERNATIONAL Poker Club”.
There, you can play cash games and tournaments at any time of the year.
Even though Bulgaria’s official currency is the Bulgarian Lev, the stakes at their cash tables are denoted in Euros. You can play No Limit Hold’em from €1/€1 or €1/€2 stakes up to €10/€10. The blinds at the Pot Limit Omaha tables range between €2/€2 and €10/€10.
As for tournaments, they do not have a consistent year-round schedule. Instead, they host tournament series, one or two each month. Stakes at these event series vary widely.
In the capital city, Casino Sofia is located. They run NLHE cash tables from BGN1/2 ($0.60/$1.20) to BGN5/10 ($3/$6) stakes. Their PLO tables range from BGN2/2 ($1.20/$1.20) up to BGN5/10 in stakes.
They collect so-called “entrance fees” in the cash room. Although from the strangely worded info page on their website, it is unclear if they talk about the minimum buy-in at the tables or their version of rake.
They too have hosted a number of poker festivals, such as the Sofia Poker Cup in November 2019, the Laroush Poker Series in April 2017, or the Microgaming Poker Tour in April 2016.
Other popular choices for poker players in Bulgaria include the Casino Ritz in Plovdiv and the Casino Platinum in Sunny Beach.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Poland –
International Hotel Casino & Tower Suites
Platinum Casino & Hotel
Casino Platinum Sunny Beach
Online Poker in Bulgaria
Internet gambling, just like land-based gambling, is under the purview of the State Commission on Gambling in Bulgaria. They issue licences and are in charge of regulations. For example, they are the ones who approve the software for online casinos.
They issue licences to private and foreign companies as well. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a “free-for-all” in Bulgaria. Not every major poker site has a Bulgarian licence.
Partypoker and 888, for example, restrict players from the region from playing on their servers. PokerStars, GGPoker and many others, on the other hand, are completely legal in the country of Bulgaria.
International Hotel Casino
The International Hotel Casino is a luxury Five-Star business hotel in the heart of Golden Sands, only meters from the Black Sea, often referred to as the “Bulgarian Riviera”.
Casino Platinum Bansko
Casino Platinum Bansko is located 650 m from the Gondola Ski Lift in the beautiful mountain town Bansko.