Poker in Ecuador


Population: 17,080,000

Capital: Quito

Currency: United States Dollar ($)

Time Zone: UTC-5

Casinos with Poker

  • Hotel Casino Plaza Caicedo (closed)

Ecuador, a small South American country named after the Equator, has no legal gambling alas.

This wasn’t always the case, however. For long, Ecuador had a flourishing gambling industry with around 50 casinos operating successfully in the country. Bingo in particular was especially popular among the population. 

However, in May 2011, left-wing president Rafael Correa held a referendum on a number of social-economical issues, including a gambling prohibition. He favored outlawing games of chance. Unfortunately, the electorate agreed, and voted 52.3% in favor of the gambling ban. Thus Correa had his way and closed down the casinos.

Poker also “fell victim” to the referendum results. No game of skill exception was granted for the card game. The only game of chance that remained legal was the national lottery.

The last casinos were forced to shut down in 2012. In 2019, the Association of Former Casino Workers of Ecuador (ETCE) was formed to advocate for the re-legalization of gambling – however, so far their efforts have been all in vain.

The silver lining of the Ecuadorian gambling prohibition is that it doesn’t apply to foreign gambling sites. While it is illegal for a local company to host games of chance through the internet, people who play on sites based abroad are not prosecuted. 

One more thing: you may have noticed something unusual in the basic information table about the country. Yes, Ecuador does use the United States Dollar as its official currency. They switched from the Ecuadorian Sucre to USD in 2000, in response to a financial crisis at the end of the last millennia.

Famous Ecuadorian Poker Players

It is especially a shame to see live poker being dismantled in Ecuador, since this South American nation is one of the 12 countries to give poker a WSOP Main Event champion from outside the United States

Carlos Mortensen, nicknamed “El Matador”, took down poker’s most prestigious tournament in 2001. He beat a 613-player field and was awarded $1.5 million. In 2013, he almost made it to the Main Event final table again, eventually busting in 10th place in a much larger field for $573,204.

Mortensen won another WSOP gold bracelet. He finished first in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event for $251,680.

He also has 3 World Poker Tour titles. In 2007, he won a $25K No Limit Hold’em WPT event for $3.970 million at the Five Star World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. That is his biggest single live tournament cash to date.

Overall, Mortensen has cashed for over $12 million in live tournaments during his career. However, despite being born in Ambato, Ecuador, Hendon lists him as a Spanish player. Therefore, he’s not the number #1 Ecuadorian player on Hendon’s country-specific list.

That “title” belongs to Bryan Ponce Zerna with $110,209 in lifetime earnings – far from Mortensen’s score. Zerna’s biggest live tournament cash is $44,000, which he got for finishing in 18th place at the $10K PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event in the Bahamas in 2018.

In online poker, a player playing under the screen name “pmahoney22” on PokerStars and Full Tilt from Azuay, Ecuador has been the most successful. He has cashed for just under $4.5 million in MTT’s.

– Playing Live Poker in Ecuador –

   Live Poker Legislation in Ecuador

As we wrote in our intro, gambling has been completely illegal in Ecuador since the 2011 referendum. Article 236 of the penal code sets the rules and punishments of the prohibition. 

  Live Poker Venues in Ecuador

Evidently, with the prohibition, no casino or resort is able to host legal poker games in Ecuador.

Formerly, the biggest casino in the country used to be the Hotel Casino Plaza Caicedo in the capital city of Quito.  

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Ecuador –

  Online Poker Legislation in Ecuador

As we wrote in our intro, online gambling is only banned if an Ecuadorian company is running the game. However, luckily, if you play on foreign poker site you cannot be prosecuted. 

Despite that, some online rooms, for example Unibet, restrict players from that region. However, other great choices, such as partypoker, Natural8, or 888, are available for Ecuadorian online poker players.