Currency: Georgian Lari (GEL)
Casinos with Poker
- Casino Adjara
- Poker House
- Royal Casino & Hotel Batumi
- Europe Bet Casino
The first casino in the Caucasian country of Georgia opened in 1920. In 1921, the country was annexed by the Soviet Union.
The Communist regime strictly forbade any games of chance. Thus the Georgians had to wait 69 years for their second casino to open in 1989.
Since then, however, Georgia became a gambling haven in the region. According to a guest article by a local journalist on calvinayre.com, there are no less than 92 local gambling companies operating in the country. As he put it, “every banner, every digital ad and every poster is related to a casino, be it online or offline”.
He also points out that Georgia’s number one most visited website is an online casino, Adjarabet, with 4.5 million unique visits per month – that is in a nation of 3.7 million…
The numbers don’t lie, Georgia’s gambling industry is booming. In 2018, it generated GEL13.8 billion ($5 billion), double the year before.
One of the most popular locations for gamblers is the city of Batumi. It’s a high-end tourist destination on the coast of the Black Sea. The other city with a large number of casinos is evidently the capital, Tbilisi.
The main reason behind the booming gambling economy in Georgia is the lax legal restrictions. There is a licencing procedure, but virtually any company, foreign or local, can successfully go through it with the relatively little funds necessary. The aforementioned calvinayre.com article puts the cost of a Georgian gambling licence at between GEL50,000 and GEL1 million. That is $20,000 to $400,000 in US dollars – certainly low by the industry’s standards.
Another reason behind the Georgian gambling’s success is the fact that the neighboring Muslim countries have very strict gambling laws with virtually no land or online casinos operating in the region. This pushes a lot of traffic from the wealthier population of those countries to the Georgian casinos.
Famous Georgian Poker Players
Despite the popularity of games of chance, including poker, in the country, Georgia is yet to produce a world famous poker star – one akin to Belarus’ Mikita “fish2103” Badziakouski, Lithuania’s Tony G, or Bosnia’s Ali Ismirovic. They are all from small, former Communist nations who are well-known by poker fans and competed at the highest stakes.
Having said that, the current number 1 on Georgia’s all time money list on Hendon is Giorgiy Skhulukhiya. He has cashed for $738,956 in live poker tournaments during his career. His biggest cash is for $225,000. He got that for winning a $10,000 NLHE High Roller event at the Merit Poker Retro in Kyrenia, Cyprus in September 2019.
Second on the list Vazha Kometiani with $219,591 in career earnings. In March 2013, he came in 1st in the €220 NLHE Main Event at the Synchro Poker Tour in Kyiv, Ukraine for €30,000. That is his biggest single live tournament cash to date.
As for online poker, a player from Ajaria, Georgia playing under the screen name “lovetyumen” on PokerStars has cashed for over $1.3 million in online MTT’s.
– Playing Live Poker in Georgia –
Live Poker Legislation in Georgia
As we wrote in our intro, the lax gambling laws in the country have led to a booming industry in Georgia.
Licences are issued after tenders organized by the Ministry of Finance. They have different licence categories for slot machines, lotteries, card rooms, etc.
Live Poker Venues in Georgia
Casino Adjara is located in the capital city of Tbilisi. Their cash tables run 24/7 on a wide array of stakes available.
The No Limit Hold’em games are on $1/$2, $2/$5, $5/$5, $5/$10, $10/$20, $25/$25, $25/$50 and even $50/$100 blind levels. The Pot Limit Omaha games are on $1/$2, $2/$5 and $5/$10 stakes. According to the table on their website, the rake is very low in this room – 2% for the higher stakes, but even at the lowest stakes table, only 4% is taken out of each pot. At higher levels, players have the option to pay an hourly rate instead.
The Poker House also in Tbilisi also has an action-packed cash room. They have GEL1/3 ($0.35/$1.05) and GEL2/5 ($0.70/$1.75) NLHE tables. In addition, they have a habit of posting the recordings of the most interesting hands played in their card room on their Facebook page.
The seaside tourist spot mentioned in our intro, Batumi, has a casino with a poker room as well. It’s the Royal Casino & Hotel Batumi. There, you can play Texas Hold’em and Omaha cash games on $5/$5 and $5/$10 stakes. The tables run 24/7.
As you can tell, it’s a lot easier to find cash game action in Georgia than tournament action. The Europe Bet Casino in Tbilisi used to host WPT events, but the last Europe-Bet WPT National Georgia was held in November 2015. Pokerdiscover.com currently doesn’t even list any tournaments either in Tbilisi or Batumi.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Georgia –
Casino International Batumi
JRW Welmond Hotel & Casino
Europe Bet Casino
Online Poker Legislation in Georgia
Online gambling companies enjoy the same lax legal environment land casinos do. Therefore online casinos have just as much of a booming economy as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. In fact, they might be doing even better.
To quote the guest piece on calvinayre.com again, here’s what Giorgi Mikhelidze had to say:
“After seeing how well the companies were performing in terms of online operations, most casinos started targeting conversion rates. Their primary goal became to turn a land-based casino visitor into a returning customer online.”
The Georgia-based online gambling sites include the aforementioned market leader Adjarabet.com and Europebet.com. Both offer online poker to their costumers. Aside from the local sites, all the major foreign online poker rooms – partypoker, PokerStars, Natural8, etc. – are available for Georgian players as well.