Currency: Lao Kip (LAK)
Time Zone: UTC+7
Casinos with Poker
- Savan Resorts
Laos, officially Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a small nation in the South-East Asia region. It may not seem like a destination that is in any way significant in the world of poker. However, they have the distinction of being among the 12 nations outside the United States who have given poker a Main Event champion.
That’s right, 2007 WSOP Main Event champion Jerry Yang, even though he fled to the US as a child, was born in Laos – more on him a little later.
Laos follows the Russian model when it comes to regulating land based gambling. They have designated “special economic zones” in the country where casinos are legally allowed to operate. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, games of chance are not legal.
The Laotian government decided to create these gambling zones in the mid 1990’s in order to attract tourists. The first casino opened in 1996 – strangely enough, with the Lao military owning 25% equity in the company. The 2000’s saw a great influx of investment into the local casino market, fueled by the success of China’s Macau project.
Today, a total of 3 casinos are operating in Laos in three separate gambling zones: one in Bokeo Province (this zone is also called “the Golden Triangle”), one in Savannakhet Province, and one near the capital city of Vientiane.
Famous Laotian Poker Players
Jerry Yang was born in Laos in 1967. He arrived in the US as a refugee in the 1970’s. Now, he’s listed as an American player in the Hendon database. Laos doesn’t even have their own country-specific list on the site like most other countries do.
Yang is best known for winning the 2007 WSOP Main Event. He topped a 6,358-player field for $8.250 million. During the tournament, he caught the audience’s attention for praying out loud in some hands.
This will forever go down as one of my favorite moments in televised poker history. Jerry Yang at the WSOP 2007 Final Table.
Whoever edited these old WSOP episodes is AMAZING at it. The shot of both players wives is so good.
— Joey Ingram #LUCKY 🍀 (@Joeingram1) March 23, 2020
Overall, Yang has cashed for $8.444 million in live tournaments during his career.
PocketFives, the online poker tournament database, does have a Laos players’ list, unlike Hendon – with 1 player on it. However, that one player has done very well for himself so far. “Bluntman82” on PokerStars has won $399,941 on online MTT’s.
– Playing Live Poker in Laos –
Live Poker Legislation in Laos
Article 83 in the Laos Penal Code deals with “forbidden gambling”. Any person who indulges in such activity shall be punished by a LAK200,000 ($21.50) to LAK2,000,000 ($215) fine. Repeat offenders can expect even more punitive measures from the Communist government.
Thankfully, as we wrote in our intro, gambling is not forbidden in the 3 designated economic zones.
Live Poker Venues in Laos
There are 3 casinos operating in Laos: the Kings Roman Casino in Bokeo Province, Savan Resorts in the village of Nongdeune in Savannakhet Province, and the Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort Casino in the outskirts of the capital city, Vientiane.
Unfortunately, none of the above have a poker room.
Your best bet would be Savan Resorts. They offer Caribbean Stud Poker, a poker game which you play against the house, not against other players; as well as baccarat, another card game where skill can give you an edge and is sometimes played by professional poker players. Also, they have a “Tournament & Giveaway” menu item on their website. It’s not specified as poker tournaments. However, they can be held in a number of different games, so if you check their schedule regularly, you might get “lucky” and come across a No Limit Hold’em tournament.
Another venue on this list, the Kings Romans Casino in Bokeo, recently made international news for all the wrong reasons. In July 2020, four Chinese nationals were gunned down in the casino, as CalvinAyre.com reports. The reasons were unclear – some local reporting claims it had to do with a gambling debt; while others claim it was a robbery.
Online Poker in Laos
While online poker is technically illegal in Laos, luckily, the Communist government doesn’t do anything to enforce the prohibition. It doesn’t prosecute online poker players, nor does it block foreign poker sites.
– News from Laos –