Poker in Nigeria

Introduction

Population: 195,900,000

Capital: Abuja

Currency: Nigerian Naira (NGN)

Time Zone: UTC+1

Casinos with Poker

  • The Federal Palace Hotel & Casino
  • Lagos Poker Club

Despite Nigeria’s population size and economic power (its GDP was the biggest in Africa at $410 billion), the gambling industry isn’t fully capitalizing on the opportunity.

Only a handful of casinos are located in the whole country, most of them in the largest city of Nigeria, Lagos; while a few are in the capital city, Abuja. None of these gambling houses are large compared to European and American industry standards – also, alas, only one of them has a poker room. They focus on classic casino games that tend to generate much larger profits, such as blackjack and slot machines.

However, the most popular game of chance is none of the above – it’s sports betting, especially betting on football games. The Nigerian national team has been a regular feature in the World Cup, and many Nigerian football stars play in Europe’s top teams. So it’s no surprise that football, and betting on football, is such a common pastime activity in the country.

In 2020, a research paper was published in the BJPsych International scientific journal about gambling in Nigeria. It was authored by Chinyere Mirian Aguocha and Sanju George. In it, they talk about how gambling historically was regarded as destructive and thus was discouraged in Nigeria for a long time. The change came in the 1990’s, when the government legalized certain forms of gambling to generate tax revenue.

The research also points out that by now, over one third (36%) of Nigerians admit to have gambled. 19% even describe themselves as “daily gamblers”. The authors fear that this might lead to social problems in the future, because their research found that in most cases, the motivation for gambling isn’t the joy of it, rather, financial strain. Another problem is that illegal underage gambling (the legal gambling age is 18 in Nigeria) is also common in the country.

Famous Nigerian Poker Players

Hendon only lists 4 players on their Nigerian all time money list. On top currently is a man named Dany Chidiac with $82,132 in live tournament earnings. He amassed that sum by cashing in just two poker tournaments, both at the Barcelona stop of the European Poker Tour.

In August 2019, he came in 7th in the €10,300 PLO event at EPT Barcelona for €56,110. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.

Online, a player from Nigeria who plays under the screen name “Fosterek” has cashed for $134,141 in online MTT’s on PokerStars, 888, and partypoker.

 

– Playing Live Poker in Nigeria –

   Live Poker Legislation in Nigeria

The current gambling legislation in place in Nigeria is the National Lottery Act of 2005.

It distinguishes between games of skill and games of chance. Card games that are considered games of skill (such as poker) are completely legal; while classic casino games (roulette, blackjack, slots) are considered pure games of chance and can only be played in the few licenced land casinos in the country.

This 2005 law established the national lottery in Nigeria. It also established the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, which is the local gambling authority handling the licencing and regulation.

  Live Poker Venues in Nigeria

Despite poker enjoying a “game of skill” exemption it doesn’t have in most other countries, poker rooms are few and far between in Nigeria, unfortunately.

Most land casinos don’t offer classic poker games, only table games which you play against the house. The Federal Palace Hotel & Casino does claim on their website that they offer “Hold’em Poker” – however, it’s the only piece of information they give about their game. Whether it’s a cash game or tournament, or what stakes it’s played on isn’t displayed.

The Lagos Poker Club in the city of Lagos is the only card room in Nigeria with a focus on classic poker games. They run NGN50,000 ($130) Sit&Go tournaments 3 days a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) and one NGN100,000 ($260) S&G on Fridays.

They also have No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha cash tables, on NGN1,000/NGN2,000 ($2.5/$5) stakes.

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Nigeria –

Federal Palace Hotel & Casino

Lagos Poker Club

  Online Poker in Nigeria

Luckily for Nigerian poker players, while their options for live poker are scarce, there’s nothing stopping them from playing on any of the major poker sites.

Online poker is legal in the country – it falls under the game of skill exemption. Therefore all the prominent online poker rooms, be it PokerStars, partypoker, Natural8-GGNetwork, or Unibet – are available for local players.

Also, the Nigerian internet access rate (50.5% of the population has an internet connection) is well above the African average (39.3%) – thus, given Nigeria’s population, the potential size of that online poker market is enormous. Unfortunately, poker is far behind in popularity to another form of internet gambling in Nigeria, online sports betting.