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Poker Dispatches: India, Belize, New Zealand, Anhedonia
As the World Series of Poker proves more and more every year, it’s a big poker world out there.
And while the major players always get their column inches, there’s a growing list of places around the world where poker is gaining a foothold but not yet getting its share of coverage.
Poker Dispatches is a new feature owhere we'll try to spotlight posts or stories we find from the lesser-known poker outposts.
1. “Beautiful Game” Gaining Momentum in India
With a few one-off poker festivals doing well in the past and the first rake-free poker tournament series set to go in Goa this September, it's only a matter of time before poker catches on on a bigger scale in India.
Technically, “gambling for money” is still illegal in India and legal poker events are restricted to two offshore casinos off the coast of Goa.
But as court decisions around the globe move poker more into the realm of skill-based games like bridge and chess that Indians are already enamored with, poker is poised to capture the imagination of a new generation of web-savvy, university educated gaming stars.
Calcutta-based, Drexel University grad Aditya “Interventon” Agarwal is probably the most well-known young Indian poker pro right now, but Aditya “donkabomber” Sushant, Sangeeth “samohhh” Mohan and more are following closely in his footsteps.
Yahoo! India columnist Amit Varma recently shared his thoughts on the proliferation of the “beautiful game” on his India Uncut blog:
“Poker is an amazing game. It astonishes me sometimes that it is considered by some people to be a form of gambling.
“Friends of mine who play both bridge and poker often assert that poker requires more skill.
"Indeed, as a former chess player, I find it a far more demanding sport to master."
2. Bob Bounahra: Big Deal in Belize, Meeting Beauties
Bob Bounahra making the November Nine at the 2011 WSOP is probably the biggest thing to ever happen for poker in Belize.
And while Belize may never become a poker-playing hotspot, his accomplishment hasn't gone unnoticed.
Virtually every newspaper or blog in the country has featured his story in some form and Bounahra has at least temporarily risen to minor-celebrity status across Central America.
Ex-pat blogger tacogirl featured Bounahra in a recent post and snapped a few photos with him at home in his poker room at the Princess Casino in Belize City.
“San Pedro poker players – Pedro – Chris Allnatt – Jock flew to Belize City to enjoy Sunday afternoon Poker with Bob Bounahra.
“Word on the street – ESPN is making plans to come interview celebrity poker player Bob Belize Bounahra in person.
“After making the cut for the WSOP November Nine – Bob said he gets people asking him to take pictures with them on a daily basis.”
You also know you’ve reached true celebrity status when you start getting asked to work with beauty contests.
Bob makes the cut in this post from the Belize Reporter about a night with the “eight beauties competing for the Reina de la Costa Maya Pageant.”
3. Clear Eyes, Full Head, Can't Lose
Nine times out of 10 when you find someone who wins at poker, you find someone who tends to win at other things they invest time in.
Danish poker champ-turned-microbrewer Soren Eriksen is a good example.
Now a resident of New Zealand, Eriksen won back-to-back New Zealand Poker Championships in 2009 and 2010 for about $160k.
Eriksen then took his profit and rolled it over into a now highly successful craft brewery called 8 Wired.
In a recent brewing competition in New Zealand, Eriksen submitted 12 beers from his line, won awards for eight and was named Champion Brewery for 2011 by The Brewers Guild of New Zealand.
On a related note, former Aussie poker pro Kester Solomon also left behind a poker career in Vegas and rolled his profits over into the food-and-beverage industry.
He’s now the proprietor of Liberte at the London Hotel Wine Bar and Coffee House in Albany, Western Australia.
4. “I Have a Good Poker Face Because I Am Half-Dead Inside.”
The Republic of Anhedonia is not a real country (in case there was some doubt).
It is, however, the nation Colson “The Unsubscribe Kid“ Whitehead represented at the 2011 World Series of Poker.
If you haven’t read his Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia yet, it’s a great read - as is pretty much all of the content on the Bill Simmons-driven sports and pop culture project Grantland.com.
“I was gonna play in the Big Game and give it my best shot. It was not the National Series of Poker, it was the World Series of Poker, and I would represent my country, the Republic of Anhedonia.
“We have no borders, but the population teems. No one has deigned to write down our history, but we are an ancient land, founded during the original disappointments, when the first person met another person.
“I would do it for my countrymen, the shut-ins, the doom-struck, the morbid of temperament, for all those who walk through life with poker faces 24/7 because they never learned any other way.“
If you have a dispatch you’d like featured here, drop a note in the comments.