For many years’ poker was seen a game for hardened cardsharps played in dark backrooms with large amounts of money changing hands on the turn of a card.It was this reputation that may have put many people off finding out more about poker and how to play it. But, in recent times, the game has come to be more widely accepted and today it is very popular all over the world.
A number of elements have come together to change people’s perceptions. Events like the annual World Series of Poker have started to be televised and this has given the game a whole new profile. The phenomenal global growth of the online games has also allowed plenty of people to learn how to play poker at home at their own pace. Most sites even give the option to practice and play for free, helping people to build up their skills and their knowledge in private and free from shyness or embarrassment.
This has also been very useful indeed in helping people to progress to playing the game in “live” situations at casinos and in poker rooms where the basic poker rules are the same but the atmosphere may be completely different to the online experience.
Like many other countries in the world, Kenya offers many opportunities for players to enjoy a game of poker and it’s backed by some fairly liberal laws too when it comes to gambling in general.
To look at the history of gambling legislation in the country one has to go back to 1966 where the activity was legalised shortly after independence was declared. It was placed under the sole control of the Betting Control and Licensing Board who revised the regulations as recently as 2019.
These state that all casinos and poker rooms need to have an official licence to operate – it’s illegal to do so if unlicenced. Today, there are 13 licenced casinos in the country, several of which offer poker games. These attract both tourists and Kenyans to play with the largest concentration of them being in the capital, Nairobi, as well as in Mombasa.
- Diamond Poker Room, Nairobi
You’ll find the Diamond Poker Room in the heart of the Diamond Plaza Shopping Centre in the Parklands area of the city. It offers a wide range of games in a very comfortable and welcoming environment, making it the perfect place to learn how to play poker and build their confidence. The games include three, five and seven card versions as well as a special variation all of their own called Jumbo Poker. Open from 10am right through until 5am daily, the poker action tends to start at around 5pm. It’s a big favourite for players at all levels, many of whom head there at the weekend which is when tournament play takes over.
- Bollywood Casino at Royal Orchid, Nairobi
There’s a real atmosphere of opulence and glamour waiting for players at the Bollywood Casino, as the name would suggest. It’s located in the five-star Royal Orchid Hotel that is conveniently situated near to the city’s central business district. Within the casino, there are two poker tables where the games include three-card stud, Texas Hold’em and a special variation called Indian Ocean Stud Poker. Anyone wanting to play a cash game will find that the minimum buy-in is KES 1,500 and tournament players will certainly be attracted by the weekly Hold’em tournament with a guaranteed KES 100,000 prize pot.
- Captain’s Club Casino, Nairobi
In the Kelico complex, heading out of Nairobi on the road to Mombasa, the Captain’s Club Casino may just boast two tables, but you are guaranteed a warm welcome and very personal attention. This is certainly the place to go with friends for a game of Hold’em or seven card stud because, even if the tables aren’t running at the time, the management are always happy to set up a game for you. It really fills up at weekends so weeknights are definitely better if you want to set up your own game and enjoy all of the Captain’s famous hospitality.
- Casino Max Poker Room, Mombasa
Ever since it opened back in 2009 the Casino Max has been steadily gaining a reputation for offering a first class gaming experience. Threecard poker, Texas Hold’em, and Oasis Poker are all played here and there’s a wide selection of video poker games too. Table games run from 2pm until 5am daily and it’s also especially well-served with bar and restaurants offering drinks, meals and other refreshments
5. Casino Malindi, Mombasa
Last, but by no means least, there’s the sumptuous seaside venue Casino Malindi. It has five tables where, in addition to three card and Hold’em variations, you can also play the even more appropriate Indian Ocean Stud. In the past, it’s also been home to one leg of the Kenyan Poker Tour. While this hasn’t been in action for some time, the growing popularity of the game in the country means that it may well be back in 2021.
This can only be a good thing as it will give Kenyans a chance to perfect their tournament play against others of real skill and talent – and may even prove to be a stepping stone up to winning one of the huge WSOP prizes in the Main Event.