Can Siddhanth Kapoor’s poker tourney help ease the Indian COVID crisis?

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on: May 27, 2021 9:11 pm EDT

Bollywood actor Siddhanth Kapoor has set up a charity poker tournament to help fund COVID relief on the embattled sub-continent. Kapoor is hoping to tap into the growing popularity of poker in India and use it for good. To pull this off, Kapoor has teamed up with PokerHigh, an India-based poker site, to launch the charity event.

The tourney is scheduled for May 30, 2021 on the PokerHigh platform, at 6 PM Indian Standard Time (UTC +5:30).

Kapoor is a movie star, best known for his roles in Ugly (2013) and Jazbaa (2015). His next movie is a mystery-thriller called Chehre. Chehre shows all the hallmarks of influence from Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) and Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

The charity tournament will be hosted on the PokerHigh online poker platform.

“PokerHigh does online gambling. We are looking to have a fundraiser,” Kapoor said. “We were looking to associate with a charity, where the money can go directly to the relief of the victims.”

PokerHigh is a real money gambling site. They are fully regulated in India, so will not take customers from any of the states where online gambling is not completely above board.

“Amidst the ongoing pandemic let’s not use success as a victory over others but the empowerment of society as a whole, says PokerHigh’s website. “With over ₹15 lakh [~$20,630] raised so far, we are back with another tournament. Join POKER FOR A CAUSE Tournament in association with Siddhanth Kapoor, a poker player, actor, DJ, and activist on 30th May from 6 PM onwards and contribute money for hospital beds in Unnao, [Uttar Pradesh].”

The event has a ₹1,500 buy-in, with ₹450 going to charity and the rest to the prize pool.

Poker in India

Poker is one of the forms of gambling that slips through most of the patchwork gambling legislation of the Indian states.

Our game has elbowed its way into the list of cardplayer’s standards in India. Rummy, bridge, and teen patti are the card games where most money changes hands, but poker’s market share is challenging all of them. As anyone who has played three-card brag (of which teen patti is a variant) can attest, it is a short jump from that shark pool to poker.

Just in the last year, we have seen huge poker-based tech launches in India. We saw the WPT launch an online series in India. And we saw the APT do the same. Natural8 dived into the market for the GGNetwork. In fact, Natural8 is holding a similar charity event of their own for the crisis in India.

The struggle for legalization, and to prevent re-criminalization, is constant. But it moves at different speeds from state to state. By demonstrating that poker can be a force for good, PokerHigh probably has one eye on swaying public opinion.

Poker-pro Muskan Sethi tweeted about the charity tournament calling it “another great initiative by the Indian poker community and @SiddhanthKapoor.”

India in COVID crisis

Novelist Arundhati Roy called the COVID disaster in India a “crime against humanity” in her recent Guardian op-ed. She cites the numerous failings of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in tackling the virus.

COVID has been devastating in the U.S., killing almost 600,000 people over fifteen months. Most of these deaths occurred during the period of the Trump administration’s manifold failures. Despite this, in the U.S. many people continue to call the disease a hoax.

COVID has killed about 153,000 in India people in just under two months. The hoax narrative has not done well lately in the country.

India has roughly two-thirds the number of doctors per thousand people as the U.S. As a result, large swaths of the population have difficulty accessing doctors. Infrastructure failures mean that many people will have died without cause of death being confirmed. The crisis is much worse than even the numbers suggest.

Earnestness and grief

“I hope we can defeat this virus and it’s not one man’s battle,” Kapoor said. “The entire community has to come together. This is a hard time.”

Charity tournaments like this one will help. But what India really needs more than anything is medical support and access to enough COVID-vaccine to innoculate the majority of its 1.4 billion citizens and residents.

“I request everyone with a lot of earnestness and grief, to please follow all protocols and stay indoors as much as possible,” Kapoor added. “It’s not a time to be here and there and be casual about the deadly covid. Hope we all cross the line safe.”

All funds raised by the Poker For A Cause tourney will go to the Shri Hriday Narain Dhawan Charitable Trust, which serves the poor in Uttar Pradesh in memory of Dhawan. They will be using the money to fund hospital beds for those suffering from COVID without access to healthcare.

If you want to help, there are worse ways than playing Kapoor’s tourney. But don’t forget to write to your representative as well.

Featured image source: PokerHigh