A Guide to Poker in Thailand
In Thai language, the word poker is mostly used to describe games such as Gao Gae (เก้าเก) and Pok Deng (ป๊อกเด้ง). These are of course games of chance that are similar to Baccarat (บาคาร่า) as opposed to skill games like Hold’em. If card games of chance are what you are looking for you should refer to my article on Thailand casinos.
This article covers poker as it is known all over the world including Korea, Japan, Macau, Philippines, Las Vegas, UK, Australia, Norway, Germany and elsewhere. In these countries the top poker game is No Limit Hold’em (NLHE), which is also referred to as Texas Holdem. By reading this article, you will come to know what makes this such a great poker game, find out how to plau, learn who the top Thai poker players are, and where to play live poker in the region.
For the benefit of readers already familiar with No-Limit Hold’em, I start this article by covering details of the best Thai poker sites.
Online Poker in Thailand
Every real money poker site I know of accepts Thailand residents. There are however two operating on separate networks that are the easiest to use. Each has Thai language support, Thai language software, and accepts deposits and issue payouts in Thailand Baht (THB). These are listed below.
- Visit Site
- Bank Wire / eWallet
- 100% up to $500
- 100% up to $600
Deciding which of these poker sites to use depends on personal preferences. Dafabet is on the world’s largest poker network iPoker and likewise is tops for game selection. Pokerstars has the most traffic which means it has games going 24/7.
No matter which website you choose to play real money poker with, you will need to make a deposit. This money is stored in your account balance, which acts as a bank. When you sit down at a table you select how much money you would like to add to that table. This is then removed from your Thailand baht (THB) account balance and added to the table in United States dollar (USD). When you leave the table the money is converted back to baht at the same exchange rate. Therefore, game play does not incur any currency conversion fees.
If you have a bank account with Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) deposits can be done with online banking or at the ATM. Each of the poker sites above support additional banks too. You will need to join each to see which they support. If none support the bank you use, contact DafaPoker and their support will give you instructions for making a transfer at your local bank branch.
No matter which Thai bank you use, you can at anytime cash out all or part of your poker account balance to that bank account. This can be requested online and takes only a few days to process.
Using PokerStars.com in Thailand
www.pokerstars.com is the world’s largest online poker site with about ten times the volume of their closest competitor. They do not support Thai language or currency, but there are many reasons to use their website. One reason is game traffic to non-Hold’em games such as Omaha, 7-Card Stud, Razz, Triple Draw, Kansas City Lowball (Deuce to Seven / 2-7 No-Limit), Badugi and Hi/Lo games.
Another is they have the largest tournament prize pools where even life changing amounts can be won. You can also win seats to play in live high stakes poker tournaments in Macau, Korea, Philippines and elsewhere that feature life-changing prize pools. This only includes some of the many reasons.
EntroPay in Thailand
The easiest way to deposit with PokerStars is by using EntroPay. Open an account at www.entropay.com selecting United States dollar (USD) as your account currency. This gives you a prepaid virtual VISA card. You can fund it using debit card from your Thai bank. I do this myself using my Be1st VISA debit card from Bangkok Bank.
When loading EntroPay, make sure you complete the Verified by VISA or MasterCard SecureCode step. This displays as optional but it is not. Thai banks only approve international transactions when one of these 3D secure code services is used.
Also do not be surprised if you get an email saying your EntroPay account has been temporarily restricted or suspended. This is a routine check and all you need to do to reverse it is send them the information required. This is copy of debit card, utility bill, photo ID and the merchant you intend to use (eg Pokerstars).
Understand EntroPay is regulated by the UK governments Financial Service Authority (FSA). Sending them personal documents is fine and safe. Mentioning PokerStars is fine too as poker sites are legal in the UK where EntroPay is based.
Note: For cashing out of PokerStars, you can request a wire transfer to your Thai Bank account.
Learning Hold’em Poker
No Limit Hold’em is one of the best poker games for reason it involves both luck and skill. The same way it is possible to get lucky and win money playing roulette, baccarat, craps and other games, this is true for No-Limit Hold’em too. What is different with those other games is you ALWAYS need luck to win. Hold’em is however a skill game.
When you practice and become good at Holdem Poker, in time you can reach a point where you have an advantage over your opponents. When this happens, it is your opponent (not you) that requires luck to win. Even if sometimes they get lucky, this is okay. A skilled player might lose on certain days or weeks, but over the long run the best players wins the most money.
If you read English and want proof Hold’em is a skill game, Google search the word: Thai Poker House.
The above search result will show many examples of professional online poker players from around the world who have moved to Thailand. These players make their living playing poker on the internet. The reason most chose to live here is because they can work from anywhere in the world and their income buys them much more in Thailand than it does in their own country. Here many live like rock stars. Some are here as tourists doing constant border runs, while others enroll in Thai Language School which qualifies them for an education visa.
Before I continue I should mention anyone can enjoy Texas Hold’em. Even if you do not know how to play you can learn easily. The best ways is probably to Download PokerStars. Their software has a play money version that can be used to get the hang of the game without risking any money. By playing just a few hands it is easy to understand how the game works. It is also important you understand poker hand rankings.
Once you learn how to play you can get started with microstakes by depositing as little as ฿300. If you work on your game and start beating the smallest stakes consistently you can move up in stakes and keep doing this. Or you might just keep playing for fun treating it like a casino game.
Top Thai Poker Players
Again, Holdem Poker is a fun game that anyone can play even if just for fun or to gamble. For those looking to get good, you should realise that the tournament version is actually seen by many as a sport. It has a huge following around the world. There are major high-stakes tournaments that anyone paying the entry fee (or winning a seat online) can play in. With the major events, the final-tables are aired on television in many countries across the globe.
Perhaps only for the reason Thailand has less exposure to poker, not too many Thais play in the big international tournaments. For quite some time all the top Thai money winners at live tournaments were foreigners. One who might pass as Thai is Bangkok resident Mansour Khorramshahi. He’s cashed in many tournaments in Macau. He however is of Persian (Iranian) ethnicity.
The fact no Thai national had major success on the tournament circuit changed in March 2013. It was this month that Chane Kampanatsanyakorn from Bangkok earned about ฿2.7 million in the Asian Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Seoul Main Event. The following month he added about ฿800,000 more in winnings at the Word Series of Poker (WSOP) Asia Pacific Main Event. As the game is now starting to catch on here, it is probably only a matter of time before a multi-way race emerges for who is the best Thai national at poker tournaments.
Playing Poker Live
If you have hopes of becoming a great player, or are just looking for some entertainment, playing live poker is a good idea. This will help you get used to it in case you ever win a seat online to a major tournament. This can however not be done in Thailand as we have no casinos or poker rooms here and playing cards are not even legal to own or sell. For this you will need to travel.
If you can afford the expense, Macau is for sure the best destination. This is a Poker Mecca that most every serious poker player eventually travels too. It is also where many of the high stakes televised tournaments take place. If you can afford to go do not be shy. The Wynn even has a school that teaches the basics of the game. Macau is friendly for players of most stakes. The hotel rooms are however expensive, but taxi costs are reasonable enough if finding a budget hotel and AirAsia often has reasonable priced flights.
For budget travel, where to head depends on where you live.
If you plan to depart from Phuket, shop AirAsia for a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Note that the price differences by dates can often be huge. Sometimes you can find a ฿790 pretax price and other times it is ฿2,295. Once at the KUL airport you can take a quick light-rail to the Central Station and then the 60-80 minute bus ride to Genting Highlands. This is a major casino area that also has live poker. If booking during the week (Monday-Thursday) room prices are reasonable. At agoda.co.th Resorts World and Theme Park Hotel are often priced at ฿1250 per night which includes all taxes. This is area is however very expensive Friday-Sunday, and for how much it costs then you might as well go to Macau.
If you live close to Bangkok, your best bet is to check out www.cambodiaangkorair.com for a flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. If you are selective with dates you should be able to find a round trip flight from Suvarnabhumi (BKK) for ฿2,875. That price includes all taxes and fees. Cambodia is not expensive for hotels, food, tuk tuk costs and taxis, making this a great budget option. The poker room to play in here is at NagaWorld casino.
There are many other areas in our region with poker rooms such as Vietnam, Singapore, and Philippines. Thailand passport holders do not need a visa to visit any of the countries mentioned in this section. Just your passport is enough to travel to Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines and Macau, and each of these countries has legal poker rooms.