Diwali in Delhi: Gambling the Night Away!

IMG_3986Happy gambling faces!

What would Diwali be without some good ol’ gambling? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but in Delhi, even the most traditional people turn into hardcore gamblers during the Diwali season! The game of choice is Teen Patti, also known as Flash.

Goddess Lakshmi, who bestows wealth, fortune and prosperity; is worshipped on Diwali. As an ode to her, people loosen their pockets throughout the festive season hoping to get plentiful wealth through the coming year. People shop for new things- buy new clothes and home décor (read my round-up of the Diwali Melas in Delhi here and here); distribute presents among family and friends; and gamble.

Legend has it that Goddess Parvati played dice with Lord Shiva and declared that gambling on Diwali night would lead to prosperity through the year. Other variants to the legend include the two sons of Goddess Parvati, Ganesh and Kartikeya, playing dice as a family. Hardcore card enthusiasts have gone so far as to say the one who doesn’t gamble on Diwali will be reborn a donkey!

All these legends serve as social sanction for an activity that is essentially illegal in normal times. People start having Diwali card parties 3-4 weeks in advance. These can vary from simple affairs with close ones playing cards; to large gatherings with scores of people and an almost-wedding like atmosphere. People usually attend a few parties through the season and keep count of their winnings (or losses!).

IMG_4228

A pure sequence. Here’s hoping for some luck on Diwali!

In Teen Patti, each person is dealt three cards, on which they place bets through various rounds of play. The series of winning cards in descending order includes, trail (3 of the same number), pure sequence (a sequence of 3 numbers in the same suit), impure sequence (a sequence of 3 numbers in different suits), colour (3 of the same suit), pair (2 of the same number) and top card (ideally played if you have a picture card). Sometimes people bluff and get lucky but the best cards on the table win.

Usually, one round is played with dealt cards, after which variations can begin. These include one or multiple jokers being assigned by the dealer, which drastically changes the way the game is played. People with horrible cards may win if they have jokers or know how to bluff their way through! Some popular variations include AK47 (Ace, King, 4s and 7s are jokers) and 1942 A Love Story (Ace, 9s, 4s, 2s and hearts are jokers), discard one or imagine one card, and odd colour joker. Complicated variations involve flipping jokers which change every time someone folds, or beat the bank (usually played at the end of the night). Small, friendly games usually involve low stakes in terms of money, and serious ones can involve exorbitant amounts.

I’ve played a few rounds this season, and have a couple more lined up. I love the feeling of new notes being stacked up, the three cards in my hands, the quick evaluation of whether to fold or move; and if I’m fortunate, the winnings at the end of the night! Teen Patti is a very important part of my Diwali, how about yours?!

Diwali Fun Quotient: 5/5

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