Some term it as “chill out sessions,” for others it’s an excuse to socialise during the festive season. But everyone unanimously agrees that Diwali without gambling is “not the same.” For years, Diwali has been synonymous with card parties; Taash sessions are a must for many on D-day. Each year, the stakes go up another notch, the winnings and losings of the last year becoming miniscule in restrospect.
For most, Diwali is incomplete without the traditional taash party. Maya Gangaramani, 64, housewife, says, “In the smaller games, each round is worth about Rs 10-20. However, this amount can go up to lakhs in the big clubs.” She also recalls a player carrying bags with cash worth a lakh of rupees at the NSCI club for a game and losing most of it by the end of the night.
Typically, at these parties there are one or two rooms set aside—sometimes in the basement—where no one else is allowed in. This is for the really big-stake players and the kitty goes up to Rs 20-25 lakh.
“Last year, a player at one of these parties was down by more than Rs 20 lakh and promptly put the keys of his E-Class Mercedes down on the table. But before the end of the evening his luck turned and he kept his car,” says 65-year-old housewife, Varsha Shah.
Aravind Desai, 65, a businessman, recalls the good old days when Diwali card parties were characterised by booze and bonhomie.
“The spirit of playing cards on Diwali is lost. Now it’s only money, money and more money. The stakes speak for themselves but who’s complaining?” he asks. An old pro, Desai claims to have raked in as much as Rs 3.2 lakh in three nights last Diwali.
But not all play for the stakes. For some people like Rama Bole, 65, it is the love of the game that gets them to sit at the card table. This housewife’s weekly Bridge game will take on a new dimension this Diwali as they plan to play for more than their regular stipulated time of three to three and a half hours.
“We don’t gamble and even during Diwali, we would not be playing for money,” she says. But Bridge, is a game where stakes aren’t too high in any case.
“It depends on the individual or the group who is playing the game but yet the stakes don’t go as high as say in rummy or teen-patti at least when it is played at home,” says Bole.
However, for the unconventional who would like a high stakes game, this Diwali presents a novel option. A website, www.games2win.com, has launched a Diwali Rummy tournament with cash winnings of up to a lakh in cash. The site also allows players to sharpen their skills by allowing them to indulge in unlimited hours of free practice.
Whenever there’s money involved, there are people willing to cheat. Many cheating methods require a confederate (ie a partner) at the table to help put the plan into action.
“When it comes to cards, there are no friends at the table. However, at a less formal game, where the actual dealer rotates around the table, the two cheaters simply have to wait until one of them has the deal to put the plan into action,” says Sanjana K, 45, a housewife. She advises amateur players to be on the lookout for pros who play in pairs.