If a pre-Diwali card party in Delhi brings to you images of men sitting at the big table and women in a corner, playing small stakes, think again. This year, it’s the city’s well-heeled ladies who’re sweeping the festive gambling scene instead of playing second fiddle to their millionaire husbands. “The big shift this season is that women are not afraid to come to the big tables where the game is played with serious money,” says Gauri Nandwani, who’s planning her own card party for 300 this season, with most being women. “In fact, unlike men, women are even putting things like cars and jewellery on stake,” says another regular to the Chhattarpur card party circuit.
Traditionally, it was the men who’d take to what is known as the ‘no limit’ table, and ask that they be left alone at play. The women would keep themselves busy in a separate area. That ’separate area’ has however turned into the fairer sex’s own ‘no limit’ zone this time around, say social circuit frequenters. “Though the card party scene started a bit slow this year, it is picking up fast. And, one thing is for sure — girls are getting more aggressive with the game. They no more want to be silent spectators. I’ve been to a card party where, between three of the players including a woman, Rs 3 crore was put on stake,” reveals a top model who attends card parties in the city every year but does not wish to be named. A prominent fashion designer says on condition of anonymity, “Even my daughter’s playing this time, and ended up winning Rs 3 lakh last evening, imagine how the craze is picking up!”
Apart from the ‘fair’ development, the stakes, in general, are also on a new high. A socialite reveals that there’s a certain group that plays poker with a minimum stake of Rs 25 lakh each. “You can imagine the money being splurged at such games... and this is just one of the many,” she says, insisting that her name not be published.
It’s not just hard cash that’s exchanging hands. Designer bags and even shoes are being put on stake. “In an impulsive moment, I bet my Jimmy Choo shoes at a Diwali card party... and lost,” reveals Pooja Singh, 31, who vows to not repeat the experience.
Bollywood’s big players
Bollywood’s Diwali card parties will be also be big this season. Veteran actors Shabana Azmi and Simi Garewal, and filmmaker Ekta Kapoor, who’re known to organise the biggest parties in the industry, are gearing up to throw lavish ones this Diwali as well. Ekta’s father and veteran actor Jeetendra is fondly referred to as the king of card parties till date. It is said that during this time, his villa is transformed into a casino with a bar, cash dispensing machines and even rummy counters. Akshay Kumar, Shilpa Shetty-Raj Kundra and Aamir Khan also plan such parties for close friends.