Poker in Estonia

27.05.2014

In the smallest of the Baltic states gambling is alive and thriving. Gambling establishments are scattered across the country, poker is mostly played in Tallinn. 

Poker in Estonia is young and impetuous. Baltic poker is special. The first casino in the Soviet Union «Astoria Palace» opened its doors in Tallinn in 1989. However, now Estonian gambling is under severe pressure: financial crisis, public protests, tougher laws, etc.

In recent years the number of casinos in Estonia has decreased from hundreds to tens: small arcades could not withstand the biting impact of the government; particularly tough for the industry was the law regulating the location of gaming houses – separate building, separate entrance. The European Union with its complex attitude to gambling has also did its bit.

The capital of Estonia entered the international poker scene in 2010-2011, when the stages of the European Poker Tour were conducted, the buy-in of the Main Event was € 4,250. Several hundred players took part in each of the two tournaments.

Where to play poker in Estonia?

For a small country like Estonia the number of casinos per square meter goes off the scale. But don’t hurry to rejoice, dear reader, poker story is slightly different.

The gambling market of the country (and the Baltic States) is controlled by Olympic Casino monopoly. Two dozen of its establishments are scattered across the major cities: Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Narva, Jõhvi. Basically, there are gambling machines and justa few gaming tables there. The largest one is Olympic Casino Olümpia in Tallinn.

One of the major competitors of Olympic is Casino Grand Prix Network: in eight cities they have 13 gaming halls, six of which host cheap (up to € 30) poker tournaments. Poker Tallin is the capital of Baltic poker.

Who plays poker in Estonia?

Tallinn has a population of 431,000, the city is quite small by the standards of the large countries; but it is the very place where fans of the “greencloth” should go. No other city in Estonia has such a variety of casinos, poker tournaments and cash tables.

Poker tournaments are held regularly (in the places offering this game), with buy-ins up to €100 and teams of no more than 100 different people. Sometimes poker festivals are held locally – such as Olympic Winter Festival: five tournaments with buy-ins ranging from € 110 to € 500

Cash table limits are small: €1/1, €2/2, €5/5. In the Casino Grand Prix network cache starts from €0,5/0,5. To find something larger on a regular basis is problematic. Here you can find the Finns (the most frequent visitors of Estonia) who come with their families, the Swedes, the locals (Estonians themselves are very fond of playing), the Russians. There are enough both young and old players. It’s better to play on weekends – at this time there are more foreigners. Or on weekday evenings, approximately from 22:00.

Usually there are not so many active tables – 1-2, more on weekends. It happens that there is no game at all.

High Rollers usually prefer private games to spacious casino halls. You can get to the closed game by an acquaintance.

Before going to the Estonian casino don’t forget your passport – all the casino visitors in the country are registered, minors (under 21 years) are not allowed.

So, we have a not-so rosy picture: poker is more or less stable in Casino Olümpia (Tallinn), but not always, there are a few cash tables there. Another variant – Tartu. But once the capital has problems, the situation in other cities is not better. On the other hand, the relative underdevelopment of the poker industry and the abundance of other gambling result in a large number of weak players.

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