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Similar to the laws in China and Vietnam, cash games are illegal while tournament poker is alive and well. Players can find a tournament everyday and get paid in actual cash. The rooms are open to both locals and foreigners. The last half of 2018 saw a rise in attendance of foreign players with international events entering the market. Name to the World Series of Poker. This was a huge milestone for Texas holdem. The Binion’s chose to have the first WSOP tournament at their casino, The Binion’s Horseshoe. These games took place as a series of cash games that included five card stud, deuce to seven low-ball draw, razz, Seven Card Stud, and Texas holdem. The Win Poker Room in Da Nang, Vietnam is on the 15th floor of the Holiday Beach Hotel and Spa. This beautiful hotel is just steps from the ocean. This beautiful hotel is just steps from the ocean. The team in the lobby was very helpful in guiding us up to the floor to check it out.
Poker, poker, poker – I love poker! It is my favorite game to play with family, friends, and strangers. I love all sorts of games, but I have a strong passion for poker. It’s in my blood; I come from a family of card-playing action lovers. In this post, I will tell you how amazing it was to discover the new poker rooms in Vietnam and how each room differs.
To give you a sense of my knowledge on the subject, Here are a few facts:
Poker Texas Holdem Vietnam Lottery
- I was certified as a poker dealer in Las Vegas when I lived there for 14 months in the mid ‘00’s. (Though I never dealt in an actual casino)
- I’ve cashed in a World Series of Poker event. Finishing 138 out of 2,315
- I won my way to the PartyPoker.com Million Cruise where I played with the top players in the world and took out actor James Woods in the tourney – you can see me sitting next to Woods at the 1:16 mark of the World Poker Tour Episode in my then long hair, white hat, and stoic focus 😉
- I’ve gambled on 5 continents
- I might have a tattoo or two that represent my love for cards
If you would like to hear all about our times in Vietnam, check out our episode Podcast 11: Vietnam Travel (and Location We Hated during our World Tour).
Da Nang, Vietnam
Okay, so here we are in Da Nang, Vietnam enjoying the beauty of the waves and strolling the walkways along the coast when I spot a Win Poker sign. Now, poker has its different forms of translation around the world. In my world, it represents you playing against other players with a dealer, but the casinos like to call it poker when you are playing against them (the house) sometimes. That’s not poker. That’s pure gambling. Poker is a game of skill, and I like to test my skills against the other players. That is what I am looking for when I see poker signs. I had to see which version of poker it was…
The Win Poker Room in Da Nang, Vietnam is on the 15th floor of the Holiday Beach Hotel and Spa. This beautiful hotel is just steps from the ocean. The team in the lobby was very helpful in guiding us up to the floor to check it out.
As the elevator doors opened, we were greeted by a cheerful host who spoke broken English but did a great job in giving me all of the handout information that detailed the games, and she connected me to her bilingual coworker who explained it all very well. Investigating the room, I found that it was very well organized, clean, and built for growth.
It was a true poker room. The players were playing in tournaments only which I found odd. I would later find out that it was how the casino licensing works in Vietnam – cash game rooms or tournament rooms, but not both in the same room.
I played in a couple of tournaments in Da Nang making the final table both times but not cashing.
The Win Poker Room has big tournaments that they list on their Facebook Page.
Listen to why we love Vietnam in this Podcast Episode.
Nha Trang, Vietnam
A week or so later we were in Nha Trang, Vietnam – another beautiful coastal city that is a common tourist destination in the region. Similar to Da Nang with the fun nightlife, tasty food selection, and friendly hospitality but with one big difference – there was a CASH room poker game. We just happened to book our Airbnb (see the gorgeous view from our 41st floor) in the apartments that connect to the Mường Thanh Luxury Hotel where the Nha Trang Poker Room is part of the mini-casino they offer there.
You walk through a security metal detector, they check your ID, and then you are free to play the electronic roulette/ blackjack tables or slot machines. The bartenders are ready to serve you at the bar while you play. Like all of Vietnam, hospitality is very personal and eager to please.
The small poker room with one table is like walking into your buddy’s basement and rounding up your friends to play a Saturday night game. It is clean, comfortable, and organized. The dealers are extremely knowledgeable and run the game very well. I was impressed with how they handled a couple of tough situations – players taking too long to decide on bets and a drunk guy from Europe that wouldn’t shut up.
They kept the games moving fast and the action continuous. The manager in the room was excellent at making sure the players were comfortable by offering free beer, presenting food options, or getting more playing chips.
While I was there, they offered $1/2 and $2/5 No Limit Hold Em on different nights. I did hear that they had an Omaha game a few nights before. The game started around 8:00 or 9:00 pm each night but that changes in demand. They accepted US dollars and paid out in USD if you wanted as well. They took a typical rake from the hands played.
The banter at the table was mostly in Vietnamese which is expected, but it can be a tad lonely for a few hours. That said, there was a professional player there that spoke good English, and I had great conversations with him. He educated me on how the Vietnam poker rooms operated and translated for me throughout the night.
Yes, there seemed to be 4-5 players that played there often which can be a turnoff because they know each other’s playing styles but you get the same thing in any good poker room around the world. That said, the action on the night I played was pretty wild. Big hands, very often.
Tons of raising, re-raising with junk hands. It was a dream table with a few high rollers, but you have to come with pockets of money which I didn’t have. So I sat, waited, and played minimal hands but I had a blast. I even witnessed a nutty hand that ended with a royal flush!
From what I saw on the Nha Trang Poker Room Facebook Page, they continue to add in new games so check that out if you plan on visiting. I highly recommend this poker room if you vacation in this beautiful city.
UPDATE: It appears that this Poker Room is no longer. If you have any inside information on other rooms, let me know.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A week later we wrapped up our awesome month in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. From the tip of my Nha Trang professional buddy, I looked into the poker room in Ho Chi Minh because it offered good tournaments. I found that the Pro Poker Club was only about a 40-minute walk (12-minute drive) from our District 1 apartment. During the time we were there, I was lucky enough to find that they had one of their bigger multi-day events happening.
I decided I would test my luck in the Micro Million tournament with the 1.2 Million Dong buy-in. Now, this is one of the cooler things about playing in Vietnam, the potential payouts can be nine figures! With the current exchange rate being 22,675 Dong to 1 USD, it can be pretty funny to think about the massive payouts.
The Pro Poker Club is in a box looking building with frosted windows and thick red border. There is plenty of parking out front for cars and scooters. When you walk in, the bar area is immediately on the right side with bartenders and staff ready to serve. There are several couches in this room, and I believe it is a smoking area. The check-in manager was at the podium ready to get my cash for a players card.
Yes, this sucks to have to pay the fee for a membership that I only needed for a day or two, but those are the rules, and I planned on winning this tournament 😉 After getting through this process (be sure to have your passport), I entered the big poker room which looked like a Las Vegas-style room but newer and cleaner than some I have played there.
Buying into the tournament was an easy process. The cage cashiers took the payment and gave out a typical buy-in receipt. I did have to pay an extra fee that went towards Tip Coins which I thought was unfair. The coins are guaranteed food/beverage credits you pay with the coins each valued at 50,000 Dong.
You can decide to buy off of their menu or tip the dealers with the coins. The food menu was deeper than I expected and the drinks were fun and lavish. Much more expensive than typical Vietnamese food you find walking the streets but outstanding quality.
This particular tournament ran pretty fast with the 20-minute blinds. It was extremely well organized with the floor managers moving players to fill empty seats as new tables filled and broke. The all-female dealer crew was experienced and knowledgeable. They were great at separating pots in those all-in moments with multiple players. I am not sure why all the dealers were female, but that was all that I saw while playing in Da Nang and HCMC.
As the tournament played on and the field shrunk, it got louder and louder. The emotion that came with the all-in action was exciting and fun. I thought I was going to be able to make a run with two tables left but ran into pocket Aces and sadly exited the tournament. I decided to drown my sorrows in a coffee mocha smoothie with a couple of tip coins.
The Pro Poker Club in Ho Chi Minh has a ton of games of all values running daily – check out their Facebook Page for the latest details. They posted a few photos of me from the event that I posted here. Ho Chi Minh is a world-class city that is worth visiting and, if you have enough time on your visit, go check out this poker room if you enjoy tournament style poker.
Wrapping up, the gambling climate in Vietnam seems to be in a transition so the rules of each room could change rapidly. I believe all three of these poker rooms opened in 2017 so they will continue to learn and improve. That said, I think they already have a great handle on how to treat their guests to feel welcome even if the cards don’t run their way. I was told that, as of the time we were visiting, there are only four legal poker rooms in the whole country and I visited three of them. Lucky me!
Best of luck in your adventures!
Traveled December 2017, April 2018, January + February 2019
Vietnam, in spite of having a communist government, has undergone economic reform over the last few years, and this reform has led to gambling operations being created and expanded in the country, and therefore have become much more liberal towards gambling, just as long as it doesn’t involve their own people.
So they are a rather odd country in the respect that there a lot of casinos here and they also have some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the world.
It’s not that the Vietnamese don’t like to gamble, but gambling is not permitted to be engaged in by Vietnamese residents, other than playing the lottery, which they have had here since 1999, or betting at a single horse racing track in Ho Chi Mihn City. (1)
The laws of Vietnam as far as being caught gambling are based upon the stakes, with the first level concerning very small stakes and social gambling, which involves a small fine and being essentially being put on probation, something they call non custodial reform here.
Being caught winning or losing between 2 million and 50 million dong (about $90 to about $2300) involves a more serious crime, where the fines go up, the probation is longer, and there is also risk of jail time. The third level is for those who have won or lost over 50 million dong (about $2300), and there is a minimum 3 years in prison for this one, which can be extended to up to 7 years, in addition to being fined, and this also applies if they show you are a professional gambler or have been found to be operating a gambling establishment. (2)
So these laws are very harsh you would at least think they would scare away a lot of people, especially players who like to play for any kind of decent stakes, and being thrown into prison for at least 3 years should at least scare a lot of people actually.
In spite of the harsh stance that the government of Vietnam has towards gambling, there has at least been some talk over the last few years of liberalizing it at least somewhat, and the creation of the lottery a few years back certainly was a big step in that direction. There’s even been some talk lately about making certain forms of gambling legal for Vietnamese.
There’s still a lot of opposition to that and we’ll have to see how this all plays out, however previous attempts have just led to the government digging in and in some cases even increasing the harsh penalties now in place.
The Live Poker and Gambling Scene In Vietnam
When you look at how serious the government is about punishing their people for illegal gambling, which extends to everything but the lottery, you would think that there wouldn’t be much gambling going on in Vietnam at all.
This is far from the case though, and the desire to gamble among the Vietnamese is something that even laws which are among the most severe in the world doesn’t stop.
In particular, the Vietnamese enjoy betting on a dice game known as ‘Bao Cua,’ which has been around for so long that no one is even sure how long, but it is very steeped in the culture here.
The Vietnamese people don’t just limit their gambling pursuits to this though, and they are also particularly fond of betting on sporting events, and they place about a billion dollars worth of bets a year on soccer matches alone. (3)
Cock fighting is another popular way to gamble among the locals, and you can even bet on fish fights here, where fighting fish go head to head and draw large crowds placing bets on the outcome.
Vietnam does have quite a number of legal casinos, 27 of them in total actually, and this includes some very nice venues. However, Vietnamese residents are not permitted to gamble there, and only those with foreign passports are allowed entry.
Poker Texas Hold'em Boyaa Vietnam
So foreign nationals do have access to a fair bit of gambling here including some legal live poker. The government may be ultra conservative toward their own people playing but they are more than eager to capture gambling revenue from non Vietnamese, particularly tourists, and the live gambling scene has really been growing here of late.
The Asian Poker Tour has even come to Vietnam now, and has scheduled a regular stop here, which certainly will help promote poker in the country. (4)
Poker is actually said to be pretty popular among the Vietnamese people already, in spite of their not being able to play it legally. There are reportedly a number of underground poker rooms that operate here in addition to the legal ones at the casinos, and the underground ones of course allow Vietnamese players to play at them. (5)
Online Poker in Vietnam
Texas Holdem Poker Pro Vietnam
The government in Vietnam does not take any actions to block online poker sites or engage in other actions designed to prevent Vietnamese players from playing on them, and therefore players who are up for it can simply play wherever they want.
Vietnam has a very nice roster of professional poker players, such as Scotty Nguyen, Men “The Master” Nguyen, as well as a number of other successful players, including a lot of good online players as well. (6)
So while the legal poker rooms here won’t accept Vietnamese players, the online poker sites sure will, and online poker is very popular in Vietnam. All of the top players have left Vietnam to pursue their poker careers, but Vietnamese poker players do look up to them and poker is well ingrained in Vietnamese gambling culture these days.
It can be a little more challenging in Vietnam to move money in and out of online poker sites than it is in some other countries, but it’s not really that difficult, and there are even a couple of Vietnamese online wallets that can be used and that are popular with players there.
As far as the future goes, it may be quite some time indeed before we ever see things loosen up enough to have Vietnamese regulated online poker aimed at Vietnamese players, but things do seem to be loosening up at least somewhat when it comes to the government’s view of gambling by its citizens.
There’s some talk from the Vietnamese Finance Ministry about their looking to allow legal sports betting here, which is a good start at least. In the end they may end up casting a longer gaze toward all the revenue that they are missing out on as far as all of the untaxed gambling that goes on in this country, which is not a small amount. (7)
In the mean time, many Vietnamese online poker players continue to play at their favorite sites, in spite of what their government wants at the present time.
1. Gambling Law for Vietnam
3. Gambling in Vietnam
4. APT Vietnam Announced at the APT Poker Room Manila
Poker Texas Holdem Vietnam Games
5. Online Poker Sites in Vietnam
Poker Texas Holdem Vietnam Wins
6. Poker in Vietnam
7. Gambling in Vietnam
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