Find­ing the way around the house of cards

A low prob­a­bil­ity of win­ning does not seem to dis­suade thou­sands from play­ing rummy on­line and oc­ca­sion­ally, spend­ing for­tunes in the process

The Hindu - - CHENNAI - Sangeetha Kan­davel

‘Win Lakhs in Real Cash’, ‘100 % Le­gal Join Now & Get Free ₹2,000 Bonus’, ‘Play In­dian Rummy and Win Cash Prizes at Rummy Mil­lion­aire!’ ‘Claim ₹1,000 Rummy Bonus and take a shot at win­ning mil­lions of real money - Play Now’! Lu­cra­tive taglines such as these are lur­ing thou­sands across Tamil Nadu to play the pop­u­lar card game on­line. Pop-up screens with such mes­sages of­ten ap­pear when you try to log on to any e-com­merce plat­form or while play­ing games on your mo­bile phone. Es­ti­mates in­di­cate that over one lakh peo­ple from Tamil Nadu play rummy on­line ev­ery month.

Rum­myCir­cle, one of the largest rummy por­tals, said that in Tamil Nadu, over 15,000 unique play­ers log in daily to play var­i­ous ver­sions of the game, such as pool rummy, points rummy and deals rummy. An­other on­line gam­ing por­tal, which wished anonymity, said that in July 2017, it had more than 4 lakh game ses­sions ap­prox­i­mately and of these 6% could be marked as orig­i­nat­ing from Tamil Nadu, with slightly more than 5 % orig­i­nated from Chen­nai. “Chen­nai ac­counts for nearly 85 % of our traf­fic from Tamil Nadu,” the spokesper­son of this firm said.

“I don’t want to come on record be­cause peo­ple still have a mis­con­cep­tion that this is gam­bling. This is a skill­based game,” said the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of a gam­ing firm, whose main rev­enues come from rummy. This firm has nearly 8,000 play­ers from Tamil Nadu.

“In my view, it is a very healthy and in­vig­o­rat­ing pas­time and hones one’s soft skills like mem­ory and re­ten­tion, at­ten­tion to de­tail and abil­ity to take de­ci­sions based on in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion,” the mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer of a Mum­bai-based rummy firm said.

While do­ing this story, The

Hindu spoke to nine rummy play­ers in Chen­nai to find out how the game is played on­line, the amount in­vested and the prob­a­bil­ity of win­ning. One player, Amar (name changed), said, “I have been play­ing for over five months and the prob­a­bil­ity of win­ning is very low. Of the 20 games (av­er­age) I play ev­ery week, I win one. I usu­ally spend ₹1,000 a week and there are of­fers each week too,” he added.

An­other rummy player, S. Ram, ex­plained that af­ter each round, the win­ner gets the money from the other play­ers on the ta­ble. The money comes into the ac­count of the player af­ter the com­pany deducts a ser­vice charge for the game. “When you first reg­is­ter, the por­tal asks for you bank de­tails and PAN de­tails,” he said. His friend, Ak­shay, who has never won a sin­gle game till date, said, “I log on to play dur­ing the week­ends. Once you win, you feel like win­ning more and once you’re out, you feel like try­ing till you suc­ceed.” He added, “Peo­ple spend thou­sands at gam­ing zones. So what’s wrong in bet­ting on rummy?”

‘Play­ers are aware’

When asked whether this could be a ponzi scheme, an an­a­lyst said the player is wellaware of what he is do­ing. The web­sites of com­pa­nies have dis­claimers that state they are not re­spon­si­ble for losses in­curred. It also has clauses and de­tails ex­plain­ing that play­ers should not be in­volved in money laun­der­ing, spam­ming or log in from mul­ti­ple IDs.

At Rum­myCir­cle, no one con­trols the game. There is an in­ter­na­tion­ally cer­ti­fied ran­dom gen­er­a­tor that ran­domly dis­trib­utes cards among play­ers. An­other rummy firm said its soft­ware is merely a fa­cil­i­ta­tor. “The soft­ware per­forms the shuf­fling of cards and deals hands to all play­ers, main­tain­ing the game state, val­i­dat­ing the win­ning hand, com­put­ing the scores of the los­ing hands and set­tling the win­nings and losses,” a spokesper­son said.

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