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A revolution of sorts took place on the virtual felts last night when a large of group of Indian poker players decided to boycott the Sunday major’s on India’s largest online poker site Adda52. The boycott was sparked by a social media post made by well-known pro Raghav Bansal on August 10 regarding the outdated TDS policy followed by Adda52 that he claimed was resulting in a massive leakage of funds from the poker ecosystem as excess tax payment to the government.
In a day and age where poker, though still in its nascent stage in India, is still thriving with several competing online poker sites coming up with player-friendly TDS policies, Adda52 has yet to make any changes to its TDS policies that have reportedly been in place since the time of the site’s launch almost seven years ago. With sites like PokerDangal allowing players to withdraw up to ₹30,000 per day without TDS and PokerBaazi announcing deductions of TDS only on net winnings, Adda52’s deduction of 32% TDS from the prize pool of MTT events, has obviously resulted in much “hue and cry” from MTT players with their dissent becoming stronger these past few days.
The debate was sparked on the social media forum “The Players Group (TPG)” and ultimately resulted in several regulars boycotting Adda52’s two high-value Sunday tournaments, the Big Slick and the Mega Suits last night. The Big Slick logged in 669 entries while the Mega Suits drew 502 entries – both events registering a slight overlay on the advertised guarantees. The boycott even benefitted the other operators with PokerStars India witnessing over 300 entries in its biggest Sunday tournament, the Sunday Special Progressive KO – the highest turnout this event has seen to date since the guarantees were slashed from ₹20 Lakhs to ₹15 Lakhs. Even the PokerBaazi BSS SuperStack saw a marginal increase with 547 entries over the 500 entries last week.
While for an industry leader like Adda52, that boasts of over 1.9 Million users on its platform, a small group of 3,700-odd members would have little to no relevance, especially when it comes to suggestions on important issues like tax policies but surprisingly this group showed the operator that if they stand together they can exercise substantial clout. Comprising of some of the most well-known and decorated poker players in the country, this small but fast-expanding group forms a significant majority of MTT players who are regulars in the Weekly Major tournaments held across the various site. While a late decision to boycott the Adda52 tournament may have spared Adda52 from filling in a massive overlay yesterday the realization that future boycotts could prove to be more costly for the company is not lost on them.
In fact, Adda52 pro Kunal Patni, the only brand ambassador of the company who reached out to the community to address the issues raised by the players, assured players that the company’s management was looking into the matter and even offered an olive branch asking someone from the community to be present at the meeting that was supposed to take place with tax consultants today to explore a more player-friendly policy. Raman Gujral, one of the more active proponents of the boycott, agreed to be the representative of the players at this meeting.
Though Gujral was unable to make it to the meeting, he informed us that the key points that the player’s community wanted to put forth to the Adda52 management were communicated to the site.
The Call For a Boycott
While the issue had been brought on TGP before, Raghav Bansal’s lengthy post, detailing the problems caused by the TDS policy, led to a heated discussion within the community.
Highlighting the issue, Bansal wrote, “Lately we have seen most major sites come up with improved Tax policies helping players pay tax on their net winnings and as a result keeping more money in the poker system except Adda52 who have for some reason never bothered to revise their MTT tax policy leading to players paying way too much than they are supposed to.
With the current policy, every tournament we play has around 32% deducted from the prize pool for every tournament which can never be recovered. Its effectively like 32% rake in every tourney from a player’s perspective. I have been playing poker for a long time and I guarantee you that no good foreign reg that you respect would be playing in these tournaments. It’s beyond ridiculous.
For some perspective, last year;
The biggest crushers paid about 40% in TDS
The high-volume medium winners paid 50-80% in TDS
The slightly winning players lost money net due to TDS so paid more than 100% TDS effectively.
The losing players were made to pay tax for losing 🙂 (the more you played the more TDS you gave as well).”
Bansal went on to say that he had spoken to Adda52’s new CEO, and Adda52 Team pro, Kunal Patni, who had assured him that the management would be discussing the issue in the following week. But unhappy with the situation not being dealt with for so long, Bansal called for a boycott against the MTTs to be hosted on Adda52 on Sunday, August 11.
“I spoke to the new CEO, Manish and Patni at length today and while they told me they will be meeting with tax people in the coming week to try to come up with a solution, it’s been far too long that Adda52 has been sleeping on this issue while we have been leaking 7-12 crores a year in extra TDS! (close estimates extrapolated using real examples). I hope the new management is not as pathetic as the last one in charge and realise that unless they bring our TDS burden down or take it upon themselves this cannot work. MTTs on Adda will have to completely boycotted eventually if they are not willing to change their interpretation of the TDS laws for poker in India. In fact, it’s probably in everyone’s best interest that if they can’t change the tax policy they may as well stop hosting MTTs altogether as its beyond terrible for the poker economy.
It is in a real short notice, but WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A MASS BOYCOTT FOR THE SUNDAY MTTS ON ADDA52. Hopefully us expressing our collective discontent and some overlay would make them prioritize this key problem and come in line with other websites who are offering us to pay only 30% of net profits as we should be paying.
We would request you all to support us in this cause and not play any MTTs on Adda52 this Sunday and if you wish, going forward till they decide to change their tax policy.”
Bansal’s war cry was heard and supported by a majority of the players on TPG, and the word spread fast within the community. Seasoned pro Raman Gujral emerged as one of the most tireless supporters of the boycott. In fact, on July 31, Gujral had published a post of his own, questioning the exorbitantly high rake structure of domestic sites for cash games. In his post, he recounted a story about noted Indian-origin pro Vivek Rajkumar’s reaction to the astronomically high rake charged at the live poker rooms in India.
“Vivek Rajkumar, one of the best players in the world, had once come to play with us in a live game in Goa. He was shocked to find out that we have a $100 cap ($1 was = around 50 Rupees back then). After playing with us for about an hour, he declared that the game we are playing is not beatable — well, he was wrong … he had underestimated how bad some of the players truly were. The game was very much beatable, and we were OK paying such high rake because of the edge we had on the field — close to 75% of loser’s chips were ending up with the winners and only 25% going in rake. Now, eight years later, things have changed drastically….edges are no longer that big (especially online), yet Indian sites are charging 900-1200 cap on high stakes games(as opposed to $3 charged by international sites). It is time to lower online cash game rake… and until that is done, it is irresponsible for Indian poker sites to lure tourney players into cash games.”
The Aftermath of the Boycott
Over the past few weeks, Adda52’s Mega Suits and Big Slick had been consistently smashing its guarantee. In fact, the last time the Mega Suits had an overlay was on July 14 when the event had registered 456 entries, leading to an overlay of ₹2.20 Lakhs. On July 28, Mega Suits had pulled in 545 entries, and the Big Slick 749 entries. Yesterday, the Mega Suits logged in 502 entries, resulting in a very minuscule ₹5,000 overlay, while the Big Slick took a significant beating with just 669 entries, resulting in an overlay of ₹1.62 Lakhs.
This was a significant dip given the short notice of the boycott, however, as Gujral correctly summed up, “Some might think of this boycott as a failure–but I look at it as a huge success. Although Adda’s numbers in Big Slick and Mega Suits were only slightly less than usual, the point of this boycott was never to hurt Adda with a layover but to show that members of the poker community can put their selfish interests aside and stand together for a common cause. And in that sense, the boycott was a huge success. Barring a few regulars who never showed support for the boycott in the first place, I don’t know of a single reg who committed to this boycott and yet played these events. This is a sign of things to come.”
He further discussed the possible plans that may unfold in the coming days. “During this week, there is no official boycott …but we still would discourage people from playing in this kind of tax scenario. A call will be taken later this week regarding another official boycott for next weekend. Meanwhile, we are not allowing Adda to advertise for any of their tournaments on TPG.”
Adda52 spokesperson and Team Pro Patni even shared his views on the issue and what the management plans to do next. “Guys just wanted to share some thoughts on the recent posts regarding the boycotting of Adda because of its TDS policy.
First and foremost, let me be very clear and upfront that Adda is not taking any “extra” TDS. The money going out from the system hurts Adda as much as it hurts the players, and that’s the simple truth. It has always been Adda52’s endeavor to safeguard the interest of the entire poker community. The taxation policy that is followed by Adda has been prepared only after consulting some of the top legal advisors in the county. I am sure all of you would appreciate and agree that the company has no vested interests in paying “extra” to the government.
Having said that Adda would be delighted if there can be a better solution to the TDS policy that reduces the burden on the player. The new CEO of Adda, Naveen Goyal, is meeting the tax consultant in Mumbai on Monday itself to try and find solutions to this.
It will be great if the group can identify a couple of representatives who understand taxation and Naveen would love it if they can attend this meeting along with him. Together we could try and come up with a solution which is more beneficial for every player!!”
Gujral agreed to be the player’s representative and confirmed the same in his post, “Adda management will have a meeting today and hopefully reconsider their tax policy. We have proposed that Adda bears the burden of extra tax paid by players, if, for whatever reason, they think that taxing each tournament separately is the only legal option for them. Will keep you all updated.”
PokerGuru reached out to Gujral, who explained that he was unable to make it to the meeting but shared the key points that the community wanted Adda52 to address. He said, “I will not be attending the meeting. Though I have communicated the key points we have in mind to both Kunal Patni and Mukesh Choudhary.
1. We wanted to take our own tax consultants to the meeting, but they were not comfortable with the idea at this point — they said maybe in the next meeting they plan, something like this can be considered
2. We have proposed that if Adda52 must adhere to the same tax policy, they should bear the burden of extra tax paid by the players. They, hopefully, will get back to us regarding this.
3. TPG (The Players Group on Facebook) has a clear stance for Adda’s tax policy — it is extremely bad for the poker economy, and while this policy remains unchanged, TPG shall be discouraging players from playing tournaments on Adda52. Adda won’t be able to advertise on TPG anymore.
4. We want to know why there is a difference in their tax policy for MTTs vs. cash games. Why can they not have a closed wallet for MTTs where players are only given chips in their wallets at the time of winning and pay tax only at the time of cashouts. If this system works for cash games, there is no reason why it wouldn’t work for tournaments.”
Further explaining the importance of the TPG within the domestic poker community, Gujral stated, “Poker can be a hard game to wrap your head around. TPG has all the industry’s top poker players and thousands of members whose experience you can use to better your poker journey. You can bounce questions off on how to improve your game, bankroll management, how to deal with the mental side of poker (tilt! ego etc.), which sites and games are best to play on, selling action for shot taking at bigger buy-ins or just for laughs/railing deep runs / sick bad beats/ or humble brags 🙂
Websites post great offers in the form of free tickets for tournaments, contests, etc., which give you added value and maybe even a free chance to play a tourney your bankroll might not allow you to play. At TPG, we are trying to grow this beautiful game for the betterment of all the poker players. Currently, it’s not registered, but it’s a not for profit Facebook group. If you haven’t joined already, do so now..”
This boycott is proof that the industry and the players that form the core of the industry are ready to take a stand and bring about a much-required change to make the community a safe place to play for all.
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