What Is Matka Gambling and Why Is It so Popular in India?
Matka gambling, popularly known as satta matka, is a dated form of lottery which originated in the city of Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) in India’s Maharashtra. This game that initially involved placing legal bets on the opening and closing prices of cotton, and later on cards or different products, is now illegal.
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During India’s pre-independence era, matka gambling was limited to betting on the opening and closing rates of cotton received in the Bombay Cotton Exchange from the New York Cotton Exchange via teleprinters. Back then, this game was called Aakada Jugar, which translates to ‘calculation gambling’ in English.
However, in the 1950s post India’s independence, it unrolled into a full-blown game of lottery, which was heavily reliant on luck. Over time, it underwent massive evolution, especially after the New York Cotton Exchange terminated the practice in 1961. To keep the business afloat, players started looking for other ways to play the game.
In the 1960s, this activity involved betting on the opening and closing rates of playing cards. However, it mainly involved betting on imaginary products. This tweak was introduced by Ratan Khatri – a Sindhi migrant from the city of Karachi in Pakistan.
The new game required the generation of random numbers and results by pulling paper chits from a large earthen pot known as matka in Hindi. Thus, the term ‘satta matka’ was coined.
These chits would come with numbers 0 – 9 written on them. The leader of the game or syndicate, known as the Matka King, would draw one chit, which would decide the winning numbers and, of course, the winner.
A couple of years later, a deck of cards replaced the chits and the earthen pot. Three random numbers from a pack of cards would be drawn for each player. Despite these changes, matka gambling retained its name.
Further modifications were brought about by a person by the name of Kalyanji Bhagat in 1962. A farmer from the village of Ratadia in Gujarat’s Kutch area. He introduced players to Worli Matka. Two years later, Ratan Khatri slightly tweaked this game and started the New Worli Matka.
Where players could enjoy Bhagat’s Worli Matka every day, Khatri’s New Worli Matka was held only 5 days a week. However, the tweaks made the odds more favorable to the players, which is why the latter version gained more popularity. Eventually, New Worli Matka was rebirthed as Main Ratan Matka, honoring the deviser.
The rules of satta matka gambling are simple. In each matka game, two draws are organized at different times during the day. The two draws are often labeled ‘day’ and ‘night.’ The window between them is usually an hour, but might vary depending on the matka game you play.
In each draw, the organizer pulls three cards from a deck of 52 cards minus the Kings, Queens, and Jacks. The values of these cards are then added up to a resulting number. If the number is a single digit, it is considered for the final output. If it is a double-digit, the second digit is considered for the same.
Matka gamblers must place their bets before the draws begin. The idea is to correctly guess which resulting numbers would appear in each draw.
Here is an example:
The matka organizer randomly selects 3, 5, and 7 during the opening draw (day). These numbers add up to 15. From this value, 5 is taken for the output. The resulting sequence is 3, 5, 7*5.
Again, during the closing draw (night), the organizer chooses three numbers – 0, 2, and 3, which add up to 5. The resulting sequence is 0, 2, 3*5.
The final card would look something like this:
3, 5, 7*5 X 5*0, 2, 3
A player would bet on the chances of either of the two numbers or both being drawn from the pot. He may choose to bet on both the numbers prior to the opening draw or on each before the respective draws. Of course, the player does not know what numbers will be drawn, but he will have to guess.
To place a bet, the player has to choose a number ranging from 0 to 9 for each draw. Depending on the bet type, if either one or both the selected numbers match the resulting numbers of the draw, the player wins.
Payouts in matka range from 9:1 to 999:1. The bookie gets to take 5% of every bet. If you place a single bet of ₹100, this is how the payout would work:
If you choose any one number correctly, you win 9 X 100 = ₹900
If you choose both the numbers correctly, you win 90 X 100 = ₹9,000
The above rules and the payouts are valid for a single ank bet (for one number) and jodi bet (for both the numbers). For more information, don’t forget to read my detailed article on how to play satta matka.
Matka Game Types
The form of satta matka gambling you see today derives primarily from Bhagat’s and Khatri’s variants. It has hardly any resemblance to the original form that involved bidding on the rates of exchanged cotton. The evolution has not stopped as well. If you are an enthusiast of the game, you are likely to come across these matka game types:
Milan Matka Chart
It is worth keeping in mind that none of these satta games are legal in India.
How Did the Popularity of Satta Matka Rise in India?
Satta Matka, or Matka gambling as it is known now, received a warm welcome during the boom of the textile mills in Bombay in 1854. With the industry flourishing by leaps and bounds, mill workers thoroughly enjoyed Matka – a trend that was quickly spotted by local bookies.
Responding to the rising popularity of the betting form, these purveyors of luck opened up shops in and around the mill areas that covered Central Bombay’s Parel and South Bombay’s Kalbadevi.
Matka gambling witnessed its peak during the decade between the 1980s and 1990s – a period when betting volumes would exceed hundreds of crores of rupees. If reports from that era are to be believed, sometimes, overall bets would go beyond ₹500 crores in a single month!
1995 saw over 2000 bookies – big and medium – thronging the city as well as the neighboring towns. But as they say, every good thing must come to an end. The rising popularity of Satta Matka did not go down well with the keepers of the law.
Massive raids and crackdowns were carried out by the police, which eventually led to dealers shutting up shop or flying under the radar. Matka dens – the gambling destinations – were pushed to the city’s outskirts and even beyond to other states like Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The number of bookies declined to less than 300. The average bet per month during the 2000s came down to only ₹100 crores. A sudden absence of legal options in Bombay eventually led to an unregulated market full of thugs.
Unfair trade was a common sight and plight. The outcomes would almost always be rigged, and there was no way to retrieve money once lost. Matka gambling lost its charm, but not the steam. To this day, enthusiasts of the game fondly remember the legends Ratan Khatri and Kalyanji Bhagat and continue to risk money.
However, those who have understood the dangers have resorted to better and faster-paced betting options at international lottery sites. Players can now participate in world lottos which pay out better and bigger prizes.
Some of these gambling sites even offer online Satta Matka, which might not be exactly like matka gambling, but close enough to excite lovers of this dated and outlawed Indian lottery form. Playing in Rupees is possible, which is yet another advantage.
Is playing Matka legal?
Playing Matka is illegal in India under the Public Gambling Act of 1867. For more information, refer to our detailed article covering the legality of Matka gambling in the country.