The New York underground poker scene has become the stuff of legend, even serving as the subject for the movie Rounders. But according to a recent feature by the New York Post, the city’s underground poker games are on the decline.
The article discusses the heyday of New York’s poker scene in the 1970s and 80s, when games were soft and players were plentiful. Of course, no underground poker room was as popular as the Mayfair Club, which started out on a floor at the Gramercy Park Hotel, then moved to a basement on East 25th Street. This is when players like Joe “Bagels” Rosenberg, who inspired the Rounders character Joey Knish, began popping up.
The Mayfair Club would be shut down in 2000, but the best for New York poker was yet to come as the Poker Boom took off in 2003. Suddenly, more players than ever were frequenting clubs like Play Station, Straddle, Aquarium, Brooklyn Players, and Diamond Club.
This is the same time that celebrities like former New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez could be seen playing in the underground scene.
Jamie Weinstein, a finance worker who now lives in Connecticut, recalled these days when speaking with the Post.
Weinstein also described a club called Fairview by saying, “It was so easy to win that if you needed money, you went there for an hour and returned home with $300.”
Unfortunately, these days began to disappear when poker clubs started getting robbed. Criminals became so bold that they would even hit mob-owned joints.
“Genoa got robbed and that place was clearly owned by the mafia. It was scary that people weren’t concerned about robbing a mob-owned place,” said an anonymous regular at the club.
In November 2007, a nervous gunman dropped his gun while robbing a poker club on the corner of 5th Avenue and 28th Street. The gun went off and killed a 55-year-old math teacher, which put a damper on the scene.
Since then, poker clubs have become smaller and more discreet to avoid attracting attention. Unfortunately, this has also hurt the New York underground poker scene, which probably won’t ever reach the heights that it experienced from 2003-07.
If you’d like to read the entire New York Post article, check it out here.