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The TOKE: Poker & the Law Edition

Ecuth3:: If poker can...make it there...it can make it (da-dum) anywhere.  A truly amazing coincidence: when celebrities like Phil Hellmuth, AK-Rod, Macaulay Culkin, and Hank Azaria (status debatable, but still...) show up to underground poker clubs in NYC, they get busted.  Hint to underground NYC poker clubs: quit letting celebrities play.  Because they bring attention to your underground club.  And you get busted.  Anyway, the raids are sending chills through the underground NYC poker club scene.  Which, based on the feedback we've heard, is the same affect photos of Elisha Cuthbert has on Wicked Chops Poker readers (more at the jump). Newsday

:: Pari-Mutuel poker.  Florida is putting the kibosh on poker tournaments at pari-mutuel facilities.  Wicked Chops Poker later learned that a pari-mutuel facility is a dog track or similar venue.  Wicked Chops Poker learns something new every day.  AP Wire

:: No cards in Camden Yards...but no charges either.  And to end this TOKE on a positive note, no charges were brought to the 90+ busted in a poker raid in Baltimore last week.  Police apparently "quoted the wrong statute during an arrest..."  Insert "miracle river card" joke here.  Launch Poker

Ecuth2_1 Ecuth4 


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Paul Fischer

"And to end this TOKE on a positive note, no charges were brought to the 90+ busted in a poker raid in Baltimore last week. Police apparently "quoted the wrong statute during an arrest..."

Regarding this story, a new development has emerged. Here's the scoop:

Anticlimactic Poker Raid in Baltimore Ultimately Ups the Ante

Six weeks following the November 2nd raid on a Baltimore poker tournament and the subsequent release of 80 arrested patrons due to a police error, authorities have filed charges against 15 additional employees and managers of the Owl's Nest in South Baltimore. This time, however, police are making sure that the charges won't be mucked.

Here's the rest of the article:


also to your original comment you say: "One happened in May (with no one blaming celebrity players for the raids then)."

actually people back then were blaming a NY Daily News piece that ran in February, 3 months before the raids, that detailed how the Culkster and Helen Hunt's husband, who some refer to as Hank Azaria, regularly played at TPC...not that that is the sole reason the clubs were busted...like you mention they were rather cavalier in there marketing, via emails, online, referrals, etc.


we consider counterproductivity a worthwhile goal here at wicked chops poker.

plus anytime we can slag a few celebrities, well, that's a bonus.

but to your point, coincidental...sure. but again, like you said, these clubs are not doing a good job of staying under the radar by using craigslist and taking out ads and regardless of what has already happened it doesn't help to have celebrities who are often tailed by paparazzi in NYC or fans come to your club and then show up on the gossip pages. thus bringing attention to these clubs in the media. Obviously it's not that celebs are playing there that is bad...theyve been going there for a while. its the attention they bring in the media that doesn't help. when advertising is going on and add to that the fact that celebs are seen going to these clubs in the NY Daily News, etc, the latter of which obviously serves to bring more attention to the underground rooms to the general populace more than anything, the local authorities probably find it difficult to turn a blind eye that it's going on...

in the end though, it comes down to making these clubs like they used to be...way less conspicuous, more exclusivity and stop being complacent and reckless in marketing...

and disguise celebrities as homeless people when they enter and leave...

t. lane

I think what you mean is that the raids happening after the A-Rod/Hellmuth incident is coincidental….and perhaps you are right. But that is all, purely coincidental. Plenty of clubs were raided before this happened. And many of the clubs raided afterwards could not have been exposed by A-Rod’s presence because he only went to one of them (the Broadway Card Room).

Also, there was no Paparazzi following Alex Rodriguez. The picture that made the press was taken by some idiot who snapped it with his cell phone at the table, and then must have sent it to the New York Daily news (and other sources) also telling the media the name of the club and exactly what happens in the club. Whoever this moron was (again, the guy who snapped the picture and sent it to local and national press) did try to protect the club somewhat in his actions. If you read the original article, you may remember that the source told the paper that the location of the card club was “Near Union Square” – not an accurate location. No specific location was ever given through the media – but was loosely given out by club management. What was given was an incorrect general location which goes to show that the NYPD had infiltrated the place far before A-Rod played.

Look, I’m not trying to bust anyone’s balls here, but what concerns me is the fact that the real reason(s) of why the NYC poker clubs are being raided are not being addressed. People are pointing fingers at the wrong things which is counterproductive.


yeh Chops, lay off the Culksters man.

boy does someone have her panties all in a bunch.

but great insight on scene...thanks. i guess.

by the way, you say "ads on websites like cragslist.com – are not exactly the actions of an establishment that should value an “under the radar” status."


and neither is having celebs playing there who are followed by the paparazzi and then show up in pics in the national tabloids a day later walking in and out of the underground clubs. i think that was the point of this... ironically all these raids happened soon after celebs appeared in tabloids going in/coming out of poker clubs.

and everyone knows how much we love irony.

and oh yeh, chops...i grew up on parimutuels..so make that 'Chops learned..."

terry lane

The underground poker clubs are not being shut down because celebrities play there! I’ve been playing in NYC card clubs for the last three years and the management of such clubs are the ones to blame.

The NYC poker scene quickly became highly competitive in a very short period of time. Players once only had about three clubs to play at. I’ve herd that the number grew to over thirty. All of this happening within about a ten month time period.

In order to compete with each-other, the management of card clubs literally began advertising. Initially, the ads were mass emails sent to hundreds of people. The e mail addresses were picked up off sites like homepokergames.com and others. Such websites also became a place for the clubs to post ads. The ads would included club schedules, phone numbers, and even sometimes, addresses. Then the card clubs would post ads on websites like cragslist.com – not exactly the actions of an establishment that should value an “under the radar” status.

The clubs took a financial priority over self-protection. The NYPD knew about these clubs far before A-Rod, or other players sat at their tables.

There were essentially two waves of poker raids in the last year. One happened in May (with no one blaming celebrity players for the raids then). The second is still happening. The raids are happening often, and every place is being shut down.

This is even more reason to believe that the NYPD had calculated the raids for some time. They knew about these clubs, and probably had undercover infiltration of them for several months, probably beginning in the summer right after the first wave of this year’s raids. The systematic take down of these clubs is no unique, one-time event – it is an operation.

When I first began playing in the New York poker clubs (slightly before the poker explosion) all of the clubs held exclusive membership policies when it came to allowing players inside. This gave the clubs more protection. In recent months, anyone could go to the clubs as if they were stores along 5th Avenue. Purpose being – more players = money. My favorite club (which was shut down in May) used to make us buzz into a door, which was under the view of a security camera. We could only be buzzed in, if an employee recognized us. We then would have to confirm our membership before we could buy chips or put our names on the lists for games. It didn’t take long for the membership list to grow, and to allow anyone to ‘buzz in’ with absolute freedom. I saw Macaulay Culkin play in this particular club a couple of times…it was not his fault.

Whoever blames celebrity players for being the fault of the raids need to pull their heads out of their asses, for it is they who are not addressing the real reasons for the raids and this threatens future poker clubs.

And how can such people explain the reasons for smaller poker clubs, where no celebrities played, being shut down as well? What about the legendary Mayfair and Diamond clubs being shut down before the “poker boom” even started?

I love poker, but the city of New York deems poker establishments illegal. Therefore, I must repeat what I’ve been saying for a year now…Less advertising, More exclusive membership policies. It’s as simple as that.

There are a couple of places in the city right now which are still open because of they way that they ceased their ad campaigns. They will be the ones who remain open, and I don’t care if Jesus Christ is playing at their tables, their public status is their responsibility.

Any problem cannot be addresses and fixed if there is constant foisting of blame onto incorrect things.

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