Playing Underground Poker Games in New York


Over an extended period, my poker pursuits have revolved around participating in an assortment of clandestine games within the New York City/New Jersey region. Despite my more frequent visits to Parx Casino (PA) and Borgata in Atlantic City nowadays, I still engage in a $5/5 No Limit underground game in the NYC area twice a week. However, I consistently keep abreast of the potential locations for the next best games in the area. Currently, this particular game boasts significant action, and my commitment to it remains unwavering.

Frequently, owing to the influence of the movie “Rounders” or sheer curiosity, I am queried about my experiences in these covert poker establishments. Today, I delve into the intricacies of underground poker, exploring the positive aspects, the drawbacks, and various nuances in between. Due to confidentiality concerns, specific details about the club locations cannot be disclosed.

Typically, when individuals are asked whether they prefer to hear good news or bad news first, the inclination is often towards hearing the bad news upfront. In that context, Underground Poker presents two major challenges:

  1. Elevated Rake Fees: Carelessness or inattentiveness to the rake structure can result in fees as high as 10%, with no upper limit. Following considerable complaints, many clubs have implemented a cap ranging from $25 to $50 on the rake.
  2. Occasional Game Dormancy: Regardless of the game’s strength, every poker session is susceptible to a dry spell. This may be due to various factors such as players recovering from substantial losses, being out of town, work commitments, and more. Unfortunately, if this particular game is your primary source of income, finding an alternative game becomes imperative during such lulls.

On a positive note, the action in these establishments is notably vigorous. To counterbalance the high rake, these clubs often provide engaging gameplay with opponents displaying weak skills. Occasionally, the house itself participates in games, generally leaning towards the novice end of the poker-playing spectrum. Their primary objective is to infuse the game with loose action, leading to frequent preflop straddles and re-straddles. This dynamic proves advantageous for all players, particularly the seasoned professionals.

The significance of location cannot be overstated. Many of these clubs thrive because players are unwilling to endure hours of travel to reach a casino, particularly those with day jobs requiring early morning commitments. This demographic, often comprising middle-aged players, finds the accessibility of underground venues appealing.

As an added perk, most of these establishments offer complimentary food and beverages, a welcome bonus considering the premiums players contribute to each pot.

These represent some of the pros and cons of the underground poker scene. However, as a disclaimer, it would be remiss not to address the potential risks of raids, police intervention, and robberies. While these incidents are rare, they do occur, constituting a risk assumed by players entering these facilities. It’s crucial to note that, under NY/NJ law, playing in these facilities is not illegal, but running the games is. Therefore, players face no legal repercussions for participating, but funds on the table may be seized if a raid occurs.

I am optimistic that this article will pave the way for additional writings on Underground Poker. Upcoming pieces will delve into hands played within these clubs, featuring games that, for lack of a better term, can be described as “Fantasy Hands.” These hands may be outlandish and not applicable elsewhere but promise to be enjoyable to read and analyze. Additionally, I will strive to incorporate entertaining underground stories to enrich the narrative.

With that said, see you at the poker table!