Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Underground Poker in New York: Then and Now

With this week’s installment of “Poker & Pop Culture” I am moving over to talk about some early poker clubs that pop up late in the 19th century and early in the 20th. Really my focus is more so on the stories that emanated from these clubs, with a new, literary form being created -- the “club report” compiling stories of poker hands and other events happening in these games.

Today’s column highlights David A. Curtis’s collection from 1899 called Queer Luck, one of the better examples of these story collections. Most of the stories have to do with an unnamed club in uptown New York City.

The NYC poker clubs remained prevalent and popular throughout the 20th century, of course, with places like the Mayfair Club providing important inspiration for the 1998 film Rounders, something I mention that in today’s column.

I also mention a recent feature in The New York Post that appeared last week focusing on the NYC poker clubs. The article has the enticing headline “Inside the seedy world of underground NY poker clubs,” and begins as kind of an undercover bit of gonzo journalism with author describing himself entering an illegal game much like Mike McDermott and Worm do in Rounders.

The piece kind of moves away from that angle, though, and instead we get some quotes from Mickey Appelman, Erik Seidel, and a fellow named “Johnny M.” regarding the clubs’ history over the last few decades. It’s a fun, relatively brief read, if you’re curious.

Meanwhile, if you want to go back a century for some other stories of underground games in New York, check out the Poker & Pop Culture column:

  • Poker & Pop Culture: Card-Playing Characters in Early Poker Clubs
  • Image: Rounders (1998), Amazon.

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