There have been a series of busts over the past few weeks in the New York City clubs. Since early March, I have been playing mostly online (if at all). I was only occasionally visiting the clubs — about once every two and half weeks. Each time I look up to see where to go, the whole landscape has been changed by busts.
A club that I once visited called Satellite was busted a long time ago. Another club opened in its location, called Playground. I went once, but it was still busted within weeks of its grand opening. I went to Playroom once, and but it got busted before I could go again. All In (which I called the L Club) has been gone for months. Another club I hadn't mentioned yet, the Straddle Club (made up of some old Ace Point people), was busted a few weeks ago.
I have to admit that the police attack strategy is starting to work on me, for two reasons. First, I am simply fed up with the comedy of errors the casual player must go through to find what clubs are open. I am never a regular; I haven't been one since the old R club and 72nd Street (aka the NY Players' Club). If you aren't tuned in constantly to the NYC poker scene, you have to do some leg work to find out what has happened. I'm in touch with some regulars, which helps, but it's still impossible to go to a club on the spur of the moment unless you are constantly “tuned in”.
Second, the games are nowhere near as good as they once were. Sure, there are some fish about, but the line-ups have gotten substantially tougher. The casual players simply aren't going out to the clubs. Think about this, and it's obvious why: a heavy poker enthusiast like myself, who, all things being equal, wants to play live once every week or two, cannot find out who's in business without 24-hour lead time to email out to regulars to see what's going on. Can you imagine that any casual $1/$2 NL player wants to do that work? Do they even have any regulars' email addresses?
The public policy here is ludicrous, given that Off-Track-Betting is legal throughout the city — it's not like we are a gambling-free zone. But, that argument doesn't help much to solve anything. Meanwhile, rumors abound that owners of some clubs are calling in competing clubs, but this seems quite unlikely. A rising tide of “reduced police heat” would raise all boats here, and I am sure everyone is savvy enough to realize that. More likely, the best of the best club workers are heading the relative safety of dealing and running high-stakes private games (see below).
I know of four clubs still operating around the city, but I have not been racing to get to them. The regular fish that I watched move from 72nd Street to the Loft and Satellite have either quit, or have returned to the baby-limit home games from whence they came, as far as I can tell. For my part, I am finding amazing games online. I miss the social side of it, but I must admit that even that has decayed.
Indeed, I realized something: most of the people in the clubs now are not the people I want to hang around. This is something that roryk might have been correct about. I've noticed that the people that I meet at these clubs now — those people that keep coming even after multiple busts and reopens — are not really people whom I want in my poker games. Now, I wouldn't say they are “seedy” people, by any means. It just seems that most of the people who have “stuck with it” are either sharks looking for a good game (who are generally nice people, but not the people I want to be playing against all the time), or just plain jerks who clearly have no ability to be socially connected in any other way.
That's a sweeping generalization and an exaggeration, but it has some truth. I have noticed that once clubs have been around a while, they attract some weak competition who are also nice people. But, the hard-cores really are jerks or sharks. Compare this to the casino, where you get to meet retirees who are just relaxing and enjoying their time off, and vacationing people from all over who play a home game from time to time and have simply picked poker instead of blackjack to burn their vacation dollars. I loved getting to know and “entertaining” people at Foxwoods when I played there regularly, but that's not the feel of a “just opened and could be busted next week” NYC club.
There are, of course, many private games throughout the city, but nothing at low or even medium stakes. I know of a $50/$75/$150 Stud game and a $200/$400 HE game, for example. Those are, of course, way above my bankroll. There are probably serious fish (and serious pros) in those games, but I can't imagine I'll ever play those kinds of stakes, frankly.
I have been invited to, and attended twice, a private “study” game. It was started by one of the local limit sharks who practices securities law in his “real life”. The goal of the game is for everyone to learn mixed games. If it were a pure limit HE game, I'd be throwing my money away with the tough lineup there. But, we play quite a large mix of games (more on this in a later post), and I'm probably a favorite to the game in most of them, given my diverse poker experience.
I look forward to posting about that game, which I'll call “C.H.'s Game”. However, they all have the URL of this journal, so I have to be prepared, as was with the late River Street days, to have all the players reading the posts.