Home poker games are getting more popular in New York City. According to the city’s gambling laws, organizing home games is legal as long as the organizers do not profit from them.
Charlie Prince, a 36-year-old lawyer, holds home games regularly at his apartment in lower Manhattan. Seth Palansky, a spokesman for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), said: “It’s growing around the world, becoming increasingly mainstream, and people are getting more and more into it on all levels—at the casino and at home.”
Whenever Prince organizes a home poker game, he removes all the furniture from his living room to create enough space for three casino-style poker tables, featuring tailor made felts and bearing the words “Steak & Poker Night.” Each game begins with a dinner at Minetta Tavern, Sparks, or Peter Luger. Prince also wears a diamond ring worth $30,000, which is called “the Liberace ring.”
He also has a TV table loaded with cameras to capture the hole cards and the poker action, which is then fed into a computer program that can calculate player odds. He has special software to track the poker action on monitors and special webcasting equipment, which he uses to broadcast the game online. He even has custom-made T-shirts and books to record details of every home game he has held from 2002.
He said: “Hosting this game is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve made more friends through this than I have through everything else in my life. One guy’s a trumpet player, another’s a heart surgeon, and there are lots of bankers. A couple met at the game and got married. We had Miss World 2003 in the game for a while.”
Although Prince caps the buy-in to his games at $60, other home games in New York have higher buy-ins. Aaron Brown, a 57-year-old investment banker who plays secret poker games at a townhouse says that players buy into the games for $50,000.
Herbie Kallenberg, a retired sales representative, has been organizing home games from 1962 and has several sweet memories. For instance, he remembers a television producer who was on the verge of losing up to $4 million in a divorce case. However, before the case could conclude, his ex wife died in an accident. After two nights, he played poker at Kallenberg’s house, lost $500, and got very upset. Kallenberg consoled him by saying that he “didn’t have a bad week.”