New York Police Bust $1/3 Poker Cash Game With Ties to Drug Distribution Network

August 9th, 2018 by Cort Smith

Police in New York have broken up an underground poker game that they say was part of a front for a major drug distribution ring.

New York poker room bust

Police show off the proceeds from their bust of an illegal poker game and drug distribution ring. (Source: NY Daily News)

Officers executed 19 search warrants across multiple states, leading to the arrest of 32 people in New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida. David Diaz, 52, has been identified as the ring leader of both the drug network, which allegedly distributed cocaine and heroin, as well as illegal gambling operation.

“Both the gambling operation and the narcotics enterprise charged in the indictment unsealed today preyed on human vulnerabilities and demonstrated utter disregard for life,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said in a statement.

Another agent referred to it as a “sophisticated underground gambling operation,” requiring a months-long investigation and the assistance of local and federal law enforcement agencies.

They say that the profits from the poker games running at the gambling house helped to fuel the large drug operation. More than $150,000 in cash, thousands of poker chips, as well as guns, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine were seized after police moved in.

High Risk Meet-Up Game

The poker games took place in apartment buildings in New York’s West Village and Lower East side, and they could be surprisingly small, considering the scale of the drug ring.

Organizers would use the website Meetup.com to enlist players. While authorities say some of the clientele consisted of doctors and other professionals who would sometimes lose as much as $20,000 in a night, many of the players were just regular rounders who were grinding small-stakes cash games.

“We welcome respectful poker enthusiasts looking to play 1/3, 2/5, 5/10 no limit hold’em and pot limit omaha in a fun upscale setting in Manhattan,” one of their event pages on Meetup.com read before being taken down.

These games promised free drinks and food, complete with waitresses and security. They would typically run from 4 pm to 4 am and could accommodate about 30 players, all of whom were vetted by organizers before being allowed in the building.

That didn’t prevent several cops from being covertly placed in the game, according to authorities, who say the undercover officers also bought drugs from the group as part of the operation.

Policing Poker

At least those cops were on the right side of the law.

Another recent case in the Empire State involved a New York police officer running an illegal poker game himself. Former NYPD detective Richard Palase was convicted of being the brains behind a long-running underground poker game in Staten Island in 2015. He avoided jail time but lost any claim to the pension he’d paid into for 19 years.

Earlier this year, two police officers and a state highway patrol man in Kansas were arrested under similar allegations. While they weren’t believed to be running the game, they were accused of taking part in it, as well as obstructing the FBI officers tasked with trying to take the game down.

10 Responses to “New York Police Bust $1/3 Poker Cash Game With Ties to Drug Distribution Network”

  1. CadoARAJ says:

    It is a shame that money from poker is being used to financiate narcotraffic.
    Other curiosity, all this places were camuflated places or there were some of them that wew legalized poker places?
    I do not play cash games, but there are a lot of places at USA that have legalized cash games or no?
    It is important to know to not have problems when we go to USA and look for a place to play at legalized poker.

    • Navin Sarabjeet says:

      All the casinos that have holdem i think are legalized in USA

    • _420_420_ says:

      Yes, many places have legalized poker, New York City is not one of them. You have to travel at least 2 hours to get to either Atlantic City or Philadelphia to get to a casino with legalized poker.
      Tons of people play poker in NYC, it is a shame that we have to travel away from the greatest city in the world to play poker.

  2. sryulaw says:

    That is the image of poker, in the USA many states are trying to legalize poker, with things like that it does not help at all, it only slows down the process.

  3. 1AMBOWLINGNINJA says:

    This is a very messed up thing for those people to do. That hurts the image that some people already have of poker. However if poker were legalized would this have still happened? Possibly, but possibly not. Maybe I am naive?

  4. SoCalSon777 says:

    I see a little powder and a lot of weed. We smoke that like cigarettes in California.

  5. _420_420_ says:

    As someone who actually played in this game (only once), I am kinda shocked that they had those guns lying around. The weed I knew about, the place smelled like it at the front door. They had a smoking lounge in it which was nice. The game was fine, seemed like it was mostly regulars, I went on a quiet day in the middle of the week.
    Staff did seem nice enough, knew it was an underground game, just did not feel like getting on the bus and going to Atlantic City that day. In the future I will just take the bus, it is probably a safer bet.

  6. skaterick says:

    How did they pay for the free drinks + food , staff + security ? Entrance fee ? Rake ? The article doesn’t say .I think you can have a legal 1/3 no limit game at your home in most states if no profit is made +rake is not taken . Of course the guns + drugs will be a problem if that is your business as well !

  7. M13A13 says:

    Unfortunately the drug world has grown more and more, we have no doubt that this underworld has led many families to destruction, the user loses total control over their own emotions and the worst endangers the people who love him.
    Poker by itself is already a game that has its violent side, so playing poker in illegal environments can be fatal, particularly I advise people to play their games in safe environments and still under the organization of idol companies that have a tradition in games .

  8. XYZ2123 says:

    This is a prime example of why poker should be legalized and regulated. Eliminating the demand for illegal games will go far in avoiding these types of situations. Legalizing poker is a win-win. Players get to play the game they love and the states get to collect much needed tax revenue.

Leave a Comment