This short story was written by the user "modern_julius" on the poker subreddit of reddit.com. See the original post here: Link
A bit of some background about me -- I basically grew up in the poker world. My grandmother was a player/dealer decades ago (her boyfriend ran a large club in Queens, NY) and she started teaching me 7 Stud, 5-Card Draw Hi, and NL Hold'Em starting when I was 6 years old. We would play with a cheap Hoyle chipset she had purchased from the local grocery store. Occasionally, I even beat her — I’ll never be sure to this day if she let me win, but I’ll always hold those memories close. Poker was something we always did together and did often. It would be unusual to see my Grandma without a deck of cards on her.
As I got older, my whole family would play together. When I reached middle and high school, I would host multi-table $20-$50 buy-in tournaments at my house and there would be about 40-50 of us at my house playing poker, socializing, eating, and doing what kids do. We were all terrible and had no idea what we were doing, but we were all having fun and little did I know it, but I was getting a taste of what was to come in terms of my career later on in life.
When I hit 16 years old, a friend of mine from high school — Joey — who had gone off to college in Queens at St. John’s had come back home for the summer. He had been introduced to a very large and popular underground club in College Point, NY. At the time, he was making a regular income from playing small stakes MTT’s on Full Tilt instead of having a regular job during college, and naturally found his way into live poker. This was my first introduction to the underground poker world. In addition to playing online with him, I accompanied him and a couple of his college buddies one night to play $1/$3 NL at a live underground club. I was able to play because I had made some substantial money from running and eventually selling my own web hosting business while in high school. My other passion that I had started learning from a very young age was computer programming. I was coding in Visual Basic by 11 years old because a friend of my father’s, who was a software developer, had decided that I had shown some aptitude for the field and took an interest in mentoring me. I was lucky to have been given the opportunity of his time, teachings, books, etc. Anyway, off we went to Fox’s Club — Fox was the connected mob guy who owned the club. The game was protected and everyone knew it. It was a very social place.
If you’ve ever been to an underground club, then you know that the quality of the customer service and experience can vary greatly from game to game. Fox’s game was the creme of the crop, it was absolutely top notch. It ran everyday, night and day.
It was located in a large, multi-story industrial lot which sat right near a main intersection, which meant lots of traffic — a very good thing because the traffic to and from the game just blended in with the usual activity.
When you pulled in, you could park anywhere you wanted out of the tens of dozens of spots. It didn’t matter where you parked anyway — I’ll get to why in a minute. Then, you would walk upstairs to the 2nd story to come stop in front of a giant steel door with a buzzer and several cameras positioned in front.
When you rang the bell, they’d ask you who you were, you’d tell them how and who invited you, and in a minute or two you’d be buzzed in through the first steel door. After entering, you’d come to a second steel door with another camera positioned in front, which only opened from the inside.
When you finally entered the room, it was gorgeous — clean, large, comfortable, and was equipped with everything you wanted in a club. A full-sized kitchen, multiple clean bathrooms (one even had a shower), a lounge area, a high limit room, waitresses, a bunch of large flat screen TV’s, and a smoking room among other things. The first thing you’d notice was that they had 6 high-quality poker tables paired with executive chairs, not including the one in the high-limit room. This club was spacious.
As you walked in, a valet would ask for your keys and he would go fetch your vehicle and park it in an organized fashion amongst the others. You’d then make your way over to the podium and tell the floor which game you wanted to play — they usually had at least several games going — $1/$3, $2/$5, and $5/$10 NL and higher when it ran, but the much higher games were much more private.
Strapped with $1,000 in cash on me, I request a seat in the $1/$3 game and eventually make my way onto the table. The max buy-in was $500, which I opted for because most stacks at the table were deep. It didn’t really matter anyway — this was my first time playing in an underground poker club and I was nervous as hell. I didn’t know how to act, was totally naive to my safety, I was 16 years old and I was clearly “the kid” in the club.
I remember winning one of my first pots, and a mid-30’s Asian guy sitting next to me taps me on the shoulder.
“Aren’t you going to tip the dealer?”
“What do you mean? Are we supposed to do that?”
“Of course, they work on tips. When you win a pot, toss them a buck, if it’s a big pot then maybe a redbird or two.”
“Oh, uh… I see… I’m sorry, I didn’t know…” and I toss the dealer a buck.
Over the course of the summer and playing there a dozen or so times, I began to take notice how much these dealers were making. Back then, in this particular club, dealers were well taken care of and I managed figure out that they were pulling in at least $1,000 per shift depending on their duties and how long they spent in the box. Some guys had multiple roles, would often spend time on the phone with players, some would work the cage area, some would floor other times, etc.
The questioned then dawned upon me — why am I risking my money playing this game, when I could learn how to deal it and be guaranteed to make money without any risk?
That was when I started to become friendly with Big Mike — one of the regular dealers. I wanted to deal and I wanted a job there… How was I going to make this happen? How could I pass up learning how to make $1k a night at a job that looked like it could be a lot of fun?
To be continued…
Sign up to our newsletter to receive occasional updates and information about new product releases. You can expect an email once every couple months a the most!