Texas Holdup: Gunpoint Robbery Leads to Closure of Poker Club

New York City Poker Tour storefrontIan Duncan The Avenue C poker club was robbed at gunpoint on Saturday. It has now closed. Below: a joker marks the club’s door.

Six card players were robbed at gunpoint late Saturday night in a poker club on Avenue C, according to police reports. Two armed men entered the New York City Poker Tour club shortly before 11 p.m. and ushered the players into a closet before robbing them. One player – identified by owner Jeremy Martin as Michael C. – had just returned from a successful night at a casino and was carrying $4,500 in cash.

New York City Poker Tour front doorIan Duncan

The club had closed on Saturday night, but Mr. Martin and a few other players were inside after hours. The robbers knocked at the door and were let in. They quickly rounded up the players, took their cash and left.

Mr. Martin believes that he was “set up” by one of the players, because the gunmen shook down Michael first, before ordering the other players to empty their pockets.

Mr. Martin said no one was hurt in the robbery, but according to police reports, one person was punched in the face by the attackers. The robbers escaped with $6,500 in cash, a driver’s license and a Medicaid card.

The robbers were not wearing masks, but Mr. Martin, who said he has been playing poker in New York for eight years, did not recognize them. “These weren’t poker people,” he said.

Mr. Martin said he feels responsible for the incident and will be reimbursing Michael for his lost casino winnings.

Since it opened in June, the club had been running as many as ten games a day with a $1,000 prize game on Friday nights, but Mr. Martin announced on Monday that he was shutting it down. In a blog post, he wrote that the club had become too popular for the storefront space. But speaking to The Local, Mr. Martin confirmed that Saturday’s robbery was a major reason for the decision.

In the blog post Mr. Martin wrote, “Our storefront was great, but security is really important, so for our next venue players will need to do more than just knock on the door.”

Mr. Martin also noted that some people had been smoking marijuana at game nights hosted by the club.

Late yesterday evening the store’s shutters were pulled down. The storefront is painted black and the entrance is marked only by a single joker card next to the door number. Mr. Martin said when he does reopen, it will likely not be in the East Village.

Poker clubs operate in a gray area in New York. Both state and city laws prohibit betting money on games of chance, and organizers cannot use the proceeds from games of chance to pay wages and rent. But poker clubs advertise themselves as offering a contest of skill as a way around the law. On the new York City Poker tour web site, this is clearly emphasized: “It is illegal to own or operate a gambling hall in New York State. The definition of gambling is a game of chance against the house. People play poker against other people. NOT against the house. AND poker is a game of skill, NOT a game of chance.”