Around 2005, many of the popular rooms were raided and shut down. Now many people are wondering if there are any live poker options for New York City.
New York City Laws Pertaining to Gambling
The New York State Constitution states the following in Article 1, Section 9:
[N]o lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, pool-selling, book-making or any other kind of gambling [except state-run lotteries and state-sponsored pari-mutuel betting on horse races] shall hereafter be authorized or allowed within this state; and the legislature shall pass appropriate laws to prevent offenses against any of the provisions of this section.
Of course, many people state that poker is not gambling. They state that poker is a game of skill and therefore does not apply to this law. However, New York law has a different opinion.
New York's Definition of Gambling
The New York Penal Code under section 225.00(2) gives their own definition of gambling:
A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.
As you can see, poker is gambling under New York state law. You put something of value up on something that is not under your control. You cannot control the turning of the cards or the outcome of the hand. As a result, this constitutes gambling in New York.
Underground Poker Rooms
Underground poker rooms do still exist in New York City, but they are run tighter security than rooms did earlier in the decade. New players will only get in via the recommendation of another player, and then only after they have been checked out by security.
However, one must remember that these rooms are all underground rooms and still illegal. There have been instances in the last couple of years of robberies at these card rooms that have resulted in the death of players. For a while, the card rooms ceased operations, but eventually people ventured out wanting to get their poker fix.
Also, these card rooms are still subject to raids by the authorities. When these raids occur, kiss your money goodbye.
If you want to play poker and you live in New York City, the best "legal" way to go about it is to take a ride over to Foxwoods in Connecticut or to Atlantic City. Otherwise, you are taking a risk with both your money and potentially you life.