Man shot during N.Y.C. poker game

Empire Casino, London

Whenever a tragedy occurs in poker many industry insiders are left scratching their heads as to why the government doesn't legalize the game so players don't have to go to illegal clubs.

According to a story on, Frank Desena was shot to death at an illicit poker game when four masked robbers burst into a midtown Manhattan office building where the game was taking place. The building was only a few blocks from the Empire State Building.

The masked men committed the robbery, and subsequent shooting, after 11 p.m. on Friday.

During the confrontation Desena was shot in the torso. He died 40 minutes later in a local hospital, according to the police.

Poker has always been a hot issue in New York and the city has a long history of underground poker games and clubs. One such club was immortalized in the move Rounders. Teddy KGB's place was fictional but based on a real-life club that existed in New York. It's even rumored that high-profile celebrities like Hank Azaria and Macaulay Culkin have been known to frequent such establishments.

As long as there have been underground poker clubs in New York there have also been robberies and police raids - in some cases both at the same time.

In the summer of 2007 National CardRoom manager Edgar Concepcion was robbed of $50,000 and then when the police were called he was subsequently arrested for running an illegal gambling operation. The National CardRoom was allegedly frequented by sports stars like Alex Rodriguez, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy and Sopranos actor Robert Iler.

In May 2005 both The New York Players Club and the PlayStation were subject to NYPD raids. The police confiscated approximately $100,000 in cash and arrested 39 employees.

It is not illegal to play poker in New York but it is illegal for the house to take any sort of cut. In the past police have mentioned their concern that they have no idea where the money from such establishments goes and that it could be related to underworld activity.

Police action has not diminished the popularity of such clubs, however. There is still rumored to be a teeming poker scene in the Big Apple.

Poker greats like Erik Seidel, Howard Lederer and Dan Harrington all developed their card-playing skills at the famous, and now defunct, Mayfair Club in N.Y.C.

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