Bust: An Insider's Account of Greenville's Underground Poker Scene
November 13, 2015 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Twelve years ago, an amateur poker player from Tennessee won the main event at the World Series of Poker, and suddenly, the entire world wanted to play Texas Hold ’em. The craze spawned countless underground poker rooms. Greenville, S.C., was one of the South’s hottest underground poker towns — until the whole thing went sideways in a hail of gunfire. This week, as the 2015 WSOP draws to a close, The Bitter Southerner will tell you a week-long story about that night in Greenville — and the South’s twisted relationship with legal poker. posted by mandolin conspiracy (16 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
In all the ways that the hometown of my adolescence might have made the Blue, this was definitely one I did not see coming.
posted by Kitteh at 8:38 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Holy shit this is basically my life and a good chunk of my income in the early 2000s except in Maryland, which now has legal poker, thank god. The boom was a wild and crazy time. Will devour this now, thanks for posting!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Man it must have been glorious to have been a good poker player already at the time that every frat bro in the country decided to get rich playing cards
posted by thelonius at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Man it must have been glorious to have been a good poker player already at the time that every frat bro in the country decided to get rich playing cards

Thank god that in the many ways I've overestimated my abilities over the years, that none of them involved gambling.
posted by josher71 at 8:56 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I took a economic thinking for lawyers course in 2008-2009 that somehow devolved into discussing poker every single class. I thought that was after the money was mostly gone, too, but man the guys in that class were obsessed.

I've only started the article, but all I can think after the first section is that when the cops act exactly like people robbing you, this kind of stuff happens.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:58 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't remember whether this was before or after all the day-traders started showing up on the computers at the library where I work.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:14 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This piece was written by my buddy Brad Willis, who's got a blog called Rapid Eye Reality, chronicling his life and family in the south. He's a talented guy who's paid to write about poker professionally (for the Poker Stars blog), but is at his best when he's blogging about his role as a dad to his two young boys. If you're still using an RSS reader, his blog is worth adding and following, for sure.
posted by GamblingBlues at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Interesting story. I can't even begin to fathom why anyone, anywhere, would think a no-knock warrant and a SWAT team is the appropriate solution to "illegal poker game in a 72-year-old man's house. The additional tortured logic of "it's OK to shoot a guy who you think might be breaking into your house, and it's OK for there to be loaded firearms in the same room as a convicted felon, but the minute the convicted felon picks up the gun, that's five years in prison."

Also, the author of this piece has a muse, and that muse is Philippe from Achewood.
posted by Mayor West at 9:32 AM on November 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


“If I wronged you … I would go to you and say, ‘I made a huge mistake and I apologize.’ He never did that,” May said. “He never looked me in the eye and said, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’”

Dude, you and your buddies decided to raid someone's house for no reason other than a laugh, when it was well established that a knock on the door would rouse up thousands of dollars in fines. Fines that by all accounts, people were used to paying.

You're lucky no one died. Did you go up to him and apologize for your department's reckless behavior, or the fact that he laid on the floor forever after having been shot in the return fire?
posted by explosion at 10:02 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't even begin to fathom why anyone, anywhere, would think a no-knock warrant and a SWAT team is the appropriate solution to "illegal poker game in a 72-year-old man's house.

You wouldn't make it in the Fairfax Virginia police force, where they have both done these raids on poker games and gone into bars and arrested people for intoxication.
posted by phearlez at 10:50 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder about the leadership within law enforcement that order these raids and think that it must be nice to be in a position where nothing that goes wrong is ever your fault.
  • One of your officers is shot by a civilian? It only proves how right you were that this was a dangerous situation and needed to go in, guns blazing. If anything you need more authority to do so..
  • One of your officers shoots a civilian? Well, the subject should have complied and they shouldn't have been committing a crime in the first place, even a non-violent one that rarely gets jail time.
  • Hell, even when you screw up egregiously and order a no-knock warrant to the wrong house there are rarely any consequences for the command structure, just a mess to be cleaned up and a settlement for the city to pay out. And they can always cut the library budget and after-school programs again, but a city's gotta have law and order or what are we, animals? Amiright?
Yeah, sure, some dork on the internet may snark about whether it was necessary to put your officers and a dozen civilians at risk over a card game, but he's not any danger to your position or pension and can be safely ignored. Besides, he doesn't know what it's like out there. We are the law and the law must be obeyed.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


By 1802, the General Assembly acted and put together a gambling law that has stood for more than 200 years. It was action, but not enough for the people of South Carolina, who by 1838 were asking for tougher punishments. The Lexington County Jury petitioned the General Assembly to “punish every person who shall be convicted of being a professional gamester with whipping.”

Over the years that followed, the law only grew stricter, and by the time the vice squad showed up on Pine Knoll in November of 2010, it was literally illegal to play Monopoly on your kitchen table on Sunday afternoon. It was a gambling law so old that it outlawed games that didn’t even exist anymore, and it was one Awtry and everybody else in the house was breaking that night.
"New South", huh?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2015


> Man it must have been glorious to have been a good poker player already at the time that every frat bro in the country decided to get rich playing cards

Yes, yes it was. Good times, man!
posted by mosk at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Having read further into the series, it seems that it's now legal to play Monopoly--the law previously outlawed all games with cards and dice, which makes me wonder if D&D or Magic: The Gathering was legal--so there's that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2015


You only had to be a little bit good to crush these homes games and firehouse tournaments too. I watched the WSOP on Thanksgiving 2003, I read two poker books and started being a mild winner at $50 mtts by Xmas 2004 just because nobody else bothered to read a book. Now there's no money heads up everyone's solid. 😭
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:07 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a southern boy who has been in many underground games over the years and I've been in rooms when they were robbed twice and when one was raided once. Hands down, the raid was more frightening. The police were also more efficient at getting all of the money and much more rude. I'm too old for that kind of excitement now, so I only play at legit casinos these days. Potomac Avenue made me smile -- it really was raining money back in the boom years. However, no matter what they tell you on the zoo, everyone isn't solid just yet. It is sooooo much harder now, though.
posted by Lame_username at 2:15 AM on November 14, 2015


« Older Kaleidoscope   |   Out of Steam? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments