11/29/2012 12:06 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2013

What Are Good Ways To Run an Illegal Poker Room?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by an Anonymous User,

Gambling is banned in my (Muslim/Islamic) country and carries a serious prison term and fine. Having said that, Poker has a huge popularity among the upper-class society here.

I run an upscale poker room in such an Islamic country.

Here is what we do when we run our games.

  • Invite only. No one can just walk in without an introduction. Even with an introduction, we have the person vetted. They must have played somewhere else, which we confirm from our circle of friends.
  • Newbies are just not allowed.
  • No cash in any way or form is allowed at the game.
  • Typical attendance is between eighteen to twenty five players.
  • Games are played out on the weekends.
  • Venues are announced via sms or email at the very last hour (typically, two hours before the game).
  • Venues are given an alias. So its, never like come to Mike's place, Apartment 4B, on Main Street, but rather like "Venue: Blue Lagoon" and players would know what and where Blue Lagoon is/referred-to.
  • Just in case you're wondering, there is no peep-hole or a door eye-slit that opens up. Its the twenty first century. We have IP cameras.
  • Locations are usually homes or offices (conference rooms), etc. Games always start about nine in the evening and end at about five in the morning (that is the cut-off time). Sometimes we even get a Suite or something at a hotel. It all depends on the number of people.
  • Everything is pre-funded with the accountant (or bank). This is done before the game is played. Typically a day or two before.
  • Every person who plays is assigned an alias in the book.
  • The book is essentially a spreadsheet with one sheet for every player, made on Google docs, and shared with that person only. It only contains the alias name, date, venue alias, and the accounting. The person with whom it is shared cannot alter/edit the spreadsheet. Only view it.
  • We use Las Vegas supplied clay chips (Paulson). Nothing like having a proper chips to play with, and we bring and lace the tables with billiard/pool cloth and tie-it/clip-it down.
  • Because the money involved is high, we buy between one and four hundred brand new card decks, They are used perhaps once or twice (maximum). Packs are sourced from various locations. Sometimes we reuse packs, provided no markings, etc. are on them.
  • We have a professional (electronic) card shuffler, though people still prefer the dealer to do a table shuffle with the cards face down and manual mix.
  • Almost always, two to three players on our table/tables are influential (politicians, law enforcement, customs, income tax, etc. people). In the past four years of running the games, we have only had one raid so to speak, and that was just a disturbance. The trouble is finding tech-savvy, influential people. However, we manage.
  • Braggers and loud-mouths are not allowed, and when discovered, are exiled.
  • Gambling debts are gambling debts. You need to have someone who can vouch for your debts (up to a limit). The way we play NL Texas Holdem is that you can never buy in more than 75% of your balance with us.
  • Payments are made through cash only. We have couriers who pick up cash, and we retain this in a bank vault.
  • Payouts are done when requested. Most players play for the heck of it. Their balances are lying in the vault.
  • In the four years of operating and running the game, no violence. Ever.
  • Alcohol is BYOB or whatever the House is buying/has got (House booze is not bad at all, considering the money we have to put towards it).
  • Guests are not allowed. Period. No girl friends, no pals, no pets, no proteges, no body guards, no third person can accompany you. etc.
  • Phones and all gadgets are turned off. We actually use a metal detector (handheld) for this purpose.
  • Just to give you some frame of reference, if you get caught, it's six months for first time offenders and a pretty hefty fine. For a club based game, the first time offender term can be increased up to two years.
  • Our phone number mechanism keeps changing on how we inform. We have taken a US SMS service (and we keep switching), and we send SMS/Text alerts about the game through this service.
  • The way we play, 10% of all play money is retained by the house (for entertainment, food, valet, security, runners, locale rental, etc.). This is a not-for-profit game. It keeps the math simple. If twenty players are showing up, and total Buy-Ins equate to say $40,000, then $4,000 is set aside. No one has an issue with this.
  • The house-money we invest in the very best of food, snacks, and sometimes booze.
  • We keep these strict rules so that we don't get caught or inconvenience others. It has worked very well for us.
  • Frequency of play is once on weekends.
  • Women and Couples do play, but they are in a minority.
  • No recording of any type is permitted by the guests.
  • For every table, there is a pit manager (if you will), who keep a check on the game, cheaters, etc. We simply call him the neutral referee. (we do get people who try to con the game or cheat on something every now and then), they are dealt with how we see fit. Can't just blatantly accuse a Junior Judge or say mid-level Police Captain of cheating. We have to be diplomatic about it. As an example, a forward arm chip movement then retracted. Or a comment like "I'm all in" and then saying, "Hey, I was just kidding, I didn't mean it actually!" or say pre-betting out of turn or raising out of turn, issues like these.
  • Part of the job of the Referee is to make sure to educate players at each game sitting about some new rule of Poker or Poker fact they may not know about. So they play a very pivotal rule.
  • Once a month, we do tournaments; these are the best and most fun.

...and "its best if you don't get caught."

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