Underground Gambling: the Mob's Lifeblood

VIDEOS ADDED
National Geographic aired an interesting documentary that purported to take viewers inside the world of underground gambling.

The hourlong episode focused on Mikey Tatts, who claims to run his own game -- and while trying to eke out a living from his entrepreneurship, constantly sought to upgrade his players' venues, as well as add to his regular roster more and better players.

The drag in Mikey's sails: "Cops wanna bust me and gangsters wanna rob me..." He adds, "It's not like the old days," meaning back when cops took payoffs or just looked the other way, considering gambling a harmless vice.

Just guys gambling for money....

But as we see, it's not so harmless when you are a gambling addict and can't win, so you keep borrowing more cash from a loan shark, who usually is a mobster or related to some other crime ring.





It's historically been held that the "small" traditional street crimes -- underground gambling, escort services and loansharking, which are thought of as basically "victimless" crimes -- give the mob the assets to make the big business moves, such as buying mega-quantities of drugs, and bribing union and political figures, etc.

What is interesting about this show, to this blogger anyway, is how the participants -- and NatGeo, either knowingly or unknowingly -- likely hid the hand of the Mafia in this card game operation, though there are small hints here and there.

"Mikey Tatts" runs a regular card game -- and helps players
who tap out but want to keep their seat at the table.

I mean, does anyone really think one man could hold his own regular card game, no-limit hold-em, with up to 22 players and $45Gs on the table on any given night, in the nooks and crannies of places like Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan, without either the protection or at least the approval of the mob?


If logic is not enough, consider that Mikey is also a loanshark, although on the show he operates more like a friend who loans money to his gamers, no mention of juice.
 

Mikey, who comes across as very charming and likable, calling everyone "bro," looks like the epitome of the stony-eyed modern gangster, beefy arms covered in ink and just the right touch of bling to grab attention; he looks exactly like the gangsters and associates I have met in recent years, who wear jeans and black muscle shirts instead of expensive suits and ties.

Even Mikey's waxed eyebrows are a signal --  a common preening and primping habit of guys who live in certain parts of New York (to me, they give a man a rather bizarre appearance).

One guy who is into Mikey for eight large -- Joey Mush, they call him -- admits to the camera in a likely unguarded moment that the money he owe's Mike is "not really Mike's money." So whose money is it? Interestingly, Mush tells the camera this in a cutaway following a scene in which Mikey has grabbed him by the throat to emphasize his frustration with Mush's excuses for not paying up. Mush is actually trying to defend Mikey, like any good customer, but later on, Mush is not too happy when Mikey tells him to go to --and, in the process, steal some players from -- a rival poker game, always a dangerous endeavor.
John the Banker, left, who can afford to lose, and Joey Mush,
who can't. He's into Mikey Tatts for $8,000.

"You could lose your teeth," says John the Banker, another regular in the group, about Mikey's mission for Mush. The Banker must be one of Mikey's favorite players. A high-level Wall Streeter who gets his hair cut in his office and has a woman sitting near him answering his personal cellphone, this dude can probably blow thousands every night of the week and not even feel it.

Another player -- and the best player in the game, all the players would agree -- is Breezy and he "knows what your cards are like he's reading your mind," Mikey says of him. While a lot of great players tend to be tight, Breezy is "aggressive," Mikey says, which no doubt probably helps Mikey earn his keep off the game, though he tells the camera that his revenue is limited to players' tips. Again, 50 shades of gray, here.

Breezy provides a good tip. Upon first meeting a new player, Breezy says he'll ask them something innocuous, like who won the Knicks game. "Now that's their tone of voice when telling the truth [when they say who won the game]. So now when I ask you later 'do you have a Jack,' and if you're stupid enough to answer the question, and I don't hear the same tone of voice that I heard earlier, you're lying to me."

We see the full spectrum of players -- from the Mush to the Breezy types, and the "social butterflies," as one player calls them, in between -- and we also see the kinds of venues these guys play in. From shitty, stinky backdoor holes, complete with wobbly tables and chairs, to a high-end hotel suite-type room where players are served sushi and a hottie in a full-body leather catsuit works her way around the table doling out muscle-melting neck and upper back massages.
I could not find the exact date the show first aired, but I have a feeling it was filmed after the "$50 million betting ring" was busted up. Breezy mentions there had been a recent bust in the area, which he described as consisting of "a lot of little card games." If we're talking about the same bust, the Feds described it differently, as a "sports betting ring that stretched from New York to California."

Mikey protects his game with top-of-the-line surveillance: video cameras; a security guard or two who frisk every player walking in, no matter what they are wearing; and of course there is Mikey Tatts himself, who stands quietly in a corner or silently encircles the table, a predator, big arms folded across his bulging chest as he watches players move cards around, toss chips into the pot, tell jokes, argue.

Mikey is not afraid to be out in front of things, especially when there is danger, as his players' safety is the first thing on his mind. Guys won't come back to a game if it's been robbed, he notes at one point.[This, by the way, is a major plot point in the now playing "Killing Them Softly."]

Around 4 am one morning, with a game in full swing, Mikey is quick to drag into the darkness a stranger caught on camera speaking into a cellphone right outside the building in which the players are gambling. Mikey calls him "bro" in the process.


Comments

  1. Haven't seen the show, but can say from experience that a) Cops were always a big expense for those running games; first stop was the precinct; b) No one's afraid of mob guys anymore; will they rat you out if you don't pay up? c) Voters are morons who gave the states the right to conduct gambling, most of which goes into its own bureaucracy. When gambling was privately/mob run, money circulated throughout the neighborhoods that generated the profits. Shoemakers, waiters, haberdashers, and car salesmen all thrived. Now, neighborhoods are bare and the education money promised has schools with their tongues out for money. If sheep-like voters had any brains they'd petition to have their states' gambling revoked. Remember, the next time your kids' schools ask for crayons or toilet paper that you gave your state billions in gambling revenue to help education. Suckers.

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  2. Of course, you easily overlook the collateral damage inflicted on individuals and communities when you get the dumbass high roller who mortgages his savings, business, and occasionally, life. These guys ain't running this like a civic cause. While I do agree that governments running games of chance is absurd, who taught them? Look at how good they have managed to legitimize the same exact rackets the goombahs invented. Touche.

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    Replies
    1. Compulsive gamblers will just as easily lose the house or business at OTB by borrowing outside to support his habit. If gov't gambling money actually improved education I wouldn't be as angry that authorities muscled my business by arresting me and those like me only to take it for itself. Citizens wouldn't stand for a communist move like that with the dry cleaning or grocery business. What it should do is license all gambling to professionals, like in Vegas and tax it instead of eating it all. Think of the time after Prohibition ended, with states licensing liquor distributors and purveyors instead of owning the business in most states.

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  3. I agree, Sonny, and that same argument holds for a lot of other "rackets" the Feds and big corporate America moved in on. Look at credit card interest rates -- or even ATM fees, to take out your own money -- and there is your shy. I'd say big business has learned a lot from the mob over the decades...

    And I thought in the story above I made it clear that Mush is an example of the kind of idiot who'd lose a mortgage; I think I need to revise this story, there is more info I should plug in. That is next on my agenda...

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  4. I saw it and was fascinated. If I had the poker bug as bad as those guys I'd move to Vegas. NYC is way to dangerous to be screwing around like they do -- even with Mikey Tatts on patrol.

    Mush is the kinda player I like to encounter at the casino. I laughed when he played 3-6 offsuit just because "it was the last hand." Ha!

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  5. That was hilarious! And the scratch offs!! LOL!!!!!

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  6. Ah, wonderful post! Wasn't aware of this at all! Thanks a lot! :D
    Liv Boeree

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  7. Loved the show...what to know Mikey Tatts....some kind of conection...I guess he won't be easy for me to find...maybe he'll find me..lol shellkilts@aol.com

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  8. HE HAS TO BE PAYING SOMEONE FOR PROTECTION AND IN TURN THERE PAYING THE LAW FOR HIM , OR HE HAS A COP IN HIS POCKET PROBABLY A PLAYER , BUT IF NOT ITS HARD TO BELIEVE THE MOB HAS NOT CAUGHT UP TO HIM , IF THEY DID HE IS DEFINATLY PAYING ONE OF THE 5 FAMILIES , IF HE CLAIMS HE IS NOT ITS JUST A LIE FOR T.V HE HAS ALREADY INCRIMINATED HIMSELF ON NATIONAL T.V HE MUST WANT TO GO TO JAIL , SOMEONE WHO RUNS ILLEGAL BETTING PALORS AND LOANSHARKING AND DOES NOT PAY TAXES DOES NOT GO ON THE T.V AND SHOW EVERY FED ,COP IRS AGENT THERE FACE ,THERE NAME THE FACES OF THERE PLAYERS , ONE PLAYER WHO IS IN HOCK AND GETS IN SOME KIND OF TROUBLE WILL GET A GET OUT OGF JAIL CARD FOR TAKING THE STAND AGAINST THIS GUY , OBVIOUSLY HIS DAYS ARE NUMBERED IN HIS PROFFESION BAD MOVE GOING ON T.V THATS HOW WE KNOW HE IS NOT WITH A FAMILY THEY WOULD NOT ALLOW IT , BUT THEY WANT HIS ASS AND HIS CASH WHO WILL GET TO HIM FIRST THE MOB OR THE LAW , WE ALREADY KNOW HE DOES NOT HAVE MUCH IN THE BRAINS DEPARTMENT GOING ON T.V WHICH HE GOT PAID FOR IM SURE , UNLESS ITS ANOTHER HOAX SHOW LIKE THE AMISH MAFIA TV SHOW IF THERE OUT THERE WHO WILL TAKE THE RIDE TO PA FIRST AND SHAKE THEM DOWN , IT WILL BE LIKE TAKING CANDY FROM A BABY , ACCUALLY THAT WOULD BE HARDER THEN SHAKING DOWN THE AMISH HA HA HA ...

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    1. I wondered about this... how does it benefit Tatts to do TV? I think its a recruitment tool for new players -- also the law would have to dedicate a lot of resources to investigate every "underground " program. Tons of drug-related shows : I think cops would start with the drug dealers and sex slave traders before the poker players ....

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  9. The Feds/NYPD already know about Mikey Tatts. It's just a matter of if they want to spend the money to bust his balls and charge him for gambling.

    Besides, Mikey Tatts has nothing to fear. All wise guys know they eventually may have to go "inside" for a few years.

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  10. that's really thorough and filled with a bunch of names I don't know and a few I do. roulette tipss

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