“I make an average of 700 euros per night.
"The organizer of a clandestine poker game in the greater Parisian suburbs does not hide it:" It's lucrative, it allows me to play regularly without ever drawing on my personal money ", continues the one who" opens his table »Two or three evenings a week.
And they are many, like him, to take advantage of the closure of official poker rooms during the pandemic to attract players by the dozen, every evening, in gambling dens where thousands of euros circulate.
Police services regularly dismantle underground gambling circles. But many tables still go under the radar. "We sometimes make incidental discoveries during narcotics cases or on wiretaps, but it's complicated to separate the players from the organizers," says a commissioner from Essonne. However, these managers are not all very discreet. On social networks, they flirt with new players to expand their clientele: “Tonight, 10 pm, texas hold'em
(Editor's note: the most famous variant of poker)
, table at 100 euros, blinds
at 2 and 4 euros.
Generally, managers, suspicious, only accept those they have encountered in previous games at underground tables, in official poker circles or players recommended by a third party.
Drinks, shisha and "massages"
Appointment is made for 11:15 pm in the parking lot of an industrial zone, near Melun (Seine-et-Marne).
The organizer, aged just under 30, guides us to a hangar.
The premises are used by the administrative services of a garage.
A bar, closed for Covid, is also installed on the ground floor.
And a public service rents a few rooms as well.
We cross the hall in the dark, towards the first floor.
Behind the fire door, the corridor is lit, him.
Then, we enter a smoky room of 25 square meters.
On the left, four people are seated in a sofa and two armchairs.
Basically, six players and a croupier are seated.
In the background, Latin music comes from the television which broadcasts clips.
Our host offers us a drink and explains that everything is free, except the shisha, at 20 euros.
Three heavily made-up girls will be in charge of serving us "and doing massages," he announces.
The organizers are sending messages to announce upcoming games to fans co-opted by a third party or belonging to groups of poker enthusiasts on Facebook or Snapchat.
A tall fellow holds the cash register behind the bar and exchanges the money for tokens. With 100 euros in stakes, we are the least well armed at this cash game table. "You are not allowed to leave the table before 3 hours of play, unless you run out of chips", warns the organizer. A method that prevents a player from leaving immediately after winning a big blow. In the event of rapid bankruptcy, however, we can stay in the game by reinjecting money.
"Don't worry, tonight, we're not playing too hard," reassures a fifty-something who runs a building company.
He came with his two nephews: the first with a hookah in his mouth, the other with a joint in his hand.
In front of us, a player has his phone placed in front of him, he is engaged at the same time on an online poker site.
No one is wearing a mask in the room.
And everyone is touching the same cards.
“I had the Covid a month ago, it dried me out,” says one of the nephews.
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Among the other players, two work in transport and a third in the medical sector. They don't get huge salaries and yet all attend this part every week. “Once, we finished around noon, there was nearly 20,000 euros on the table. To have the right to sit down, you had to put in 600 euros in chips ”relates the quinqua. A participant nods: “I made a profit smic. "
At half past midnight, the players at the table have, together, 3000 euros in chips.
The biggest shots can pocket around 350 euros.
But the real winner is the organizer who takes 5% on the sums involved, as in all other gambling dens.
Regularly, the croupier collects a chip and puts it in the pot.
A practice modeled on that of official casinos and poker circles.
During three hours of play, we see spending nearly 7,000 euros, which represents a gain of 350 euros for the manager.
Most people at the table do not leave the game until they have handed in at least 300 euros.
They are replaced by players who were patient.
"Do you want a massage or a drink?"
One of the girls says, handing a shisha to a player who gives her a tip token in return.
"I'm going to pluck you ... but another day"
The atmosphere is friendly.
We do not feel any coalition against the newcomers.
High rollers sometimes ask the croupier to show the card that would have come out if the game had continued: "Miiiince I should have continued instead of throwing my cards", regrets one of them when he sees the suit he is playing. was waiting.
"I'm going to pluck you ... but another day," says a player who has just lost.
General burst of laughter.
The joker holds another clandestine party in his house located in the south of Val-de-Marne.
But, no competition, we open Friday and Sunday in the 94, Thursday and Saturday in the 77.
Elsewhere, the organizers help each other.
One of them, near Créteil, having few reservations one evening sent everyone to another gambling den, in a town on the border with Paris, continuing to refer poker fans, even at 4 am: “ They're still playing there, if you ever feel like it, buddy.
In one week, by connections and thanks to social networks, 14 underground circles are flushed out, which allows you to choose your day or the variant of poker that you prefer.
Some gambling dens even adapt their closing evenings to the religious festivals of their regulars, which sometimes differ according to the circles.
"When a gambling den is dismantled, it is replaced by another"
"By closing official establishments like ours during the pandemic, all of a sudden we saw hundreds of gambling dens flourish, without the slightest sanitary rule and with all the demons we know, blows Frédérique Ruggieri, patron of the Club Montmartre. Before, there were three or four underground circles here and there. Now it's prohibition and everyone is doing this. When a gambling den is dismantled, it is replaced by another. And we know that all our players go to these places. "
One of them, in Val-de-Marne, is in the middle of a city.
Via Snapchat, one person communicates with the arriving players, two others manage the cash register, a croupier holds the table.
And… a woman serves food, drinks, empties ashtrays, offers hookahs and takes care of massages.
“All services are free,” announces one of the organizers who confides that the dishes come from his restaurant.
We quickly understand that this apartment is mainly used for poker.
The only living room, the living room, is entirely vampirized by the huge table that welcomes players four times a week for games that start around 9 p.m. and often last until noon.
The room is condemned.
Here, very good players and others with well-stocked wallets are around the table.
The tokens are raining down.
A good pair can fetch up to 1500 euros.
Difficult to play with less than 200 euros of chips in hand, so much the participants bet big.
One of them "lives off poker, especially in games of this kind".
The atmosphere is more tense than in Seine-et-Marne.
The sums at stake tense some who ask for a loan.
One of the participants also runs a gambling den in a nearby town.
"We play even larger sums there", loose one of the regulars who admits having lost 5,000 euros there last month.
"Here, we offer you the outward and return journey in a private driver, that pleases the Parisians"
In the Val-d'Oise, a surprise awaits us. Located behind a car junkyard, near a very busy road, in a prefabricated building, it doesn't look like much from the outside. But once through the door, the decoration is amazing. Graffiti on the wall plunges into the atmosphere of the Italian series Gomorra, on the Neapolitan mafia. The tokens have been engraved with the effigy of the fictional characters. Five tables can be stored there during tournaments. For the next competition, at 100 euros entry, the winner will leave with a Clio 4 and the 2nd with a 125 motorcycle, “second-hand of course”, specifies the manager.
“Here, we offer you the outward and return journey by private driver, that pleases the Parisians”, had warned upstream the manager of the gambling den.
It is also the driver who manages the cash register and allows players to pay with his credit card terminal: “Like that, no need to have bundles of tickets.
That evening, a new waitress was recruited.
Dressed in a dress revealing half of her opulent breasts, she serves tea to newcomers.
"There are sweets and drinks, but here we have no alcohol", underlines the organizer.
In an apartment in the middle of a city, players ignite during games in Omaha.
One shot can then earn up to 1500 euros (Video capture).
It's 9:30 p.m., some players are late.
Some people wait while watching football matches on television.
A PlayStation can also pass the time when there are too many players and you have to wait for a place to become available.
There, the crazy poker players challenge each other by betting 10 euros to find out who will randomly draw the biggest card from the deck… "We love the game too much", they laugh.
“I love this adrenaline,” smiles a participant, still a novice.
Last time here they played until 3pm the next day because two big players arrived from Paris around 5am.
"There were 70,000 balls on the table, I made 4,000 euros," recalls the organizer.
“I left for work because I am a heavy truck driver, but I came back just in time for the end of the game,” said another player.
“We don't do this for the money, we already have it.
We do that because we love poker and we can no longer play anywhere, "sighs the manager, stung by the game." Online poker sucks, there is not the same adrenaline, we do not laugh like that ”, launches a player.
"We have a good time too, we can smoke and even if we bet a lot, we know what we are doing, it is often the money won by black that we put into poker", asserts one participants of the seine-et-marnais gambling den.
Fear of robberies
"But it is in Paris that there are the biggest tables," says Eric (
the name has been changed
), a worker in the poker industry. Those where you cannot sit down for less than 2,000 euros, with enough to recharge up to 15,000 euros and where the stakes are 20 and 40 euros. There, we find a quality organization. A buffet, cigars, unlimited alcohol and a concierge responds to all requests. There are masseuses who can even offer more than their hands ... Often, former dealers are recruited. They can no longer work because they fell for complicity during the dismantling of official play circles
(Editor's note: ACF, Wagram ...)
four or five years ago.
They are paid 500 euros per night.
Some croupiers on short-time work because of the Covid crisis are also giving in to the temptation, yet there is a risk for them of losing their license.
The organizers of these VIP gambling dens pocket 500 euros per hour, and part of it can last a whole day… ”
Money in these VIP parties is not kept on site.
A "banker" keeps the accounts in a notebook.
"It avoids robberies, because there are, and it's a real fear in the middle, even in small parts," he adds.
In Villejuif (Val-de-Marne) for example, nearly 7,000 euros were reportedly taken by thugs a few months ago.
“A friend was organizing a game in Charenton
, but he stopped everything when he began to have unclear Russians who came to play at his place, illustrates a professional poker player.
I do not go too much in these clandestine parts because the atmosphere is unhealthy.
If I had financial problems, I would go and take money because the level is not that great.
But that doesn't interest me.
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The big games, less numerous, seem more "secure" because they are only done on co-option. "Anyway, there are about fifteen players who can attend them regularly," Eric reminds. But we always have guests with a lot of money, showbiz people, athletes, business leaders who come to slam. And a player who has lost a lot can sometimes denounce the place to the police for revenge. "
This was the case in 2014 on a part co-organized by Antony Lellouche, professional player
(Editor's note: sentenced to 10 months in prison)
, which was frequented by enthusiasts like the singer Patrick Bruel. “To protect themselves even more, there is now a community withdrawal in these big games, Eric slips. I know a table among the Chinese with a few restaurateurs, there is the one in the Jewish community, and the one between Russians… ”