NYC Illegals Mixed Set - A Rounders Tribute (1 Viewer)


Full House
Oct 26, 2020
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Every now and then, friendships pay off in the chipping hobby. As some of you know, I'm an attorney. During my time in law school and in my law practice, I've made some friends with ties to NYPD and have some friends who both prosecute and defend criminal cases around NYC. It eventually occurred to me to start asking them about illegal card rooms that get busted and what happens to the chips after the cases are over. Eventually (and I promise nothing criminal took place), it led to a score (in two parts).

The first part of that score arrived a little over a month ago.

First Box.jpg

The second arrived today.

Second Box.jpg

Together, the two pieces allowed me to put together a nice mixed set of 312s on the roman mold. All of the chips come from now defunct illegal and quasi-legal games that ran in NYC back in the 1990s and early 2000s. At least one of these games was shut down by NYPD. Others were not. Here's the set together:

Entire Set.jpg
Low Denoms Set.jpg

High Denoms Set.jpg

Here's some more detailed photos of the faces:

Barrels Group.jpg

Goulash Joint.jpg
Smoke Shop.jpg
Judges Game.jpg

Swan Meadow.jpg

I hope you all enjoy these (and the inside joke) as much as I do. Thanks for looking!


As some of you have figured out, the chips are not *actually* original NYC illegals. Instead, they are a tribute to the movie Rounders. Each denomination in this "mixed" set is a chip for a poker game either shown or referred to in the movie.
  • $1: In the initial scene of the movie, when Knish gives Matt the office, he says "Maybe this is a game can be beat. But you know you can beat the 10/20 at the Chesterfield and the hi-low at that 'goulash joint' on 79th Street."
  • $5 and $100: In the voice over before the scene showing the poker game in Petrovsky's office, Mike refers to that game as "The Judges' Game." The Judges' Game chip needed to be black for obvious reasons, and I considered using a black $20 because "The big bet is $20." But, I decided to use the standard black $100 given that this is an "east coast" set, and "east coast" sets typically use a $25 and a black $100. During that same voice over, Mike refers to a rounder named Crispy Linetta sitting in The Judges' Game, which led to "his regular club, Vorshay's, [getting] shut down. The place had been open since 1907."
  • 25c & $25: In the scene after Gramma tells Worm and Mike to come up with "15 large in five days or I start breaking things," Worm and Mike start listing off poker games they could play in to come up with the money. One of the games they list is the "the 4:00 a.m. in Woodside." They also refer to "a cigar shop in Brooklyn that's, like, an easy clean." In the actual script to the movie, the cigar shop had a name "Gus's Smoke Shop" The movie actually shows the Cigar Shop game. Mike has "what is known as the wheel. It's got earthy tones, a smooth draw, and enough kick to win me the high and the low."
  • $500: The golf pro game at Swan Meadow actually comes up twice before the movie shows it. First, Mike mentions it to Worm at the hot dog cart when Mike warns Worm about cheating against Roman and Maurice. It is also one of the games Mike and Worm discuss after their visit to Gramma. In the scene at Swan Meadow, the golf pro bluffs Mike off a pot ("Look at this! I bluffed the big ringer.") and Worm gets upset.
I can't thank @timinater enough for his excellent designs and his impressive ability to listen to what I thought I wanted and somehow come up with something that captured it but was somehow better than I expected. The goal was to come up with labels that looked like they each could be part of complete sets but that somehow felt like they went together too. He nailed it.

Thank you to @Gear and @colter ripton for your help acquiring the chips. Roman molds seems perfect for a Rounder tribute set given their use for the KGB chips and in multiple other games in the movie. A second thank you to @Gear for his always spectacular work with the labels.

And, as always, thank you to guys like @ekricket @Beakertwang @shorticus and lots of others for talking through designs with me, giving me good feedback, and helping me keep this project a secret.

These chips will make their debut in play at my house next weekend (12/7-12/9). Several PCFers @louBdub @Stebo0792 @shorticus and @Samoth311 will be there. The plan is to use the set with a Chesterfield Club button to wrap the whole movie up. I still have a few empty seats. If anyone wants to come to Alabama and play some cards, send me a PM.
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That’s wild! Very cool!!!! But neither of the two games used the same denom? Or this set was from one particular game?

Haha I knew they were rounders references! Well done!!!
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This is incredible work, Trav. I have always admired your appreciation for collecting. These are amazing! Cant wait to see them in person!
Awesome story. Hits home being from NYC. Scores like this are what I daydream about lol.
  • $1: In the initial scene of the movie, when Knish gives Matt the office, he says "Maybe this is a game can be beat. But you know you can beat the 10/20 at the Chesterfield and the hi-low at that 'goulash joint' on 79th Street."
I’m pretty sure the “goulash joint” was a reference to the First Hungarian American Literary Society. They were all old Hungarians, mostly Jews, who emigrated to Yorkville between 1956 and 1986 and gambled out of the club’s respectable townhouse on E 79th bw 1st and 2nd. They played cards *every single day* (namely rummy and poker), and the club featured a restaurant/kitchen which was famous for its—you guessed it—goulash. Additionally, the club members would often get their lunches and dinners at a Hungarian restaurant on 2nd Ave a couple blocks away, Mocca, which closed when I was in kindergarten. They would play cards in the back of Mocca, too, because they were all degens. Granted, the Hungarians were *not* playing 10/20, but it would be too coincidental.

Beautiful set!

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