The LA You May Not Know: Gardena, the Poker Capital of the World

Like baseball and jazz, poker is an American creation that has roots from beyond our shores.

It is believed the game originated in New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century. Over the decades, it has developed and grown to become popular in casinos, on TV and the internet. Believe it or not, there was a time when for many poker players, the heart of the poker universe was right here in Gardena, California.

How this came to be is the subject of a book called "Gardena Poker Clubs, a High-Stakes History." The author, Max Votolato, has been kind enough to join us and help tell the story.

It starts with a loophole in a 19th century law and continues to this day with a publisher of adult sexual material owning both of Gardena’s surviving card clubs. In between, there are clashes with law enforcement, unexpected consequences of tax legislation and a connection to the Mojave Desert.

So pull up a chair and buy in for a few hands as we join our host, Sydney Kalich and our special guest Max Votolato with our story of how Gardena was once the "Poker Capital of the World." 

Votolato is not just an author but a filmmaker as well and his documentary, "Freeway City" tells Gardena’s history that goes well beyond poker. To learn more, check out the Facebook page

Learn more about his book here or listen to the audio version here. For more information, click here.

Contact Us