FBI tapes expose world of multi-million dollar gambling racket

The all-night games were held in rarefied settings like a suite at the Plaza Hotel. One pink chip was worth $25,000. Masseuses were on hand to help relieve the tension, while the players were fuelled by food and drinks. And the stakes climbed into the stratosphere, with as much as $2 million on the table to be lost or won.

At one game, in an apartment in a glass condominium tower on Fifth Avenue, as cards fluttered and chips clattered across the table, its organizers suspected that a new player did not belong, though he had arrived with a regular. The two were asked to leave. Turned out the organizers were right: The new player was an undercover FBI agent.

At roughly the same time, some of the people who helped organize the poker games were taking in breathtaking wagers on college and professional sports. One man bet $300,000 on last year's Super Bowl - and lost. Another placed a $1 million wager on another sporting event.

The description of the poker games and the wagers were among the details found in hundreds of conversations and text messages secretly captured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, exposing the shadowy and illegal world of high-stakes gambling in New York City.

The recordings, according to court papers, were made over the last two years during an investigation into what federal authorities have characterized as two related multimillion-dollar money-laundering and gambling rings.

One of the gambling operations, which prosecutors say was led in part by the scion of a New York family that has wielded enormous power in the art market, with one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Modernist works in the world, was based in New York and Los Angeles, and served hedge fund titans, real estate magnates, celebrities and athletes.

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