BUY-IN TO CITY’S POKER HISTORY

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Gardena, sometimes known as the “City of Opportunity,” has a dense and storied history involving poker clubs. Max Votolato, author and filmmaker (producer of the Gardena documentary “The Freeway City”), made it his mission to return to Gardena and delve into its history with his newly-published book “Gardena Poker Clubs: A High-Stakes History.”

Gardena Poker Clubs” overview reads:

Gardena, sometimes known as the “City of Opportunity,” has a dense and storied history involving poker clubs. Max Votolato, author and filmmaker (producer of the Gardena documentary “The Freeway City”), made it his mission to return to Gardena and delve into its history with his newly-published book “Gardena Poker Clubs: A High-Stakes History.”

Gardena Poker Clubs” overview reads:

‘Even in the midst of the Great Depression, gamblers flocked to Gardena. Colorful individuals like Ernie Primm fought for the legalization of commercial draw poker and established six iconic card clubs that thrived for generations. Russ Miller worked his way from Edgemont Club bouncer to owner of the Normandie Club. A criminal group called the Ver-Crans Corporation controlled the Horseshoe Club before being run out of town, selling its interest to Bow Herbert. Rival factions in the city waged war in the courts and the street over the coveted seventh card club license. And Larry Flynt bid his way to owning the Eldorado Club, which he rebuilt as the Hustler Casino. Author Max Votolato reveals the high-stakes stories behind Gardena’s famous poker rooms.’

 

Votolato, originally from London, always knew he wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment field. In 2011 he decided to bring his career to Los Angeles in search of a worthy story, and that is when he came upon Gardena.

‘While making “Freeway City,” Votolato was intrigued by Gardena’s diverse past in gambling. He started his current journey at Betty Gray’s Desert Room, a Gardena dive bar and local hangout. There Votolato met a community that kindled his interest in the history of poker clubs in the city.

Conversations turned to ideas, interviews led to more interviews, and along with some research — and 10 years of dedication to this project — the project was finally completed.

His historical book, released in June, examines the original poker clubs and how the ambience attracted tourists, allowing these businesses to become one of if not the greatest economic contribution to the city.

The book makes it clear the game of poker was a controversial hobby that often led to ardent debates and even violent confrontations between citizens.

During his interview, Votolato showed deep passion for not only his project, but of the entire city of Gardena to the extent of abandoning his business mindset.

Instead of monetary rewards for his book project, he has welcomed the praise of several media outlets and of the community as the best form of payment to this investment.

“I hope that I did the city of Gardena proud with this because it’s an amazing history Gardena should be proud of,” Votolato said of “Gardena Poker Clubs: A High-Stakes History.”

As for the future Votolato plans to continue promoting and making his work more accessible to the community of Gardena and beyond.

One follower of both the documentary and his book said he “congratulates Max for his dedication and success of his projects and wish him nothing but good luck in this and future endeavors.”

‘High-Stakes Poker’ is now available online, and can be purchased in book outlets, including Barnes and Nobles. The book is printed by Arcadia Publishing: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467136716

 

By Claudia Torres

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