When I visited one evening in October, about two dozen youngish, fashionable people — men in button-down shirts and dress slacks, women in knee-high boots and hoop earrings — had gathered under harsh flood lamps in the forum’s circular meeting space for a panel discussion, “Child Welfare From the Crack Era to the Age of Obama.”…

As I tried to slink away, Anoush Dertaulian, a forum volunteer, stopped laying out chips and guided me, for one last lesson, to a shrine honoring Hampig Sassounian — an Armenian immigrant imprisoned in California for murder. Ms. Dertaulian said he was a political prisoner. “You’ve never heard of him,” she added, hurrying back to the game. She was right.

While Mr. Balagun waved me out the front door, I imagined Marx’s ghost floating in the hazy light of the evening, watching over the poker players. Behind his famous thicket of a beard, I could almost see a grin.