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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
On a recent night in midtown Manhattan, a group of people gathered for an exercise in real estate networking that would make any self-help financial guru proud.
Some members of the diverse group knew each other from past meetings where they would play Cashflow, the board game based on the teachings of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" author Robert Kiyosaki.
But they were through with game playing. That night they were there to pick up the name of a good contractor, the number of a trusted real estate lawyer, or to offer cash, credit or time as one member of a real estate partnership.
In short, they were ready to turn a game about getting rich into a game plan for getting rich.
"It's happening, people are networking and they're sharing resources and they're buying real estate," Ed Patisso, who founded the group, known as NYC Cashflow, told curious members at the start of the meeting. "If you don't have a couple hundred grand in the bank but have a few dollars and want to invest, you can do it."
Real estate is the most popular investment choice, largely because it's so favored by Kiyosaki. And Buffalo or Philadelphia are the preferred markets, partially owing to New York City's prohibitively high prices.
New York City resident Joseph Patton, 34, met Patisso through NYC Cashflow in the fall of 2003. Soon after they invested $54,000 cash for a rental property in Buffalo; $19,000 to buy, $30,000 to fix up and another five grand in other costs.
Patton says the property is now worth $85,000 and the two pull in $600 a month in rent, after all expenses. Plus they took out a home equity loan on the house to repay their initial investment and free up the cash for other purchases. They have since bought two more similar properties.
Patton says he's learned enough in these first deals to branch out from partnering with Patisso and will look for other people in the Buffalo area, where he plans three more buys. He also says he thinks he's ready to start acting as a mentor himself.
"The group led me from four or five years studying it, thinking about it, to finally taking action," Patton said. "It's worked phenomenally for me."
New York resident Percy Keeley, 49, bought a three-bedroom, one-family house in Buffalo at foreclosure for $11,000. He then spent $22,000 on renovations.
Percy says he now rents out the house, with a property management company taking care of all the details. After all his expenses, including the mortgage, management fees and taxes, he says he sees $250 in income every month.
"I ended up relying on a lot of people in the club to help me do this," said Percy, who listed lawyer, banker and real estate broker referrals as well as general support as things he received from the group.
Is partnering up with near strangers for such large investments just inviting trouble?
Steve Greene, who is active in the group and also acts as its spokesman, said NYC Cashflow is always on guard for frauds and recently had to remove a posting from its Web site that was trying to lure members into forming a partnership and buying a property. It turned out that the person who posted the ad also owned the house for sale.
The group is also trying to develop a rating system on its Web site that will let members rate each other in terms of honesty or work ethic, patterned after Bay's method of rating sellers. But Greene says the biggest thing keeping people honest is their regular meetings and the bonds that have developed.
"When you're meeting time and again with 40, 60, 80 people in the same room," said Greene, "word gets around."
There's another problem. If buying property on one's own can be full of hassles, partnering with one or two relative strangers could turn into a logistics nightmare.
Patton says to keep things simple, he and Patisso have divided up the basic chores of running a rental property. Patton does the bookkeeping and pays the bills, while Patisso deals with the contractors and property management company. And they pass files back and forth electronically.
"Once the properties are up and running, there is very little maintenance that requires a face-to-face meeting," said Patton. "But we have the same files at all times. As joint owners, you need to have that."
They also have a written contract between the two of them that says if one partner wants out, the other partner either needs to buy out his half at "fair market value" or put the property up for sale.
Interested in attending a meeting? Greene said there is no clause requiring a commitment to join any deals or buy anything. He said that the only cost to attend is the fee for the space, which Greene said is less than $5 when split among everyone.
He also said there has been so much interest from newcomers to real estate that the group is thinking about starting a $160, 16-hour real estate class for beginners.
And a spokeswoman for Robert Kiyosaki said the New York group isn't the only one that has branched out from the board game, although it was hard to tell exactly how many of the 800 loosely-organized Cashflow clubs worldwide were planning real-life deals.
For more information on the New York group, visit www.nyccashflow.com. To find a Cashflow group near you, visit the "our community" page at richdad.com.
Click here for Sarah Max's personal account of playing Cashflow.
Click here for four lessons for successful real estate "flipping."