We have a new poker club at another local senior center, the Freda Mohr Multipurpose Senior Center on Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles.
In many respects it is much like the Seniors Poker Group at the nearby Claude Pepper Senior Center that hosts an Omaha table as well as two limit Texas hold’em games; but our new one is much smaller – so far – with just one hold’em game; and the players have considerably less experience.
We play limit Texas hold’em for prizes donated by local casinos and friends. Since it started a few months ago, the group has been steadily growing as other seniors in the area learn of it. We are nearly at full capacity, but have plans for growth to accommodate other seniors in our community.
Most of our members are rather new to the game. Some have watched it on TV; that caught their interest, and they wanted to learn more. During the first six weeks, we were fortunate to have George “The Engineer” Epstein (my co-columnist and poker mentor) on hand to teach us the game and share his poker strategies and tactics during the first hour of each session.
I would suggest other senior centers throughout the country start similar recreational poker clubs or groups so their seniors can also enjoy the mental challenge and social interaction.
Last week, Judy and I were the first to arrive. She is a delightful young grandma who does a super job operating the lunch room at the senior center. After our usual greetings, she asked if there was a “rule of thumb,” as she called it, for playing small and medium (middle) pocket-pairs before the flop. “It seems to happen so often,” she explained. Several others had arrived, so we agreed to continue our discussion the following week.
When I got home that afternoon, I couldn’t wait to look up the meaning of “rule of thumb.” Using my computer, I learned it is “a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on experience or practice rather than theory.” Going one step further, according to Wikipedia, a rule of thumb is “a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation.
“It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.” That certainly fits the game of hold’em, for which approximations are more than adequate in almost every situation.
The following week, before the others arrived, we continued our discussion where we had left off. I started by assuring Judy there is, indeed, a rule of thumb for playing small and medium pocket-pairs, and it could be quite important for winning such hands. “It happens so often when playing hold’em,” she reiterated.
I agreed, and then explained that medium pairs are J-J down to 8-8; small pairs are 7-7 down to 2-2. Medium pairs are considered “premium drawing hands” and are usually playable in all positions; whereas, it is best to invest in small pairs only from a late position. Also, for small pocket-pairs, a multiway pot (three or more opponents staying to see the flop) and no raises (to get the highest pot odds), is highly desirable.
Judy wanted to know, “why the difference?” I explained a medium pair could be a winner even if it doesn’t improve to a set. A small pair almost always needs to improve. Another player could easily have or catch a higher pair. Hence, you don’t want to invest more than a single bet before the flop. The odds are about 8-to-1 against catching a set on the flop – certainly a longshot, but well within reach, giving you a decent chance to win a big pot if you do connect.
“As for playing middle pocket pairs, that depends on each situation, and can be quite complicated,” I commented. “We’ll have to discuss that another time.”
By then, several others had arrived. “Let’s get started,” Jeff proclaimed. And so we did – happily.