Did you know poker is a ‘social game?’

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Did you know poker is a “social game” – probably more so than any other game of cards? Whether you realize it or not, most of us poker players enjoy the game not only for the intellectual challenge and the prospect of (hopefully) winning money (the more, the better), but also for the social interaction opportunities that are offered.

After all, we are “social animals,” who thrive by communicating with others of our own species, to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society. According to psychiatrists, meeting and networking with other people are important to our mental well-being.

And poker provides a wonderful means. It is a game in which social activities are essential. In fact, poker celebrity Robert Turner, also a featured columnist in GamingToday and credited with introducing the popular game of Omaha poker into casinos in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, met his new bride while helping us at our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group.

Meeting people: You can meet the most interesting people in a casino – sometimes just by chatting with a “stranger” while waiting for your seat at the table. It can lead to wonderful relationships. That was how I met my new friend, Marcelo.

One evening, he too was waiting for a seat, and we stood together, side by side at the rail, observing one of the tables at the Hustler Casino. It was another busy night at the casino, but both of us were patient. (Note: Observing the players at a table at which I might soon be seated, is not just idle curiosity. I get a heads-up on the playing style of players I may soon be vying against.)

Marcelo had a pleasant, inviting smile, and was well groomed. His clothes were neat and clean. He was calm and relaxed in his demeanor as he waited to be called to a table. A number of other poker players, both men and women, came over, shook hands and chatted pleasantly with him.

Apparently, he made friends easily. I, too, enjoyed talking with him. As we spoke, I noted Marcelo has a distinct accent – pleasing to the ear, that blends well with his calm demeanor and engaging smile. I’m glad there was a long waiting list on the board ahead of each of us, so we had time to talk for quite a while.

About my new friend: Marcelo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He came to the U.S. 35 years ago at age 27 after meeting and falling in love with a beautiful young American woman while she was visiting in Acapulco. They have two lovely daughters who were well educated here in California and are making productive lives for themselves.

He plays poker for recreation, like most of us do. To earn a living, Marcelo chauffeurs people to and from local bricks-and-mortar casinos. His clients appreciate his promptness and reliability. Many have become his friends. Often, he waits late into the night to accommodate them. Sometimes, he drives them long distances so they can enjoy the game of poker at various venues – and there are many in the Southern California area.

What about playing poker? When I asked Marcelo about his poker experiences, he smiled and said he often plays in low-limit hold’em games that he can afford. Occasionally, he will try a low buy-in, no-limit game. He enjoys playing both.

“Sometimes I win,” he said. “And sometimes I lose.” But he never plays beyond his means. Good self-discipline. He is a serious player, well skilled in the game of hold’em. (I have observed his play on several occasions when we were seated at the same poker table.)

Marcelo thoroughly enjoys playing the game of poker and making new friends. I think he is a winner! And I intend to gift him with a signed copy of my Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision, so he can win more often.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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