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It has been quite a while since several local L.A. area casinos often hosted limit hold’em tournaments for our senior citizens, primarily members and guests of the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group.

FYI, you will be interested to know that Claude Pepper was the U.S. Senator who was responsible for our having Social Security to help seniors as their financial needs increase while their income holds constant or falls off.

Recently, I was approached by Alan Ly, the new Operations Manager at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino in Gardena (near L.A.). He had become aware of the many seniors limit tournaments once offered at several local casinos — the Hustler, the Normandie (now Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady casino just down the road from the Hustler), and the old Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, Calif.

He took me aside and inquired about bringing those special seniors events back again. Great idea! So we set up a meeting at the Hustler with two of the key people in the current Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. Ron Ross and Shirley Tye were glad to participate to make it happen.

After that meeting, Ly suggested that the new Lucky Lady Casino would be the ideal place to hold it. So, with his help, the event is now scheduled for April 5, under the direction of Eugene Shinozaki, Manager of Gaming Operations at the Lucky Lady.

The Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group started many years ago when I was invited to give a talk during a membership meeting at the Claude Pepper Senior Center in Los Angeles. I explained how the game is played, and discussed the wonders of poker for seniors; and, I described how playing poker can help older folks — like us — to improve our mental well-being while enjoying the challenge of winning and social interactions with others.

After my talk, Homer Post, the director of the senior center, came over to me, shook my hand and thanked me for the great talk. Then he went on: “Would you like to offer a class on playing poker here at the senior center?”

The idea had never occurred to me before, but I jumped at the opportunity and volunteered my services.

The group grew by leaps and bounds. Starting with just six participants, it just took off and grew to over 200 members within a year or so. People came from distant cities too, anxious to learn to play and enjoy the game.

I was invited to speak at other senior centers, at country clubs, and at various public places. The word was out. In addition to a weekly class and playing hold’em after the class/discussion at the senior center, local casinos offered to host special tournaments geared to the desires and needs of the seniors.

On the casino scene, one of our strong advocates was Tracy Edwards, casino manager at the Hustler and, later, the Normandie (now the newly renovated Lucky Lady Casino), He even saw to it that our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group had official felt-covered poker tables, and plenty of poker chips and racks — even decks of cards and prizes for our winners.

The weekly classes involved both lecture/discussion and playing for valuable prizes. We also started our own tournaments to celebrate special days and to raise funds for the senior center’s programs.

Then, a number of poker celebrities offered to give talks and classes at the senior center and the casinos just before we started to play. These included such notables as Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, Lou Krieger, Barbara Enright, and Oklahoma Johnny Hale, among others.

It’s going to be a fun event and if you’re in the Southern California area, or even if you’re in Las Vegas, do join us.

For more information or to register — must be over 50 years old — for the upcoming event, contact Eugene Shinozaki, Manager of Gaming Operations at Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino; email him at [email protected] or call 310-719-9800, ext. 3460

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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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