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Our local senior center, the Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center, offers great opportunities for us seniors to keep mentally and physically active. Recently, while exercising in its Eichenbaum Fitness Center, I got into conversation with my friend, Marv Alperin. We had met there a few years earlier. We both enjoy playing poker. So, it was only natural our discussion soon turned to the game of poker.

Marv told me, one evening a week, he plays with friends in a home game. They all look forward to it. They have been at it for a number of years – even before they all retired. The players rotate serving as the host, who also provides light refreshments. They play for low stakes, and there is no rake as there is in casinos and cardrooms. Nor is there a Bad Beat Jackpot drop or tip to the dealer. Still, you can win – or lose – $20-$40 in a typical four-hour session.

In an earlier life, Marv had been a successful businessman in the furniture industry. He worked hard and had been well rewarded for his expertise and diligence. I suspect this has carried over into his home-game poker sessions.

Marv made an interesting observation: Sure, we all play poker to win money – the more, the better. But what may be equally important for us recreational players is the social engagement while playing poker – being involved with other people in some way. Socializing.  This aspect is rarely discussed or recognized as a big plus for playing poker.

Good point, Marv! Interacting with others – socializing – is essential to all of us as human beings. And, I might add, this applies whether or not we play poker. This is even more so the case when we are retired, and no longer get involved on a daily basis with others in the workplace, be they fellow employees, customers, salesmen, or your boss. On the other hand, sitting for hours on the soft, fluffy couch at home, sipping a glass of wine, while watching the TV with the remote control closely at hand – a “couch potato” – surely is not the way to a healthy mind or body.

According to the great Greek philosopher/scientist, Aristotle (384-322 BC), “Man is by nature a social animal… Anyone who… does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”

Playing the game of poker surely is not the only way to stay socially involved, but it certainly provides a great venue for accomplishing that goal. And it’s so much fun and exciting, too!

Indeed, Marv has raised an important point for all of us older poker players to keep in mind. This also applies to younger players as they grow older. Like it or not, it’s inevitable as time marches on – too fast, it often seems.

Poker – try it, you’ll like it. In addition to the social involvement, it can help our mental health. That results from the mental exercise – the challenges resulting from the important decisions we must make while playing the game, one after the other. And, for us senior citizens (a fast-growing part of our world’s population), it’s even available in some senior centers.

As for becoming a consistent winner, read some of the great poker books available and talk to others.

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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