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Playing poker provides social interactions that are essential in our lives. . .

“Social interactions are the acts, actions, or practices of two or more people mutually oriented towards each other’s selves; that is, any behavior that tries to affect or take account of each other’s subjective experiences or intentions. This means that the parties to the social interaction must be aware of each other – have each other’s self in mind.”(Reference: Understanding Conflict and War; Vol. 2; Chapter 9: “Social Behavior and Interaction” by E.J. Rummel)

Social interaction essential: Several years ago, an extensive study involving 7,000 individuals, was conducted at Harvard University. Findings: Those who had a low social score (lack of interaction with others) were 2-3 times more likely to die within the subsequent seven years compared to those that had a higher social score.

That’s a big difference. Social interaction helps to keep us healthier and to live longer! That’s why many retirees join senior citizen centers, do volunteer work or learn to play poker. Perhaps that’s why our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group has grown from six people seven years ago to well over 200 today!

After retirement, most work-related venues for social interaction are no longer available for us. Yet all people – young and old – seem to understand the need to interact with other people. During our working lives, before retirement, we interacted with other people on an on-going basis – co-workers, supervisors, customers (current and potential), suppliers, etc.

Take a class to advance your career. Intermingle with other students and teachers/professors. Join a professional society and network with many others with similar interests. The poker room/casino provides this opportunity for all, including us retirees. And it offers even more. 

Diversity: Where I play poker, the personal differences among the players are truly remarkable. From my observations at other casinos, the same is true there too. Practically every racial/ ethnic group, cultural behavior, political party affiliation, and religious persuasion is represented among the players, dealers, and casino staff.

These, along with differences in gender and (I assume) sexual preference, make no discernible difference at the poker table. People who likely would not otherwise interact and play poker together are competing for the chips. Often they chat and laugh together. Sometimes they wrap knuckles together after a showdown or a split-pot.

On occasion, they may commiserate with one another after a bad beat. They may get up from their seats to help a man in a wheel chair get seated at the table. A few are even derogatory as they question my note-taking at the poker table.

We judge our opponents based on their poker skills. Racial or other differences are of no concern. While we may not admire all of our opponents, we do respect them.

Challenge for our leaders: Meanwhile, playing poker teaches us how to seek and use tells, how to “read” our opponents along with applying the best strategies/tactics as we play against them. On this basis, I am sure that our world leaders could learn from playing the game of poker in their local casinos. 

They could learn how diverse players can compete against each other, even berate one another on occasion at the poker table, but still remain friends or at least respect one another. They could learn to better understand our adversaries to develop and implement more meaningful strategies in achieving desirable goals. 

How about that, President Obama and candidate Governor Romney? Could this be the way to world peace? Perhaps you could even get our Democratic and Republican political leaders to work together for the sake of our citizens? 

Play more poker. Become skilled at the game. Apply these skills to world and national issues as we approach the presidential election in November.

It’s a thought.

“The Engineer,” noted author and poker 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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