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This is a tribute to Anita K. who recently died of Alzheimer’s disease. She never played poker, although I did try to introduce her to the game. Even so, she is well deserving of our plaudits.

In many regards, recreational poker players are a special breed. They seek the mental challenge of the game and enjoy the opportunity to interact with others on a quasi-social basis. Poker players are also inclined to be rather deceptive – bluffing and stealing pots on occasion. It’s perfectly legal and, as a matter of fact, an essential part of the game.

Well, my lady friend, Anita, was not of that ilk. She could never be deceptive – a requisite for winning at poker. Nevertheless, early in our relationship I thought I might introduce her to the game. On one occasion we stopped off at a local casino on the way to a holiday party. She sat behind me as I played. I could see how bored she soon became; so we left early – and I rarely discussed poker with her thereafter.

Anita was a woman of the utmost integrity, and a beautiful person in every respect. We met at a bereavement group back in 1996, a few months after my wife had died and, a few months earlier, Anita’s husband. We became good friends as I learned more about her, and much admired her.

Perhaps it had something to do with her early childhood. Anita and her twin sister were born in London just before World War II. As she often recalled, during her early years the Nazis regularly dropped bombs onto the darkened city. Her family survived.

Possessed of many talents, she was one of the most generous and caring persons I ever met. An outstanding professional artist, she taught others printmaking at her art school and home studio. Often she invited them to use the large press in her studio, a converted garage. Her husband had also been an artist, creating beautiful stained-glass lamp shades and windows. For many years, Anita served as the president of the Los Angeles Printmakers’ Society, often exhibiting her work.

As a member of the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles, she taught underprivileged children to become artists as an after-school activity. An avid reader, she volunteered at the local library, helping in fund-raising and organizing special events. Always interested in her community, Anita became active in the Mid-Wilshire Residential Association, serving as a member of the governing body, and participating in community events and meetings.

At one point, Anita was asked to serve on the City of Los Angeles Commission on Aging, which she did for several years. I have discussed some of Anita’s attributes and activities for the benefit of her community and humanity. I could have mentioned what a wonderful hostess and excellent cook she was, frequently entertaining friends and family. She was also an outstanding pianist.

Often we sat in her living room after dinner and sang along as she played on her brightly-polished piano. I could have said more.

What does this have to do with poker? That’s a question you might very well ask. For one thing, there is more to life than playing the game of poker. Most likely, that is why most poker players do so for recreational purposes. We enjoy the challenge of the game, and the inherent social interactions.

I should add that, in my many years of playing poker, I have become acquainted with many fine people. In fact, I have made some dear friends, and met many others whom I admire. What’s more, one of Anita’s artwork, a woman anxiously peering out of a window, is on display at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino in Gardena, California.

My main message: Always bear in mind: It takes all kinds of people to make a community or a world – likewise at the poker table. And don’t ever belittle or denigrate those who would rather not play poker.

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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