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In the May 1 issue of GamingToday, one of my poker heroes, Robert Turner made an interesting point in his column, “Show some class.”

His message was that players, especially the pros, should consider their behavior and actions as they interact with others while playing poker in cardrooms and casinos.

“It is necessary,” he says, “to grow the poker industry by bringing in more recreational players.” Then he adds: “Too many professional players have taken a lot from the game without giving anything back.”

Of course, I can only agree. Indeed, all players – both the pros and recreational payers – and the casino staff, too, should always be on their best behavior as they interact with others. Reading Robert’s column, the thought occurred to me: What is the purpose of “bringing in more recreational players”? Presumably to play poker in the casinos?

If that is, in fact, the goal, then there is a better way: Reduce the cost to play. I have shown, even in a low-limit game of Texas Hold’em in a casino, the cost for each player is about $150 for a six-hour session. That’s based on the casino’s rake, the drop for the bad-beat jackpot, and tips to the dealers. With 30-35 hands dealt per hour, that figures to be about $25 per hour – or $150 for a six-hour session. The cost is more if the table is not filled or if the dealer speeds up the game so perhaps 40 or more hands are dealt each hour.

Quite a few members of the Claude Pepper Seniors’ Poker Group – all recreational players who love the game – have taken the opportunity, on occasion, to play in local casinos. These are retirees who often are living off a fixed income, primarily social security, a pension, and savings. That $150 or perhaps as much as $180 for a six-hour session, is more than they feel they can afford. Indeed, the vast majority go home losers.

By playing in a senior center or in home games, they are more likely to win (or lose much less). Meanwhile, they will continue to benefit mentally from the challenge of the game, while also enjoying the social interaction. Many have made long-lasting friendships. What’s more, we have reason to believe people, as they age, who play poker once or twice a week are much less likely to develop that horrible disease known as Alzheimer’s.

No more Alzheimer’s! That would certainly be a great goal.

I wonder what would be the reaction of the millions of recreational players who currently restrict their poker playing to home games, if the cost-to-play were reduced to, say, $15 per hour, or less. I dare say many of them would visit their local casinos more often. That would help the poker industry to grow and prosper, which is Robert’s goal.

The casinos would fill their empty tables with more seniors, making up for the lower rake. That would likely be the case, especially in the morning and early afternoon hours during the five-day workweek when the younger players (must be 21 or over to play in most casinos) who work for a living are at their jobs and not available.

Sounds like a win-win to me. And while we are at it, what would happen if the casinos offered tournaments with lower buy-ins and entry fees? How many more recreational poker players would hustle to the casinos? And, how about tournaments for senior citizens only, designed with provisions to reduce the pressure on older players so as to make it less stressful and more enjoyable?

Hold it weekdays, starting with a buffet lunch just before noon. The casino could even offer a free bus ride from the senior center. That would be quite an experience – one that older recreational players would look forward to.

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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