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Seniors ante up for poker night

Retired firefighter's Texas hold 'em sessions are increasingly drawing players to the table.

August 18, 2006|By Michael Miller

Len Edwards has never made much money playing cards — even back when he was playing for cash. The former Los Angeles firefighter, who leads a poker workshop on Fridays at the Oasis Senior Center, learned to play cards at a time when there weren't many winnings to go around.

"I've been playing cards since I was 12 years old in the Great Depression," said Edwards, 79. "We used to play penny ante — one penny was the ante, and if you won the hand, you won five or six cents. In the Depression, that was big money."

Over the years, Edwards hasn't matured into much of a gambler, but his love for card games has stayed with him. As a result, when the seniors at Oasis began inquiring about holding their own poker class, Edwards was more than happy to deal.

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A few months ago, the Texas hold 'em class — named after a popular variation of poker — opened with fewer than 10 seniors registered. Since then, the membership has risen to more than three dozen. For two hours on Fridays, seniors gather around tables at Oasis to try their hands. The ante? Strictly chips.

"Of course, I would never do it for money," said Mary Shandy, who recently won the most improved player of the year award in Edwards' class.

Shandy, a Costa Mesa resident, was inspired to join the class after watching poker for years on television. Recently, she started a card players' club of her own at her condominium.

"Just learning the routine of it, who bets and who plays what, is very fun," she said.

Although Edwards learned basic poker as a child, the kind he teaches at Oasis came from his days in the Marine Corps. In Texas hold 'em, nine players sit around a table with two hidden cards each, then make bets as the dealer places additional cards, face-up, in the center of the table.

The winning player is the one who can make the best hand out of the hidden cards and the open ones. For example, if a player holds a pair of clubs in his hand and the dealer places three other clubs on the table, call it a flush.

Each week, Edwards gives prizes to the seniors who win at their individual tables, as well as those who beat the entire room. Last Friday, the honors were In-N-Out certificates, shirt pins and license plate frames that read "World's Greatest Poker Player."

"The trick is, you got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em," Edwards said.

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