Last month, I took a trip out to Los Angeles to attend the American Poker Awards. My trip was a relatively brief one, lasting less than a week, but I managed to fill each day quite nicely with poker-related activities. One specific event that stood out for me was the opportunity I had to meet Cardplayer Lifestyle’s Senior contributor, George “the Engineer” Epstein, in person.
I initially made George’s acquaintance about five years ago after reading a couple columns of his in Gaming Today. About a year-and-a-half ago, I read and reviewed two of his great books. Soon thereafter, George began contributing articles and strategy pieces to this site. He and I have developed quite the enjoyable and frequent correspondence over the last while, discussing a wide variety of topics and issues far beyond the poker realm.
I suppose all of that sounds pretty normal and straightforward, right? That’s how bonds develop and blossom over time. Well, what specifically makes our relationship unique – and, indeed, why I’ve truly treasured it – is that it represents the first time in my life that I’ve been able to forge a genuine, strong connection with an individual from my grandparents’ generation. You see, George is a member of the 90+ crowd.
A Shared LA History and Cardplayer Lifestyle
I’ve lived in Israel since 1998, but somewhere deep inside I’ll always be an LA boy. Each and every time I go back to visit, it feels like a homecoming of sorts. The familiar sights, sounds, and people; my extended family and longtime friends. Every so often I wonder what my life would’ve looked like if I had stayed in LA and still been living there now, at 36. I suppose it would exhibit a few additional similarities to George’s life; after all, he’s always lived there. In fact, he lives right down the street from where my grandfather used to live! George has a daughter, Sue, who I’ve also gotten to know thanks to social media. She joined us on our lunch date. It turns out that she’s right around the same age my mother would have been (if she were still alive) and that they even went to the same high school.
After a lengthy, decorated career working in the aerospace industry, George retired and turned his attention to poker. A mutual acquaintance of ours, Dr. Al Schoonmaker, has written extensively about the benefits of playing poker to senior citizens in particular, namely that the game helps keep people’s brains active and prevent Alzheimer’s. George might as well be the poster boy for such academic studies: his mind is sharp as a tack! Plus, he not only plays the game of poker, but he also teaches it to his fellow senior citizens; hundreds of them, in fact!
READ MORE: Interview with Dr. Al Schoonmaker
Beyond his poker writing and teaching, George told me that he is able to keep quite the busy poker playing calendar thanks to the excellent transportation provided by local Access Services. While the Hustler is George’s preferred card room, he has of course played at a number of other LA-area poker rooms over the years. He usually travels out to the Hustler Casino three days a week, where his game of choice is $4/8 Limit Hold’em.
Over the course of our lunch, I peppered him with additional questions about his poker play and about his current life in general. While I munched on my fish and chips (every poker player’s favorite meal 🙂 ) and listened to his answers, I could barely contain my smile, watching in wonderment at this ninety-something gentleman, still so very much full of life, enthusiasm for poker, and overall joie de vivre.
Where Do You See Your Poker Future in 50 Years?
I suppose it’s pretty common for many players to look to the great Doyle Brunson and be awed by how the “Godfather of Poker” is still playing for some of the game’s highest stakes after a lifelong career in poker. Following in his footsteps, however, is far more the realm of fantasy for the overwhelming majority of people who play poker. If we’re really being honest with ourselves, we know that we won’t likely win multiple WSOP bracelets and tens of millions of dollars at the felt or be able to pull up a seat in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio anytime in the future.
We can, however, look to George Epstein with reverence and appreciation. In telling me about his cardplayer lifestyle, he greatly inspired me. Listening to his stories, I was enchanted. I wish we could’ve gone straight from the restaurant to a poker room and enjoyed some time together at the felt.
Taking a step back from it all, I can understand that poker is the magical ingredient that has given a guy in his thirties something special in common with a guy in his nineties. We both play for relatively low stakes and, while we’re winning players overall, the money is relatively immaterial to us.
We play for the love of the game. It’s a game that has the distinct power to bring together people from all walks of life; men and women, grandparents and grandkids.
Poker is a game with the power to give us joy, to keep us feeling young and fresh. Poker is a game that gives us purpose and drives us to keep on going. To matter and to perform to the best of our capabilities.
That’s true for me now and, as it surely has for George, I hope it remains true well into my golden years.