Gathered around two tables at the well-lit room at Marathon Senior Center on 33rd Street, several poker players bring their game faces for the intense, (not really), Texas Hold ‘em games. The buy-in is $3, and the most someone can win is $10 — a legal “penny ante” game by Florida gambling rules.
“We check people for knives and guns when they enter,” the players joked, while offering to buy drinks of Ensure to under-50 guests who dropped by. But they don’t usually need to ask for legal ID as most players range in age from 50 to 93 years old.
“A lot of us don’t even know what we are doing,” said 71-year-old Bud Wright, scooping up his chips after winning another round. He accidently showed his cards before the fifth card was down on the table. “And, old people are easy to bluff.”
The social club meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:45 p.m. Games start at 1 p.m. And, fun is what they have. The zingers kept coming one after the other for the hour-long game. In season, they have as many as three tables running, and continue playing as long as people are showing up.
“We usually can’t even remember if it’s our turn or not,” Wright says, nudging the player next to him to wake up. He really wasn’t sleeping, but did miss that it was his turn with perfect comedic timing.
At the other table, Mike “Patch” Balloy has been playing since he was old enough to read numbers. Now visually impaired, the other players, like 91-year-old Shirley, and 93-year-old Larry, help him out by reading the numbers and suits out loud and placing the cards in front of Patch so he can see them by looking closer.
Shirley, at 91, just started learning the game a couple weeks ago when Julia, who heads up the money part of the playing, brought her as a guest. “We are really doing a good thing,” said Julia, who inherited the treasurer position. “We are hoping we will get some interest in some people wanting to join us – the more the merrier.”