Poker can be an enjoyable pastime, but to truly play the game, there must be suitable stakes, meaning you’re happy to win and grudgingly willing to lose! I played when I was a kid and continued sporadically until I finished school. Now, after a lapse of half a century, I’m playing poker in a senior living community. The game is the same, but the atmosphere is different.

Usually six people show up. Four are stalwarts and the other two are from a larger collection that drops in and out. Our game is nickel dime. It starts with the dealer putting a quarter in the pot. After that, a player bets a nickel on a new card and can raise a nickel until the last card when a dime bet is allowed. (There are other variations of betting according to the game being played. They can get complicated.)

In our super-senior game, reviewing the order of winning hands before we play and keeping it around is a good idea. Some close calls that need an authoritative voice are “a straight beats three of a kind,” “a flush beats a straight,” and “a full house beats a flush.” Another special aspect about super-senior poker is that when it’s time to call the bet and see who wins, a player can turn over their cards and say, “What have I got?” Then it’s up to the rest of us to figure out the best five cards. In our game the hand “speaks for itself”—and the most a player could lose is the price of a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts. It would take a month of losing to reach the price of a Starbucks.

Hazards of the game are that one of the players will decide to deal a hand but can’t remember the name like ‘five card stud’ or ‘night baseball’ or how many cards are dealt and when. In that case, advice is offered with patience. In games with the low hole card wild, getting the last card up or down is a big decision. Everyone is on their own. Other times, the group is willing to offer advice, even when it means losing a hand for their effort.

If a person takes good fellowship over astute playing, poker at a senior home can be fun. When it comes to winning or losing, my policy is I compare how much my small Tupperware container of coins weighs when I go home compared to when I joined the game. My banker doesn’t use these methods—but it’s fine for these poker games!