By: Paul Hewson
Last Monday, Johnnie Craig beat out nearly 4,500 players to win his first-ever bracelet at the World Series of Poker. He pocketed $538,204 for his trouble – not bad for someone with less than $4,000 in live tournament earnings on his resume. The 54-year-old Texan won the $1,000 Seniors No Limit Hold'em Championship.
The following day, James Moore took down first place at the $1,000 Super Seniors No Limit Hold'em event, outlasting close to 1,500 players and picking up $230,626 in the process. Moore is 65 years old – the minimum age for the Super Seniors. After the overwhelming success of the Seniors event (age 50 and up), the Super Seniors was added to the WSOP calendar last year. The oldest player at the Super Seniors was Onofrio Zicari, at 93 years young.
You don't have to stick to the Seniors tournaments if you're of a certain age. Consider last year's November Nine at the WSOP Main Event: Pierre Neuville (72) and Neil Blumenfeld (61) both reached the final table, and Blumenfeld made it all the way to third place for a healthy $3.4-million payout.
So why the stigma that comes with old age at the poker table? The Doyle Brunsons and TJ Cloutiers of the world still get treated with reverence, but they're the exceptions to the rule. It’s a shame, especially now that neuroscience has disproved the concept that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Humans (and dogs) continue to develop new neural pathways throughout their lives – especially when they “train” their brains.
Live a Little
Poker might be the best training you can get. No matter your age, you can start playing poker right away as a beginner; the more you study and practice, the better you'll become. The concepts get deeper and deeper along the way. Math is useful, of course, but you don't need a degree to get good at poker, and there are other, more psychological parts of the game where age and experience are highly valuable.
Then you have the social aspect of live tournament poker. Again, no matter your age, it's good for you to get out and meet your peers. But participants at the WSOP Seniors events have specified how much they enjoy playing in a more relaxed environment with fewer “alpha” personalities at the table. Yet another life lesson from people who deserve more of our attention.