March 2, 2010 in City, Idaho

Otter should just let the chips fall at retirement center

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A few months ago Butch Otter, the governor of Idaho, was soliciting ideas to help his state in these times of economic duress.

Now it’s been years since I called Idaho home. But I still feel enough Spud State attachment to want to help when I can.

So here’s my brainstorm for Idaho.

Leave those harmless poker-playing geezers be.

Doing this would save a few bucks in wasted law enforcement man-hours. And more importantly, you badge-wearing Idahoans wouldn’t look like such heartless imbeciles to the rest of the world.

This all stems over the foolishness that occurred recently in Twin Falls. According to a news account, the cops showed up at the Twin Falls Retirement Center to shut down a long-running, low-stakes poker game.

The game was a measly $20 buy-in. The pot was split among the top chip winners with players donating as much as $500 each month to the senior center.

Players included such renegades as 80-year-old Doris Williams, 73-year-old Ora Deahl and 75-year-old Shirley Basham, who learned the game playing strip poker on her honeymoon. No arrests were made. The cops figured warnings would be enough.

And we can all sleep easier now that this threat to Homeland Security has been averted.

Here’s the part of the news story that troubled me most: The cops acted on an anonymous tip.

I ask you, what kind of weasel drops a dime on a few geriatric gamblers?

Was it a self-righteous Bible thumper who equates card playing with the devil’s work?

Was it a spoilsport still smarting over a bad bet, like an opponent making a flush thanks to a fickle river card?

Or was this the handiwork of some humorless Nurse Ratched who gets her kicks out of wrecking old-timers’ fun?

We may never know. But I’m hoping the card players uncover this rat and then deliver some cane- thwacking payback.

The real villain is Idaho, which has always been one tight-sphinctered state when it comes to gambling on even the smallest level.

This could change soon.

Enlightened legislation was passed and sent to Gov. Otter the other day. The bill would give prosecutors the discretion to ignore a two-bit gaming complaint a la Twin Falls.

I hope Gov. Otter gets out his pen. But even if he doesn’t sign, cops and prosecutors – like all astute poker players – should know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

What I’m saying is, go ahead and take that senior center poker tip. Then stick the report on the dusty bottom of the tallest stack of files.

Guess I have a soft spot for poker players. That’s because I, too, once felt the pain of having authorities break up a friendly game of cards.

My teachers at Franklin Elementary School told us they didn’t appreciate a bunch of fifth-graders gambling their lunch money in an upstairs cloakroom.

What a repressive bunch of killjoys.

Mark my words. No good can come of what happened at the Twin Falls Senior Center.

See, poker is a joyless game without real risk and reward.

Playing poker just for plastic chips? That’s as exciting as taking your cousin to the prom.

Now unable to play for money, the Twin Falls geezers will have only one option.

They’ll start playing each other for their meds.

I can see it now.

“All right, Mabel. I’ll call those six prednisone pills. And raise you three Celebrex!”

I don’t care what the law says. There’s nothing wrong with members of the Greatest Generation being able to play a little poker now and then for fun and profit.

Idaho’s senior citizens deserve to cash in their chips before they, well, cash in their chips.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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