Poker Ladies Play for Fun and Charity

Rose Crocco is blind, so the group uses Braille cards. The group

A group of senior ladies hold their own at the card table every
Gilroy – A group of local ladies has been playing poker way before celebrities and champs facing off in televised games on Bravo and ESPN.

They have proven that the game isn’t just boys.

The group has been getting together for a few rounds of poker every Wednesday evening for more than 15 years.

“I used to watch my dad play when I was a kid,” Deanna Hoenck said. “Then the guys would play when I first got married and I’d watch.”

Hoenck has been playing poker for more than 50 years. For 15 years, she’s been playing with the local gals who call themselves the “Wednesday Night Poker Ladies.”

The foursome takes turns hosting the event each week, Hoenck said, rotating alphabetically by last name. The hostess provides snacks for the evening, usually coffee or desserts. They also coordinate potluck dinners around the holidays.

Viola Carr joined the group to learn the game and socialize after her husband died eight years ago.

“I’m the newcomer,” she said, though she has been playing seven years now. “I wanted to learn and they asked me to join.”

Her favorite game is seven-card stud high-low.

“We all like to play cards. It’s the socializing, too. We talk and get together,” Hoenck said. “We might go out to the movies once in a while, but we always play poker on Wednesdays.”

Like Hoenck, Rose Crocco had been playing poker for years before she joined the group.

“We lived back east. I was living in Niagara Falls with my husband,” Crocco said. “We started playing for pennies, but it was mostly for fun.”

Now, though Crocco’s eyesight is gone, she has found a way to still enjoy her favorite hobby. When she first started playing with the group, her eyesight was failing her due to a degenerative disease.

“We played with large print cards,” she said. “With enough light, I could make them out.”

When she completely lost her sight four years ago, Crocco turned to the Peninsula Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Palo Alto.

She worked with a therapist who taught her enough Braille to keep up her weekly hobby.

“She showed me how to do the symbols for the suits and the numbers,” she said. “I just learned the cards because I liked to play cards.”

Recently, the ladies have taken their love for the game out of their homes and into local poker tournaments sponsored by the Gilroy Community Services Department to raise money for community programs.

Hoenck and Crocco signed up to play in the Garlic and End-of-Summer No-Limit Hold ‘Em Poker tournaments with pals Mary Cutter and Carr.

The team took third place in each tournament.

Hoenck participated in Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments in Reno and Sparks before she started playing locally.

She introduced the girls in her group to the Texas Hold ‘Em way of playing poker, where players create their hand from two cards they are dealt and communal cards that are placed face up for all players to see.

“Once you know how to play poker, Texas Hold ‘Em is not so hard,” Crocco said.

She likes the game because she only has to hold two cards, while the dealer calls the others out loud so she can remember them.

Carr joked that she is a lousy player, but said she still has fun at tournaments.

“It’s just a different competition. It’s more competitive,” Crocco said. “When you lose your chips, you are out of the game.”

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