As surprising as it might be, poker has long been a beloved activity at Camp John Marc. There’s something exciting about staying up a little late to play a game of cards with friends. The CJM poker tradition provides an opportunity for campers to get outside the normal daily routine, build new friendships, and have valuable conversations. As the campers retrieve, hold, and evaluate their cards, their hands are busy and their minds are at work, which opens them up to sharing their thoughts about life.
Experienced players are frequently asked where they learned to play and most commonly share that a grandparent taught them the game. Often there follows an intimate discussion about the role campers’ grandparents have in their lives. A strong commonality between poker-playing campers has been established regarding the important, if less acknowledged, role grandparents have in supporting their grandchildren through illness.
When a parent must be away with work or the needs of siblings, grandparents often are the go-to caregivers. Charlotte remarked that her grandmother often took her to treatment and she always had a deck of cards in her purse. She was a really good poker player and she taught Charlotte to play. The staff member who was dealing asked, “What would your grandma do with the cards you are holding in this hand?” “She would fold,” evaluated Charlotte. “So what are you going to do?” inquired the dealer. “Fold, of course!”
For campers who have never played poker and are learning the game, the conversation covers a wide range of subjects, but as the saying goes, “What is said at the poker table, stays at the poker table!”
Good times are always had by all, win or lose, but the lucky camper who leaves wearing the “Big Winner” button has bragging rights, and, of course, more confidence and swagger than when he or she first sat down.