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Friends Bond Over Poker

14 April 2004

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ARIZONA – As reported by the Arizona Republic: "…When it comes to poker, one of the wildest game crazes flourishing across the country, almost any variation will do.

"From Hollywood celebrities to college kids, it's playing out in a big new way through cable channels, online, in casinos and even in back rooms.

"But for a group of guys who started playing penny-ante poker together in central Phoenix more than half a century ago, poker has been the glue that has kept them in touch for most of their lives.

"…This was the early 1950s, so there was very little television and not much else to do if you didn't have a date except listen to the radio and play poker, said Vic Sanchez, 66, a retired school administrator in Tempe.

"Games lasted until their 10 p.m. to midnight curfews and was played in homes and back yards where guardians or parents were poker friendly.

"…Early players included Sanchez, Fotinos, Hulen, Jack Eardley, Joey Nunez, Ron Montgomery, Duane Ashford, Don Keith and George Zorbas.

"..And as the core group's horizons expanded beyond Phoenix Union to other nearby high schools, so did their circle of players. Joining them were Frank Armstrong and George Flint, both of North High; Jim Kane, Richard Glasco, Vince Geisler, Frank Nelson, Bill Holmes and Paul Muscenti, all of West Phoenix High. New recruits from Phoenix Union were Tony West, Bill Bass and Jim Howell.

"…But it wasn't until marriages, families and careers were more established that the games resumed in earnest during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"…Few wives or girlfriends dared to complain about the overnight marathons.

"But the good times couldn't last forever.

"'Zorbas was the first to go, and then Holmes and then Joey,' Sanchez said. 'And after they died, we'd have to talk about each and every one of them at the games.'

"… Although the survivors still play, they find their hours at the table keep getting shorter.

"…But nothing has dampened the camaraderie and friendship the poker survivors still share in a community that has done nothing but change during the past 50 years…"

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