Regular card games are part of the fun at the Broken Arrow Senior Activity Center. There might be some bridge or canasta, but another game often takes center stage.
Meichelle Culhane, 61, can be found leading a few tables in Texas Hold’em. A volunteer at the center, she’d been asking to introduce poker for five years before getting the go-ahead in 2018.
“The first three weeks I had one veteran gentleman in his 80s — just him and me playing draw poker, Seven Card Stud and No Limit Texas Hold’em,” she says. “He had a helper that we made play with us.”
The group has now grown to about 20 women ages 65-89 who play every week for fun. A small group of men play, too.
Culhane says she gets a lot out of giving her time. The center has been shut down in recent months because of the pandemic, but the group remains active by playing online with play money up to three times a day, seven days a week.
Retired from public education and tax preparation, Culhane grew up playing poker and began playing at casinos in 2005. Her work with the seniors in Broken Arrow has now earned Culhane an opportunity to play championship poker.
In April, PokerStars.com announced a contest for “inspirational women in poker” to earn a Platinum Pass. The pass guarantees a $30,000 all-expenses paid trip to Barcelona for the PokerStars Players Championship. The tournament was to be held in August, but was moved to 2021 because of the pandemic.
Culhane is one of nine finalists from nominations around the world, and the women will play for the tournament seat at an upcoming PokerStars event. The pass is one of the most coveted prizes in poker and would give her a shot to play for millions. That would be quite a topic of conversation at the senior center, but Culhane is just honored to be nominated.
“This is an OMG moment,” she says. “I am humbled to be selected. People always tell me my story is a great poker story, but it’s really about the women at the center I volunteer for. I’m just the messenger of hope for other senior citizen women.”