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Games people play

Posted March 12, 2014 in Des Moines West

Card and game playing for some begins in youth, while for others it’s a way to tax the mind and socialize upon retirement.

Members of the Newcomers Compass Club of Greater Des Moines play mahjong at the West Des Moines Public Library. The group plays two times a week.

Members of the Newcomers Compass Club of Greater Des Moines play mahjong at the West Des Moines Public Library. The group plays two times a week.

Regardless of the reason, there are card and game clubs for all interests and skill levels in the Des Moines metro area. There are the regular “party” card games hosted at retirees’ homes where ladies get together and chit-chat about recipes and grandchildren, and then there is the more competitive play for serious card sharks.

Carol Culmer falls into the category of retiree looking for something to do. She started playing mahjong, a Chinese tile game, about three years ago upon retirement. She took a class to learn to play.

“I knew about mahjong, and I had always wanted to learn how to play,” she says.

The game is similar to the card game rummy and uses skill and strategy with some luck. She enjoyed it so much she wanted to find a group she could play with on a regular basis. That is how she found the Newcomers Compass Club of Greater Des Moines.

The Compass Club organized to help newcomers get settled into the Des Moines area and help them find activities and social events in which to participate. The club hosts a variety of card games as well that include bridge, Texas Hold ’Em poker, cribbage and hand and foot canasta.

Since joining, Culmer has been part of the regular group that gets together to play mahjong on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons. The group members come and go — there are the regulars who play twice a week, then there are snowbirds who only play when they’re in town.

“You really get acquainted with new people, and it’s fun to socialize,” Culmer says.

Carol Culmer contemplates a move while playing mahjong last month at the West Des Moines Library. Culmer started to play the game a few years ago when she retired to meet new people.

Carol Culmer contemplates a move while playing mahjong last month at the West Des Moines Library. Culmer started to play the game a few years ago when she retired to meet new people.

It was through Culmer that Sherry Howard picked up mahjong. The two practiced yoga together, and Howard inquired about joining the mahjong group after she retired.

Culmer gave her a few lessons, and Howard quickly picked up how to play.

“Some people have a knack for it, and some people don’t,” Culmer says. “I think if you’re a card player, it’s easy to pick up.”

Howard says she was new to retirement and wanted to meet new friends and find something to help occupy some of her newfound free time as she started the next chapter in her life. The game has given her a chance to do that. Most Monday mornings, she’s at the West Des Moines Public Library with other members of the Compass Club playing mahjong.

The game was easy to play and helps keep her mentally sharp, Howard says.

She says she enjoys the company and the different conversations she has among the players, all of whom are women.

“We talk about anything from grandkids to recipes to hobbies to sewing to vacations to personal things,” Howard says. “It’s just girl talk.”

Card and game playing began in youth for Des Moines woman
Shirlee Reding remembers playing cards and games such as Chinese checkers and checkers in her youth. Once she was married, she and her husband played cribbage and other games.

“It was a way of socialization back in the earlier days when everyone was young and scraping by,” she says. “Rather than going out to dinner or a play, it was an inexpensive way to socialize without creating a burden for anybody.”

After the birth of her son, Reding’s time was occupied with child-rearing, but she picked up card playing again when she moved to Des Moines about 18 years ago. That’s when she joined the Compass Club.

Rita Einberg, left, and Norma Doenecke play mahjong.

Rita Einberg, left, and Norma Doenecke play mahjong.

Since then, she has gotten involved in bridge games, cribbage and dominoes. She’s part of the group that is starting a new Five Hundred card game, and she’s trying to draw interest in a Canasta group.

Reding plays dominoes, cribbage and bridge once a month with Compass Club members. She’s also joined two church bridge groups. It was a game she picked up in adulthood.

“Some people like to draw; some people like to play an instrument. I just like to play cards,” Reding says. “It’s turned into a hobby. It’s been, for me, a real nice, easy way to meet some really nice women. That’s part of it more than anything. You’ve developed friendships through these.”

Reding says she enjoys sitting around a table and talking with the women and getting to know them. Most of the games are played at public places, which is another thing she enjoys. Sometimes card clubs meet at members’ houses.

“There’s not that hassle of having to clean your house and get food ready,” Reding says. “It’s an easy, enjoyable afternoon instead of being concerned. Do I have enough snacks? Does somebody like this kind of coffee or another?”

Joy of bridge game leads to more serious club play
Sharon Calkins has played “party” bridge with her friends in their homes for years. The eight women get together two times a month to play cards and socialize.

She decided to expand her play upon retirement three years ago.

“I was looking for something to work my brain, for one thing, and get me out among people and to meet new people,” Calkins says.

She found the Des Moines Area Bridge Club Unit 216, a group of about 400 competitive bridge players — they play what is called duplicate bridge, which has slightly different scoring and rules than “party” bridge — of all levels. Games are played every day, and lessons are available at the bridge center, 10190 Hickman Road in Clive. Those who play party bridge still need to take lessons because of the differences between it and duplicate bridge.

Calkins says she enjoys playing bridge because it is a game of strategy that replaces some of the thinking and components from the working world such as teamwork, energy and planning. She plays at the bridge center three times a week.

Wife’s enjoyment of game sparks husband to start playing
Janice Kimm is a longtime bridge player and life master with 300 points. She had been asking husband, Dick, to learn to play the game for years.

“Whenever we went on vacation and she wanted to play bridge, she had to find someone else to play,” he says.

So at Janice’s request, Dick started taking bridge lessons a year ago. He was immediately hooked on the game, and says he enjoys it more and more as he gains more insight into it. He plays on his home computer, which is how he learns more about bidding and playing the game and also four days a week at the bridge center. Games last 2.5 hours.

“Does that tell you how hooked I am?” Dick says with a laugh. “I spend more time than I ought to playing bridge during the week that I don’t have time to play party bridge.”

The various hand combinations possible from a 52-card deck are what intrigue him the most about the game.

“Every time I see a deck of cards, I think ‘Boy, it would be fun to sit down and play a game of bridge,’ ” he says.

Janice began playing bridge in high school but picked it up again with more regularity after retirement. The couple now plays together when they travel, but at the bridge center they play at their own skill levels.

Janice is the more serious player of the two. She socializes and visits with the other players, but to her it’s a game and you’re there to win, Dick says. She mostly talks about how the hands have been played.

But for Dick, playing is more social, though it depends upon the players at his table.

“Sometimes you get people who like to chat,” he says. “If you chat, there’s a chance you will lose your concentration, and when you lose your concentration in bridge…losing concentration is a disaster.

“I have trouble staying focused,” he continues. “I have too much fun. When I lose focus, all of a sudden I make mistakes I shouldn’t make. And I made some stupid mistakes.”

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