February 26, 2020

The Poker Expert

George Epstein; Photo courtesy of George Epstein

George Epstein, 92

While George Epstein loves a good game of poker, he refuses to gamble on his health. An accomplished retired aerospace engineer, he stays active, is involved in his community and gives back. He claims it’s what has kept him sharp all these years. 

Epstein, who lives in the Beverly-La Brea neighborhood, began his career at MIT as a student working in the Plastics and Adhesives Lab. He eventually landed a position with the Aerospace Corporation, where he solved manufacturing and engineering materials problems for Air Force space systems. 

One of his greatest achievements was developing the technology that allowed satellites to stay in space for more than two years. “This technology was first introduced in the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite and has subsequently been employed in many other satellites to achieve extended orbital life,” he said. 

Today, Epstein is on the board of the Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering (SAMPE) but still finds time to play poker. He founded the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group and regularly plays at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino in Gardena. He also has taught poker to other seniors at engineering societies, senior centers, an Alzheimer’s group and a yacht club; writes poker columns for gaming publications; and has published three books on the subject. 

“When I decided to retire at age 65, I realized it was important to remain active and involved,” Epstein said. “Poker was a game that challenged the mind and provided a great opportunity to be socially involved. It would be my second career.”

Epstein said playing poker could be a way to keep the brain healthy and functioning properly. “I believe that playing poker can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”

He also is active in local issues and brought together a group of engineers to study Los Angeles’ pothole problems, collaborating with Fifth District City Councilman Paul Koretz to work on a solution.  

“Poker was a game that challenged the mind and provided a great opportunity to be socially involved. It would be my second career.”

Together with SAMPE and the U.S. Air Force Space Systems, Epstein helped establish a college scholarship for outstanding seniors at Fairfax High School planning to study engineering, science, math or medicine. 

Epstein credits his urge to give back to his wife, Irene. They married in 1951 and she died in 1996. “[Irene] was a remarkable person,” he said, “and set a good example for me in contributing to society and helping other people.”

Epstein’s, son, David, died in 1979 but his daughter, Sue, lives in Epstein’s duplex. 

Along with volunteering, Epstein visits the Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center four days a week, where he goes to the gym, attends a current events group and organizes special events. He also writes letters to the editor at various publications and keeps up with the news. 

His advice to other seniors wanting to live a long life is simple: “Stay healthy, keep active and involved, and enjoy whatever you do,” he said. “And keep a smile on your face. Take every opportunity to contribute your knowledge and expertise to help others, and to make this a better world.”