All in The Family
To Ira and Flo Levy, poker is part of life.
bout three days a week, Ira
and Flo Levy share breakfast
at home, kiss each other
goodbye, get into separate
cars and follow each other to the same
valet parking station.
They check their cars, walk into the
registration area, kiss each other good
luck, then hand over their money, usual-
The name of their game is Texas
Hold'em poker, and the top prize is usu-
ally about $1,000.
Driving two cars allows one of them
to go home if the other busts out early.
"We're recreational players," said Ira.
The couple moved to Vegas from West
Bloomfield in 1993. "We don't play for
a living, but we like winning."
And winning is what they do.
Trophies are all over the house and
their closets are filled with colorful
Ira's been playing since he was 12.
"Self-taught," he said. "My father
never touched a deck of cards: But
the young guys, all we did was play
Flo learned about five years ago. Ira Ira and Flo Levy sport winners' ackets.'
taught her because she played the slots
while he was in a tournament and it
Flo mixes things up.
was eating into the profits.
"I'm not a consistent player," she said.
Ira admits he might have taught his
"If you're consistent, they can figure you
wife too well because she's the better
Sometimes she'll pick a hand she can
It's a matter of playing style, he says.
bluff all the way through without losing
"The secret of poker — get everybody
a lot of money, then show her hand.
in the game to hate you because then -
"This way it's confusing. When I raise
they're going to play terrible trying to
a hand, I don't want them to know what
beat you so bad with garbage," said Ira,
who admits he can go "on tilt," too.
,Spotting The Newcomers
Television has changed the face of tour-
nament poker, Ira said. Two years ago,
60 players participated in tournaments;
now it's 80-100.
Ira and Flo don't play at the same
table because other players don't like it
— too big a chance for collusion.
Although there's no real poker eti-
on page 28
Rabbi, Teacher Shar
What you don't know about Dr. Steven Kaufman could cost you.
e may be a professor of ancient Neat,-
Eastern history and a rabbi, but if
you find yourself in a poker tourna-
ment sitting across the felt from Dr.
Steven A. Kaufman, those chips in your posses-
sion aren't really yours anymore.
They're his — you just don't know it yet.
A professor of Bible and cognate literature at
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of .
Religion in Cincinnati during the week — and a
professional poker player when he's on "sabbati-
cal" — Dr. Kaufman began his second career fre-
quenting Las Vegas casinos as a professional-level
He also played poker in a weekly game in the
mid-1970s when he arrived at the Reform semi-
■ ;`" ,
Di: Kaufman in Tunica, Miss.,
"We used to gather around once a week, a
_ group of rabbis, teachers and the occasional stu-
ment at the Stardust Hotel, walked across the street
dent who we felt could afford to be the fish in the
to the Desert Inn, and entered a $20 buy-in poker
game," he said.
tournament and took first place.
Dr. Kaufman didn't play "serious" poker until the
When he realized that it was more profitable to
play against the fish at the poker table than to play
He once bombed out early at a blackjack tourna-
against the house at blackjack, he switched games,
following the usual route,
playing small stakes poker
'tournaments and working
his way up.
"In the tournament
world, there is a system
called the satellite system,"
said Dr. Kaufman.
The winner of a smaller
stakes satellite game can
gain entry into a big-name
tournament, and many of
the professional players
Will 'do the same.
"That's one of the beau-
ties of poker," he said.
"EVen if we love golf, we
could never play Tiger
Woods heads up. But you
sit down on any given day,
you can beat the hell out
of a professional."
In 2000, Dr. Kaufman
found himself at the final table in the Binion's
World Series of Poker (WSOP) Texas Hold'em no-
. limit championship tournament.
Facing nine other players, including three Jews,
RABBI on page 28 .