Jackie Potuzak looks to the heavens for guidance.
When asked by a reporter what do you have to do to win at whist – one of four card game competitions contested at the 55+ BC Games at Vernon’s Schubert Centre – Potuzak had a simple answer.
“Pray,” deadpanned Potuzak, competing with her husband Jim during a lunch break Thursday for competitors in whist, cribbage, social bridge and duplicate bridge.
Jackie is a former Games competitor in darts (silver medalist) and cribbage (bronze). The husband and wife team from Kitimat started playing cribbage together but wanted more. The pair play whist weekly at Kitimat’s Snowflake Seniors Centre.
“We just wanted a change,” said Jim, still working at age 72 for the municipality in purchasing and stores (though he hints he may retire “soon.”)
“I’ve played cards since I was a kid. Jackie’s from the east. She’s more used to playing Euchre.”
So what is whist and what do you have to do to win?
It’s a basic card game, explained Jim. Whist was a precursor to bridge.
“It’s a tricks game, the idea being to collect as many tricks (hands) as you can during a round,” said Jim. The Potuzaks and all competitors played 20 rounds in two days to determine medalists.
It’s the fifth 55+ Games for Jim and the seventh for Jackie, who said she’s been retired since 1988 from “doing nothing.”
At the Social Bridge room, Doug and Miriam Peacock of Nanaimo were waiting for the break to end so they could start their climb toward the medal positions.
“We’re at the bottom of the heap right now,” laughed Doug, who turns 78 Tuesday, four days after Miriam turned 77. The Peacocks were appearing in their seventh 55+ Games, having won gold, silver and bronze before.
The pair have been married almost 55 years. They met at a church youth group in Vancouver and Doug played social bridge while studying mechanical engineering at UBC. He taught the game to his future bride.
“He taught me to play at his mom’s house,” said Miriam. “He got annoyed at me and his mom said to him, ‘you can’t talk to her like that.’”
It still happens, the Peacocks getting annoyed with one another during card games, and has happened regularly through their 37 years in Port Alice before retiring to Nanaimo to join their two kids and seven grandchildren.
“We have our differences in cards. We had one this morning, but I still love her to death,” laughed Doug.
“Have I been physically hurt playing cards? No,” chuckled Miriam. “Mentally, however…” and she finished off with a big hearty laugh.
The seventh Games could be the last in Social Bridge for the Peacocks and the other 18 competitors. Numbers in the sport have dwindled to the point that the event may be chopped from future Games.
“I’ve played cribbage and whist and I much prefer bridge,” said Doug. “It’s more of a think game, more of a challenge mentally.”
There’s also a bit of a celebrity competing in social bridge.
Shirley Yeomans of Kamloops took part in the first B.C. Seniors Games 30 years ago, also at the Schubert Centre in Vernon.
“It hasn’t changed at all,” said Yeomans, who won silver in Vernon, then captured gold the next year in Trail.
Both Doug Peacock and Jim Potuzak said duplicate bridge is the only card game in the world where luck of the cards has nothing to do with the game, as players are dealt the same hand.
In cribbage, 116 players were watched by sport chairperson Maggy Badgero.
“A lot of people play crib at home, it’s a very social game,” said Badgero, surveying the full room of competitors. “Everyone here is having a lot of fun. They’re all being really helpful with one another. It’s a pleasure to watch.”