28 April 2006

Children and Poker: My Thoughts

"I intentionally didn't expose my children to gambling, since I wanted them to do something more productive. It is much harder to avoid it in this day and age than when my kids were young. My youngest son (age 18) wants to be a poker player, but I won't help him until he graduates from college. I still wish he would find passion for something else." Barry Greenstein

"The thoughts I have about children and poker is that children should never be put on the back burner (nor should anyone that you care about) for a game of poker. Everything has its proper place and time in life. Our families-especially our children in this day and age-deserve and need all the time with us they can get. To say that one should forsake everything to be a parent isn't the correct answer either. We all need time to develop and learn in the midst of all of it, we need time to ourselves. Poker is a cloaking device in a way. It fills a social need and can help us realize things about ourselves that we would never have explored if we hadn't witnessed other people going through all of the antics at the tables. The cloaking device comes into play when we use poker as a hide-out or escape hatch from the real world. The real world has its place-just as poker has its place. If you have any problems in handling the order of priorities in your life, poker is not the place for you. There is nothing wrong with teaching your children to play poker. Teaching them to understand competition and good sportsmanship, teaching them to handle wins and losses, and how to walk away when it's time to walk away. If you spend time with your children-at the poker table- you may learn a lot about them and end up finding ways to help them conquer and deal with problems that will most definitely rear in their lives. Poker is a complexity of human need, social levels, cards, skill, luck, and the learning curve of how to deal with all of it." Linda R. Geneen

Barry and Linda were good enough to give their thoughts on children and poker, so thanks a ton. In case you don't know, Linda is one of the founding fathers of poker blogging, if not the originator (archives start in 1982).

So now, my final thoughts, all of the wisdom boiled down to my theory on parenting and poker.
  • Protectionism vs. exposure. I understand greatly the desire to shield our children from the dangers of the world. My wife Sweetie is involved in two different regularly meeting groups: her church discipleship group and her neighborhood book club. The ladies in her church group school their kids either at the church's mega-school or home school and are networked almost exclusively with other Christians. The book club (it's called this because they have a book a month to read, although only a couple actually seem to read the book) is maybe the polar opposite of the first. Many of these ladies also go to their Botox parties, etc. We've both always been public school people, and I've seen the value of the boys' exposure to the diversity and challenges of life. Granted, we're still in the fairly innocent years with middle school a couple years away, but I would rather bring the boys up in the context of the world today. With poker, I would rather involve the boys in as healthy a manner as possible. I enjoy it, and I enjoy having the boys on the felt with me.
  • Ban online poker. I may be on the extreme side here, but I don't feel it is appropriate for the boys to play online, even for play chips. Online poker gives them another reason to sit at the computer/video game machine, which we don't need. It sends them one step closer to a risky area. The appropriate age to play online? Again, this may sound extreme, but I would say 18. If their interest would get to the point earlier in their lives, then I would put Wilson Turbo or Poker Academy for them to practice. Online poker is a time devourer, and this global workplace of ours is a competitive landscape to the max. The nearness of real money play is something they shouldn't do. Too crack-like, so I'll ban this.
  • On the felt. I really enjoy the social aspect of playing poker and having the boys involved as well. All-In isn't as into it for sure, but the Big Guy seems to enjoy it when we play. I prefer tourneys with prizes if we can get enough folks, a fun freeroll with neat stuff that everyone would like. The best family gatherings for me are when I'm fighting it out in spades with my sister and Mom. Just like golf, I hope that stacking chips is something that will bring back fond memories to the boys. But like BadBlood, I would keep money away from the table when the boys are involved.
  • Manage my play at home. This is one of my greatest challenges. As you know, I don't play very much, trying to sneak in some play here or there. I rarely play big blocks of time on the weekend unless I have an all-clear signal (Sweetie's out and about, the Little Guy is napping, and the other boys are playing). I think this is extreme probably on my part, and I do want to play regularly in an approved, supported, responsible manner. But the boys are at an age now where they really like me alot. Last night after dinner, the boys wanted to play baseball in the back yard. So out I head with a bucket of balls, put a tee in the very back for the Little Guy to grab a bat and hit the tee, sending the ball tipping onto the ground (at 23 months, his technique seems to be lacking). The Big Guy and All-In take turns with ten balls each, caroming foul balls within six inches of light fixtures, pinging taters over the trees and fence into literally the next neighborhood. With our advanced point system (1 pt for a foul, 3 for grounder, 4 for fly past me, 6 for over the fence), All-In takes the title with 32 points. Will we be in the backyard in four years? I don't know, but they'll remember the towering shots and the stinging in their hands in thirty years, that's for sure.
  • Have a plan. I need to speak regularly with my wife about poker and the impact of my play on the boys. This isn't very easy for me as I don't want to hear anything really. She is outside of my play and can be more objective about what it's doing to me and to the boys.
  • Play to win. If the boys are playing, I don't want to let up to make it easier on them. I'm not into not keeping score in sports. I would never let the boys beat me in anything. I don't have a ton of pity when the Big Guy is writhing in pain on the ground from a bump (looking just like his Dad at the same age, granted). I want the boys to finish what they start, to always prepare, to always do their best, and to build an ability to evaluate and improve. We're a long way from this consistently, but that is the goal.
  • Sniff it out. Sweetie had a fairly innocent, naïve childhood. I did for the most part, putting aside the physical explorations with babysitters and older neighbor girls before I was ten. I'm not quite sure when you get eyes in the back of your head like my Mom had, but my view is that I have to assume that the boys are into everything, that their friends are all hooligans and perverts, and that they're experimenting constantly until proven otherwise. This includes poker, but more broadly it means that I need to be proactive in my communication with the boys. This dialogue needs to happen individually with each of them, not in a check-off-the-box way to be sure they're OK but to ping the periphery of dangerous areas to figure out which other kids are horrible and at risk.
  • Be alert to danger signs in my life. I think the boys are better off with me in their lives each day. I've stood close enough to the abyss of poker's downside to know that I could slip from the world of healthy obsession and passion to the purgatory of reckless, uncontrolled addiction. The latter creates separation from my wife and the boys, either because they would leave me or I would become a different father and husband. This means proper bankroll management, being alert to mood changes, being open with Sweetie if she sees changes in me, becoming consumed by poker instead of further fulfilled through it.
  • Prioritize. As Linda said, poker should never take a priority in my life over the boys, yet it should be part of my life at this time. This means balance but ensuring that the boys have good minutes and hours with me, both together and individually.
  • Sweetie. My wife is the top priority in my life, and poker should never interfere with our relationship and our love. The boys have an incredible mother in their lives, and I owe it to them to keep my poker's impact on my wife minimized. Like in Heat, you have to be ready to walk away from poker if necessary. That doesn't mean I can't have something for myself, but it means that the choice is an easy one for me.
Nothing too groundbreaking or insightful, but a collection of today's thoughts on the subject of children and poker. Thanks for letting me explore this, and I hope it's been helpful to some. Special thanks to The Wolverine, Keith Whyte, Joe Sebok and his Dad, Linda, and all the comments from all of you.

Finally, Friday's Recipe for the inept chefs out there. My reason for a Friday recipe? It's about pulling our own weight and bringing something to the table, literally. And if I can do it, believe me you can too. This is Cousin Becky's Homemade Salsa, which is Sweetie's Florida Gators fanatical cousin. She had a boob job about a decade ago, which my father-in-law is quite fond of. This has to be the simplest recipe known to man for sure. Cut a white onion into small pieces (dice is the term), open two-three cans of diced tomatoes, one-two cans of diced green chiles, add chopped garlic, jalapenos and a bunch of the juice from the jar, cilantro (ideally fresh--less is more until you figure out what to add), some oregano (not much), black pepper. Mix it in a huge bowl and tweak it to meet your own standards. Less onions if you like, more jalapenos, whatever. If you add black olives, only do it to half of the salsa (as I hate olives). Get several bags of chips and lots of paper towels, then get to snacking.

Have a good weekend.

Have a great weekend.


Blogger The Poker Enthusiast said...

It's very important to me that I don't let poker get in the way of my family. My playing time for the most part is made of late night sessions after the wife and kids are in bed. To me it is more important to meet their needs then to fulfill some personal desire.

Great stuff. Keep it up.

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