17 April 2006

Children and Poker: Preface

I can tell you that this is a series I have avoided writing nor wanted to write, the topic of poker and our children. I've avoided it because I'd prefer not to explore the topic, would rather stay focused on myself rather than my boys, would rather stay in the dark to any facts that may change my pursuits. Having said that, I'm going to tackle this as straightforwardly as I can and with as much research and thought as I have time to put forward.

I think it's important to give you a bit more background about me and my own childhood as it will undoubtedly shape some of the series. I was born at a very young age...OK, scratch that. I was born to a very young mother and a recently graduated college father. My parents were fairly normal and typical for the time, I would assume. They were casual drinkers (most of my childhood was in a dry county in Mississippi, meaning hard liquor had to be obtained from outside county lines). My mother was a smoker until I graduated college. There were few other vices available, at least in my own cocoon. I was very religious and had a strong faith, and this led me to make certain life choices. I have had maybe three sips of wine and a couple sips of champagne in my life at toasting occasions but didn't inhale. That made me unusual but not abnormal in our town and a certified freak at Tulane. Growing up it was a religious thing (Southern Baptists don't drink), but during college and afterwards I just decided that I didn't drink. I've never really come up with an explanation that I'm comfortable with, I just didn't. I may have inhaled pot in the second-hand air of a Rick James concert, but that was about as close to drugs as I've come as well. And my parents did host a casino night with my mother's sorority chapter (this really weird sorority for grown women who either weren't in sororities or didn't go to college, I'm not sure which), but that was play money literally.

Why all this rhetoric about me? It somewhat shapes my belief system when it comes to my own theories on raising children. I'll state this through the series, but let me be blunt that I believe I am not an authority on this subject. I've never raised a child. I've never seen a child happily married, graduate college, become homeless, tell me he's gay, die, have a child, lose a job, be convicted of a crime--none of this stuff, so I won't tell you any great truths. I'll just try and lay out facts that I can find, put forward my own questions, and hopefully help me figure this out. As always, the better minds and experiences belong to others who happen to stop by here, those with children or yet to have them.

Why tackle this? A few recent events have spurred this. First, we have JJProdigy (Josh Field), the multi-accounter who lost his $140k Party accounts (and happened to be too young to vote at age 17). Next, we have the short list of players in their late teens who have either scored huge wins or play online at the highest levels, winning hundreds of thousands of dollars, pounds, and euros from the best the web has to offer. All of this is hint enough (if I didn't need it) that I'm sitting with high school kids regularly when I'm at these virtual tables.

Fine. Now let's switch things to me. As I discussed my Relationship and Poker series with my wife, her first comment surprised me: her greatest concern about me and poker was that my poker play could be having or might have a negative influence on the boys. We've played poker with my ten and eight year olds for over a year (or should I say I have). We play just with chips or tourneys where you get prizes depending on where you finish. They've railbirded me at times watching me with my laptop, cheering on my big pots and commiserating with me over my aces getting cracked. The middle son has the same name as a leading pro with the exact spelling even, and his All-In nickname (rarely used) surfaces only occasionally, although it is appropriate. In our games, the blinds are never anything easy, always complex like 12/24 or 17/34, something that makes them have to figure out how to call a 138 re-raise when they have 42 in the pot. Responsible parenting or potential endangerment? No different than golf or leading one of my boys astray? Creating the next Phil Ivey, Stuey Ungar, or Case Williams (or some other guy who's name has been long forgotten)?

The new series, children and poker. We'll explore emerging facts and trends, look to experts to help us understand our options and risks, and hopefully this will be helpful to all of us. Thanks for being here, and here's to our journey with this topic.

ADDENDUM: lol is overused, but after you read the line from Poker Chronicles, I can't imagine not laughing audibly (go to Bellagio Day 1). "I thought I had a four flush. I had that refractive eye surgery two months ago and can't see suits." So that's why you inst-call and catch your gutshot to cripple me in this Bellagio tourney. Got it, thanks.


Blogger BadBlood said...

With respect to kids and poker - here's what I've done with my son who's now 6.

I've removed all aspects of money from the game. Right now, to him, the game represents only a strategy game like many others where the object is simply to win.

In fact, you could theoretically add money to the equation for any game, and it changes the situation drastically. Let's say your sons enjoyed playing Monopoly with you and your wife. If you started playing for $5 a pop, the game changes entirely.

To me, the issue is the introduction of the financial aspect, not the mere fact of playing poker.

10:01 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

I have no kids. Let me start by saying that. The only thing that I have to add, though, is that whether or not you teach them the game with money, when they do look to play as they get older, they will find that people do play with money.

The question is, do you want your kids to play poker at all? The second question is, how do you want your kids to view poker?

Growing up, I played blackjack and other card games with my grandmothers (separately). We went on family vacations to Atlantic City where me and my bros would spend the time at the arcade.

I didn't realize it until recently, but that is one of the reasons why I love poker and games. Its subconscious nostalgia. It is familiar and safe and something that I learned from people I love.

Now, my brothers went with me to AC too, but they didn't really play with my grandmas. I don't know why, but they don't have the poker bug (and not even a passing interest). So, I think part of it has to be me and my natural personality and gamesmanship.

By familiarizing your kids with poker, they are learning that it is an okay recreational activity. Truthfully, I don't see the problem in that. As long as they learn that there are more important things to focus on, they'll be players, but balanced. Because after all, even though I'm a degenerate poker player, I play relatively low stakes and I'm an attorney. It's not a problem because I am responsible enough not to let it be a problem.

1:37 PM  
Blogger katitude said...

This is something I'm interested in - I've had some my students (teenage girls) ask me to teach them poker - I tell them only with a letter of permission from their parents. My extremely-well-off uncle wants me to teach my 6 year old cousin.

I'm really of two minds about the whole thing; but I think I'm mroe on the side of informing kids and giving them some media awareness of the games and ads they see on TV.

I read of a school board in the mid-west somewhere (can't put my hands on the article right now) where they are using poker to teach strategy, math, sportsmanship and understanding interpersonal relationships. There's a number of links I've found in my research with 20 page long lesson plans.

2:39 PM  
Blogger kurokitty said...

I am a third-generation gambler, as Las Vegas was always the conduit for a visit or the actual meeting place with my relatives (who all live in Hawaii when we lived on the mainland). That said, none of my relatives, including my parents, were ever into anything more than little slots and video poker but Vegas has always been an acceptable halfway point where we all catch up on each others' lives.
Now that I'm older, that tradition is a powerful part of why I'm a poker player and why I love the city. I walk through the downtown streets and in the lobbies of casinos and they are always with me. I feel the same way that I feel when I'm in Hawaii -- we have history here, this is my city.
Like the baby penguins in March of the Penguins, I took from my parents' lead when I was old enough to play and never strayed too far until later when I knew more about gambling and theory. I played $20 at a time and steered clear of the table games. I didn't even play poker there until a few years ago.
For them, it was always a fun thing to do. It never got crazy and I think from learning from them, I never developed bad leaks. I never tried to catch up when I was down, I never got upset losing money to negative EV games, I never played over my head.
I think I benefitted from my parents teaching me card games early. I think I learned from them the right way to handle winning and losing and winning and losing money.
Just like poker strategy, one approach won't work for everyone. But I feel like the way my attitudes about gambling were shaped helped me immensely later on down the road when much more money was at stake.

2:13 AM  
Blogger Guin said...

Kids should play all sorts of games. This is similar to should you introduce your child to chess. The difference here is that chess doesn't have the situation of being able to "lie" (I refer to it as representing a different hand) because you can't see all the pieces laid out.

The math and ability to think through odds quickly and assess the competition are all great skills. I hope my daughter can quickly realize when meeting people to identify many different character traits. Tells are not just for the poker table but for all facets of life. The ability to remember and recall with great accuracy things in the short and long term is also developed from this game.

I actually like keeping the idea of cash in the game as well. Of course I work in the investment world so money is how I think about most things.

My mix for my child is going to be investing first, golf / soccer second (individual / group sports), game theory third, anything else my wife thinks is important after that!

Then again I grew up trying to fit into the religious mix but ended up realizing after much thought that I am an atheist.

9:34 AM  
Blogger FatBaldGuy said...

I only have the one child, and my wife and I did not really gamble very much when she was still with us, and that was not until she was in her mid teens, since we did not ever live anwhere with a casino before that. Once she moved out, it was not a factor, if it ever had been.

Personally, my family rarely gambled, and even now my dad only plays micro limits online, or a small amount at the blackjack tables in the casino.

The important thing is to raise your children so they are able to cope with the world and make good decisions for themselves. Sure, their environment may influence if they gamble or play poker later in life. But, if you have done a good job, whether or not your children play poker is probably irrelevant to how successful they are in life.

4:53 PM  
Blogger pokerpeaker said...

You can bet money on any game, really. That's what makes it gambling. Bad Blood's idea is a good one, just remove the money aspect, and I don't have a problem with it. In fact, it's a good skill to know many games, as this can help you in many social situations, which is why good salesman know golf, that sort of thing.

Thanks for stopping by again. Link me, dammit! And I agree with you on the variance...I chased just the other day because I'm tired of losing money every time this month. Thankfully, once the chasing was over and I was down a few bucks, I realized what I was doing and logged off for the night. That's more of a key than anything.

5:10 PM  
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2:20 AM  

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