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Kids Playing Poker?

5th March, 2006
I teach a few classes at a local private college, where it is widely known that I play a great deal of poker. One of the other professors and I had an interesting conversation last week where the subject of my children came up, and if I thought it was the "right" thing to teach them how to play poker.

When I informed him that my oldest daughter (10) already played poker with us often, the look on his face made it quite clear that he didn't approve. I have included parts of my side of the conversation below.

I do not condone children gambling, placing bets with real money, in any way. Like many things I feel are important, I have discussed this with my daughter many times, including the dangers of gambling (I have been placing sporting bets since I was 12). However, I completely separate gambling from poker, as poker can be played without money just as well as it can with it. In addition, poker helps children learn many important skills. Let's take a look at a few of the simple skills required to play poker.

Memory plays a large part in learning the rules of the game, the ranks and suits of the cards and the order of hands (a flush beats a straight, etc.). The intricate strategy necessary to do well helps develop analytical thinking abilities and playing poker helps develop social skills. Are there other games that can offer the same kind of skill development? Sure there are, but we tend to play variations of poker more than anything else, so why not let her play too?

My colleague and I couldn't come to much of an agreement about what was right and wrong, but he can put his side of the story in his own column. It all comes down to personal choice. Each person should raise their children in the best way that they see fit. Just don't overlook anything on the positive side of teaching kids to play poker. Until next week, good luck at the tables.

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