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Poker News | World Poker News

When Does the Age of Innocence Become a Poker Face?

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Games are passed down from father to son, mother to daughter and grandparent to grandchild. I learned Cribbage from my Dad, who learned it from his father, and all three of us played when Grandpa England and Grandpa Brooker came out from California. But that was the only card game I learned from my parents. We played Monopoly, Life and, later, the Atari 2600, but Bridge was reserved for their neighborhood parties every couple of months.

And I never learned how to play poker until much later in my life.

Poker is tricky. You can play any game for money, of course, but poker doesn't really seem to work UNLESS it's played for money. I played my first games over nickels and dimes, and a big bet was $1, but it still meant something to win a pot, and you didn't throw in chips on a whim.

The money thing is why many parents hesitate to teach their kids to play because poker is a form of gambling. Poker isn't gambling, not really, but it still kinda is because of the money. When you put money into the pot, people still call it a "bet," just like they would if you were playing craps, roulette or the slots.

I'll share more thoughts on this, but first I talked to three poker friends about when they will teach their kids to play poker for real money, if they ever will. All three were dads and all three had different opinions.

• "I'll probably wait a couple of years until I teach them for real, but it won't be for money" - My first friend doesn't play poker for the thrill of winning money. He plays it for the thrill of the game.

We play for real money at our home game, but that's mostly to keep the game honest, and we play for nickels and dimes. The only difference is now we play Hold 'Em, Omaha, and Stud with a few other games thrown in.

His sons, 10 and 8, come downstairs to check out the game, and they always ask who's "winning?" but then they go upstairs and go to bed. My friend worries about teaching them how to take others' money at a young age.

"My two kids would slit each other's throat for a dollar at this stage," he said. He doesn't want to instill that any further or encourage his kids to take everyone's lunch money on the playground.

• "I'll let my kids play, and as soon as my son (who is 4) knows the rules, he'll start playing for real money" - My second friend, a blogger, has no problem teaching his kids to play for real money, and his reasoning seems to be the opposite of my first friend's. Instead of being worried about teaching them how to gamble, my second friend believes teaching them how to play for real money will teach them how to gamble the right way.

"It will teach them the value of money and what gambling is (how to gamble for entertainment only, not as a means to pay for things)," he said.

Poker would also teach his kids the math behind the cards, as well as fair play, he said, and real money will help drive those points home.

• "I do let my kids play, but most definitely not for real money" - My third friend has kids that are 9 and 7, and occasionally the family will get together for what he calls "The Chip Challenge." He gave the winner of each challenge $1. At least he did in the beginning.

"My son won the first time and that went OK," he said. "When my daughter won the second time and tears began to flow from my son, I realized that I'd made a big mistake by putting a monetary incentive on playing the game."

My friend believes the game teaches them some level of strategic thinking and pattern recognition, and that should help them as they progress through school. His son already has won some play money SnGs.

But they won't play for real money for a while. He believes his daughter may not be interested later in her life - she's already losing interest. If his son is still interested, he'll take him to Vegas when he turns 21.

Before that, my friend will allow his son to play for real money when he starts earning his own and he's playing appropriate stakes.

"As long as he feels like playing for entertainment purposes, then I wouldn't mind, as long as playing doesn't affect other more important things like school," he said.

So what will I do? Well, I'll take a little advice from all three, as I usually do when I'm parenting. I think my first friend is right about teaching them the thrill of the game first. I think my second friend is right about teaching them how to gamble for fun and teach them fair play. And I think my third friend is right about waiting to teach them real money but letting them play online poker first. Maybe their "play money" can even teach them the idea behind a bankroll. When I started on online poker, I actually wanted to get to a million in play money, which taught me the discipline you need to keep a steady bankroll.

I didn't even know how to play poker until a few years ago, when the guys on my newspaper staff got together to play five-card draw (deuces wild usually) and its variations. I had to use a dictionary to tell the hand rankings, and I won pots only when I caught good cards.

That will never happen to my kids.

They'll know how to play by the time they reach high school. Once we reach high school, we'll throw in some real money; maybe junior high even.

I'll be the one teaching them to play.

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