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Poker and Kids

November 12, 2009

I wrote a short piece over on Pokerati about introducing kids to the great game of poker. The questions posited in that piece were how young is too young to expose kids to the game, and what’s the best way to teach them about poker. Head over to Pokerati to weigh in.

What I didn’t discuss in that post were kids who are a little older, like my 16-year old nephew Nat. Nat is a great kid who also happens to be a genuine math prodigy. A Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Allen Cunningham type prodigy. For someone like me, who was very much not a math prodigy, it’s almost scary.

At 16, Nat is too young to play poker, either live or online, but he has played some low stakes home games with us at family gatherings and, with some practice, he’s someone who’s completely capable of making a living (and then some) if he ever decides to take up the game professionally. The question is, should I encourage him to give professional poker a try? On the one hand, I have complete confidence in his abilities to play the game and think he’s got a level enough head on his shoulders to be able to handle the inevitable ups and downs that professional poker players must inevitably endure. On the other hand, I’ve spent enough time around the poker industry to know that it’s filled with a wide variety of misfits, hustlers, degenerates and hangers-on that can warp even the most stable of personalities.

Do I really want to encourage my nephew to join this circus?

Let’s forget for a second that my sister may actually kill me if I encourage my nephew to take up professional poker. My question is should an obviously talented kid put his mind to making what would likely be a very good living or should he actually focus his energies on something more tangible (or socially responsible) than playing cards for a living. I’d like to think that he could do both if he wants, but in the end, the choices he makes will be his alone.

I hope he’s as smart as I think he is.

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