Money-Smart Kids / Parents endorse teaching poker
Published 4:15 pm, Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Poker is now the third most popular sport watched on television behind auto racing and the NFL. Go figure!
You'll recall I wrote an article a few weeks ago on the debate of whether or not poker is a game that we should be teaching to young children as a tool for practicing statistics, learning basic math and counting coins. On the one side of the discussion are those that support its use as a creative tool to help teach our children about money. The opposition's stance states that poker is a creative way to educate our children, but that supporting gambling would send out the wrong message to our children.
As you'll recall, I conveniently sat on the fence during that discussion and suggested you, the reader, weigh in with your opinions. Much to my surprise, the letters and e-mails were heavily tilted in support of using the game of poker to teach children about money.
Here are some of the things you had to say:
Poker is a game of skill and not chance so one can argue it is not actually gambling.
If using Monopoly is okay than why would poker be any different?
Texas hold'em will not only teach math but will influence a person's development of good sportsmanship, confidence, discipline and analytical thinking. Many learning skills and qualities are more tangible when explained through poker because it has some good jumping off points to teach what is required for life.
There are tons of benefits to kids learning poker, as it teaches being logical, understanding probability, statistics, memory skills, body language and even psychology. It also teaches the consequences of ignoring rules, denying reality and acting impulsively.
One neat skill it teaches is doing your best with incomplete information -- which is a crucial skill in corporate America. If players lack patience, are illogical and don't analyze risks, they will lose at poker and it wouldn't be surprising if these same characteristics bubble into both their personal and professional lives.
Poker forces people to sit across a table from another and try to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues to determine what they are thinking. It also forces players to be in tune and control their own emotions.
The game teaches players (kids) that they don't know everything, including outcomes, and therefore there are times we must make sudden decisions without knowing the potential results. There are risks and rewards to most decisions in life.
Poker might be a teaching tool, but it can also lead to abuse and addiction.
I'd rather teach our children the game in the controlled environment of our own home where we can have values discussions rather than just hope that if they stumble upon the game that they are prepared to handle the potential negative outcomes of gambling.
The biggest lesson that poker can teach is that sometimes one needs to stand up for themselves, otherwise you can wind up being pushed around by everyone.
Isn't poker what investing in the stock market is? Poker, like investing, is making calculated investments which could lead to long term profits.
While I think that all of these are very interesting and make a strong case for using poker as a tool to teach your children about money and math, I can see the initial concern of parents to mix gambling with the education of their children. What I've taken from your responses is that a parent who has put significant thought into the "why" using poker is a good idea in developing financial literacy in your children is thoughtful enough to use the tool in an age-appropriate manner. My sense from your above-mentioned answers are that if you are venturing to use poker as a teaching device, you understand the game enough to position it in a way that, in doing so you are developing math skills, confidence, analytical thinking, planning for the future, money management, patience, psychology, and concentration. And if teaching poker develops those skills, one would have a hard time ignoring its benefits.
And so there it is ... you have spoken. I look forward to our next discussion.
Tom Henske, a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, created the Lenox Money-Smart Kids Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org