Poker experienced a massive explosion in interest during the beginning of the 21st century. The likes of professional poker players Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Chris Moneymaker went from being relative nobodies to huge stars with multi-million dollars sponsorship contracts. Sites, offering online poker games, now host thousands of players at any given moment, and poker tournaments are aired on TV and viewed by millions.
With the game’s increasing popularity and availability more and more children and teenagers are now exposed to it. Their first experience with it comes from the social network Facebook, which has become the youth favorite pastime. Zynga Poker Facebook application is open to all Facebook users to play. Then children might move on to meet in the afternoons and play with their friends, just for the fun and excitement of it. The undisciplined ones may eventually be found around virtual online tables, playing for real money.
This development in youth habits raises an interesting and important question - should we allow our children to play poker? At what age? How should we react when we see our 10 years old boy seating around a poker table with his friends? Should we forbid him from playing? Allow it? May be join them? The game of poker has many faces and shapes and so do the answers to these questions.
On the one hand, poker is a form of gambling and gambling is known to have potentially negative effect on weak people and children are normally perceive as relatively weak. It is also illegal for anyone who is not an adult. In these facts alone, it would be deemed inappropriate to let kids play poker.
However, when played for fun, is poker any different from a game like chess? It is more than just putting your money (real or fake) on a number. It involves a certain amount of skill, panache and calculation. You don’t just play the cards, you play the players. It is more of sport than a game. It requires mental strength and psychological ingenuity. There really is more to it than meets the eye.
It can be argued that poker can help them develop certain important skills. It is a strategic game, developing deep analytical thinking and understanding. It is also a psychological game, developing an understanding of the psychology of the human behavior, by analyzing opponents’ behavior in the game. It can also be considered a social game, encouraging direct interaction between teenagers.
Another interesting side of poker is its financial potential. Professional poker players are making millions of dollars by playing international tournaments and cash games. Most skilled players revealed their passion to the game at a relatively early age and developed their skills while practicing their game for many years. Take Peter Eastgate for example. Peter Eastgate, a 22 years old man (or shall we say boy?) was 2008 World Series of Poker Champion, winning an unbelievable cash prize of more than $9,000,000. Eastgate learned poker in school while playing with his classmates. Another example is Justin Bonomo (playing online under the nicknam ZeeJustin). With over $1 Million in live tournament earnings Justin became the youngest player (19 years) to reach a final table on a televised tournament.
On the flip side, it has seen individuals ruined by their obsession to find the fame, the glory and the winning hand. It is a very thrilling pastime that causes emotions that cannot be experienced in any other game. Maybe it is too dangerous to expose kids to that amount of stress, pressure and intensity at such an early age?
It could probably be said that, at the end of the day, it is a matter of personal judgment. Only parents, who know their children best, can decide what is best for them. From a neutral perspective it might be advised that there is nothing wrong with allowing your child to play poker in a disciplined manner. Hold off using money until they are close to adulthood at the earliest. Abandon the idea of using money as a wager entirely. If it can be introduced in a fun and harmless manner then poker can be used to help strengthen a kid’s character and state of mind. They can become more disciplined individuals with a better understanding of others.
In summary, poker is a game with plenty to teach. To keep kids away from it entirely is denying them a privilege and a unique experience. However, it is an issue that should be handled with care. There is no correct age to allow kids to play the game. If played in a responsible way, in a safe environment, it can produce positive results. On the other hand, if it is not supervised and introduced appropriately, it could cause major problems. There is no right answer and it is a matter of opinion. No two people will share an ideology on this topic so it is down to the preference of the parent.