Poker for Children!?
In a word, or in this case, soon to be an entire book, “Nope!”
A New York Times editorial proclaimed, “Poker Is America.” A Wall Street Journal feature story called it a “mind sport,” and examined the virtues of the Mathematic Operations, Psychology & Philosophy Through Tournament Card Play Club, otherwise know as the Poker Club, at New York City’s Henry Street School for International Studies. During the last 8 years I’ve taught poker and other card games to hundreds of kids in NYC public and private elementary and middle schools, and in private individual and group lessons.
I’m currently teaching poker and blackjack at Hunter College Elementary School, Avenues: The World School, Williamsburg Northside Lower School, and to a group of students from PS 40. The kids love it! The parents love it! The classes keep growing in popularity and size. And other schools are frequently asking me if I’d come and do the same thing with their kids.
Aside from this book just being plain old fun, it’s also serves as a wonder full educational tool to expand one’s horizons about… well, let me tell you what we do in class. We focus on having developmentally appropriate classes, with group and differentiated/individualized instruction that spans all educational domains—cognitive, interpersonal, affective and psychomotor.
That may sound like a mouthful, but it is what we do! We study rules. We work on memory; math (counting, odds, probability and statistics); analytical skills; strategy; micro and “macro” economic models; money management; risk/reward and calculated risk scenarios; philosophical, psychological, social, emotional and moral skills; and behavior.
We look at the colorful characters and history of cards, both in fact and in fiction. This includes professional athletes and actors who play poker, including world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, Tiger Woods, Rafa Nadal, Christiano Rinaldo, Neymar, Michael Phelps, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Tilly, Ellen DeGeneres and many more.
We read articles about American presidents who played poker. Washington and Jefferson both loved to gamble at cards. (Washington played with his officers in his tent during the Revolutionary War, and had a card room at home in Mount Vernon. In his ledger, he kept a page entitled “Cards and Other Play,” where he carefully recorded his wins and losses from every single session of cards!) Jackson, Lincoln and Grant played. So did Harding and FDR.Truman learned to play poker as a little boy in Missouri, Eisenhower at age eight in Kansas, and LBJ in Texas when he was just five! Obama, when asked by reporters to name a hidden talent, said he considers himself “a pretty good poker player.”
And Donald Trump has owned 4 New Jersey casinos and a Mississippi Riverboat Casino, all with fabulous poker rooms. And, he created the original U.S. Poker Championships.
One college professor has gone so far as to suggest, “A man who couldn’t hold his own in a first-class poker game isn’t fit to be president of the United States.” Whether that’s true or not, we’ve found we can learn a lot about each of these men, and the way they governed, from the way they played poker, and vice versa.
A quote popularly attributed to Plato states, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” One of our classes even drew up, voted on, and passed their own “Poker Class Constitution.” A five-page document with three sections: a “Bill of Rights”; “Statute Laws”; and “Common Law.”
With a little bit of scaffolding, the students and classes have been very thoughtful and reflective. A process, which evolves quite naturally when playing, cards.
Our curriculum includes:
In our Poker Classes students learn skills that will last a lifetime, skills that are transferable to many different areas of life.
And we do all this while keeping the fun in the “fun”damentals! After all, it is after school. And, lest we forget…
A t-shirt the kids love getting as a tournament prize!
Want to know more? Just drop me a line, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allllllll the best,