Homer Simpson facepalm

Don’t Play Poker with Children

I am 100 percent, without a single doubt, in favor of legalizing and regulating poker across the entirety of the United States. Forget this state-by-state garbage, just legalize it on a federal level and be done with it. Of course, a part of any regulations should be restrictions on age. Children should not be permitted to play online poker for money. That should not be too controversial of a statement.

But that’s not what this article is about. When I say, “Don’t play poker with children,” I really mean that you, as a person, should not play poker with children. More specifically, do not play poker with children when those children make up the rules.

Because kid’s-rules poker is bullshit.

A couple weeks ago, my 8-year old daughter was at our next-door neighbor’s house goofing around with her friends. Their dad taught all of them how to play poker, which is fine, though…isn’t that MY job? Of course, it was five-card draw, which is only useful if you want to play video poker, but whatever, it’s cool. I like poker (one would hope I do at this point) and if my kids like it, all the better.

My daughter came home, excited about poker, and wanted to play at bedtime instead of reading Harry Potter. Oh, man. This is it. My daughter wants to play poker, my son is starting to play baseball…things are starting to come up roses.

She already had a deck of cards in her backpack, as she used it for math games at school, but she needed chips. Adorably, she went and got the chips from Connect 4 (I didn’t even realize she was introduced to chips next door). But like any good former bonus grinder who used to work for an online poker affiliate, I have a poker chip set, so I had to break it out. When my daughter opened the silver case, it was like she was viewing Marcellus Wallace’s MacGuffin.

I was excited. And I was so, so wrong. Because kid’s-rules poker is total bullshit.

As I said, it was five-card draw – a stupid game, but an easy game to learn. I shuffled the deck and my daughter dealt hands to my wife and me, plus one hand for her and my 6-year old son to share. They liked playing as a team against the grown-ups. I was dealt a pair of fives and random junk, so I drew three cards. I was dealt another five, so I was feeling awfully good about myself. When we turned up our hands, my wife had one pair and my kids had 4-5-6-J-K. I raked in the pot, smugly satisfied that I, having been in the poker industry for a decade, just beat my non-poker poker playing wife and two elementary school children.

And then my daughter announced that she had a straight and won the hand. After being impressed that she knew that a straight beat three-of-a-kind, I realized that I was now committed to a bullshit game of kid’s-rules poker: the winner is the person with the best three-card hand. The best THREE-card hand. In FIVE-card stud. I mean, my kids are pretty smart. They can sort five cards. But nope, we have to play the best three card hand, presumably because that’s how my daughter learned it next door.

The game was miserable. I was sitting there making plays that ran totally counter to everything in which I believed. I was breaking up pairs to keep two suited cards. Ditching trips because I already had 5-6-7. Is it bedtime yet?

String bets, incomplete raises, not giving a rat’s ass what color chips they were using – the rules were just up for grabs in this travesty of a poker game.

I think I still won, but that had a lot to do with my kids’ complete absence of poker face. At one point, they were half-whispering to each other about their hand, which is bad enough, but then my daughter said to her little sibling, not even trying to hide it, “We don’t have anything.”

Ok, guess I’m betting.

“So let’s bet two.”

Guess I’m all-in.

But wait, my daughter is a goddamn CHEATER, too. In another short game we played, we were doing our thing, dealing cards, betting random numbers of chips, and making nonsensical discards in this bullshit game, when she actually had the gall to try to play the old “distract opponent and look at his cards” gambit. She pointed behind me and said the following, a sentence which I am not inventing: “Look! A bald eagle with a mustache!”

I’m no idiot. You can’t learn how to cheat from an episode of Spongebob and expect to pull one over on me. She will learn, though. My poker set happens to have include (I’m being totally honest here) one of the miscut purple Gemaco decks that are at the heart of the Phil Ivey edge-sorting case. I showed them to my daughter and explained how they worked so that in the future, even if she continues to play bullshit kid’s-rules poker with her friends, she can at least angleshoot like a proper human being.

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