The Lessons of Poker: A Family Pastime

It's been a while since I've played competitive poker, but it remains a passion of mine.  I studied nearly every notable poker book and took the game very seriously for many years.

For all the people that say poker is game of luck, if you study the mathematics of poker, you'll soon realize it is a winnable game of numbers.  Sure, sometimes you lose when the odds are heavily in your favor but not over the long run.

Additionally, when you learn about the different aspects of reading people's tells during pokergames, you realize it's a multidimensional game that teaches many valuable skills.

As we travel around the world unschooling our kids, playing poker as a family offers many lessons to our kids.

First, they learn to calculate basic math under a certain amount of pressure with immediate rewards or losses.

For instance, in Texas Hold 'Em, when you have 4 cards to a flush after the flop, the kids know there are 9 cards left that make their flush out of 47 unseen cards that remain.  This leaves 47-9 odds, or about 5-1, to make the flush. And if there is $6 in the pot and the bet to see the next card is only $1 (6-1 odds), you call every time.

Next, they gain the ability to read the emotions of the other players and also to control their emotions.  This skill goes beyond the poker table into real life.  I use it often when communicating or negotiating in everyday life.

Finally, the game itself is a skill that can provide a living if one remains disciplined.  Make no mistake, it's hard work to play poker for a living.

I discovered that it's very difficult to stay patient enough to be successful on a daily basis. It requires intense concentration over long periods of time.  It also requires the ability to handle the emotional swings of winning and losing.

But as a family with no strict schooling curriculum for the kids, we find poker provides several amazing lessons that are rarely learned in traditional school.

Let us know your thoughts on using poker as a math curriculum....

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  1. It's an interesting concept, and it certainly has some merit.

    I played amateur at Full Tilt Poker for about a year when I was transitioning from Bulgaria to Mexico. Purely small stakes only, and only in the online format, usually bringing in 200-300 USD per month in winnings. I got started after I landed a large contract for a French poker site and after three months of writing about strategies and the game, I developed an interest in trying my hand at it. I had a fairly decent win average (85%+ win rating) in the small stakes ($15-$20) sit-and-go tourneys, enough to earn me about $30 per hour on a part-time basis, but I haven't played in about two years now.

    I'd certainly recommend it to anyone, and for kids as well.

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