High stakes

I just caught this article in the Snooze a couple days ago:

David, a high school senior from Amherst, stood before the judge and boldly told him of the high-stakes Texas Hold ‘Em game he and his teenage friends had played.

“The biggest pot was $1,500, maybe $2,000,” David said of the poker he and his high school buddies played on weekends.

Holy bejeezus – $2000? I’ve been playing poker since college. Got more into Hold ‘Em just before the craze hit. I’ve played online and with friends. In my infrequent visits to a casino, I only play video poker. Why? I’m too damn cheap to play at the stakes they play for. I’ve played a hundred $5 buy-in tournaments, and sometimes $0.25/$0.50 hands. Probably made $50 in my biggest pot ever. My question is where the hell do kids that age get that kind of money to blow playing poker? My problem with this story isn’t that kids are playing poker, it’s that their playing with such ridiculous sums of money.

As with pretty much anything, some people are going to have an predilection towards addiction. I don’t blame the game, or society, television, or Monte Carlo nights. I don’t object to casinos on a moral ground. I just want to know how these high school kids have hundreds of extra dollars to lose playing poker. Obviously nobody is teaching them the value of money.

I’ve always thought it a bit odd that in fourth grade we learned how to write a check and balance a checkbook, but then until economics in 12th grade you learn almost nothing about money, inflation, interest rates, compounding, the stock market, even taxes. For a topic that is immediately applicable to everyone, it gets less attention than global history in school, which frankly most of us completely forgot about the day after the exam. Since many adults are lacking in basic financial management skills, these topics need to be taught in school and reiterated year after year.

I have no problem with kids getting allowances for doing chores or having a part time job if the income is used as a teaching tool. Force kids to save for their own purchases. Make them understand the costs of driving or owning a car. Have your kid contribute to their own college fund. What doesn’t help is the kids cashing their whole check and heading straight over to the mall to spend it, or heading to their buddy’s house to dump it in a poker pot.

Trying to stop kids from playing poker or to limit their exposure to gambling is too narrowly focused. Tell a kid that something is bad for them or forbidden will just make them want it more. Teach kids the value of money and they’ll be less inclined to risk losing hundreds of dollars on gambling.

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