I am sure you all have heard some of the stories and the numbers associated with them by now. Kids who are allowed to play poker are 50% more likely to binge drink. Kids who play poker are 75% more likely to smoke marijuana. Kids who play poker are at a greater risk to become addicted to gambling (USAToday.com). Those types of statements have surely been thrown in many parents faces for the past couple years, in the wake of the boom of the poker world.
Some facts that may have been a bit harder to sniff out are the good things that can come from a kid learning poker. There are lots of warnings you must weed through before benefits become apparent. Kids can learn many things playing poker. They may increase their social skills, as well as their math skills. Kids may learn to read and understand body language. They will be directly ingrained in risk/reward scenarios. If properly taught and observed, kids may greatly increase their self-control. What could all kids use, considering the peer pressures of school? Poker will help them with their self-esteem and confidence.
I have a hypothesis about poker and kids: Poker can be taught to kids without fear, but with the confidence that they will benefit greatly from learning the great game. Preposterous, you might say! Blasphemy! Now, allow me to explain. I am sure I will get some responses to this, and I am ready for them.
I believe that parents who properly guide their children and keep a detached observance can really help their kids grow through poker. Now, I am not encouraging an overbearing, "What-are-you-doing-now?" type of approach. Maybe it is quite a fine line and it is probably quite a difficult state to achieve, but I believe that a parent can be both the friend and the understood disciplinarian. If your children would like to learn poker, they are probably going to learn poker whether you condone it or not. Today, a kid can find a game anywhere, including at school. You can push them farther away by repeatedly forbidding them from engaging in such activity, or you can embrace the possible benefits of poker while educating about the possible ill-effects of poker. There is nothing quite like full-disclosure.
Sit a kid down. Teach them hand ranks. Teach them good starting hands. Teach them outs and odds. Play some hands with them. Did I mention 'make them use their own allowance'? I think you might be surprised at how many kids can 'beat the odds' and instead of becoming a binge drinker or smoker of some sort, will become more responsible. Think of them spending $10 of their own to play in a poker tournament the same as paying $10 to go see a movie it is just entertainment. Plus, I bet there is less making out during a poker tournament.
Good luck and good odds!