After Joey Ingram intimated on Instagram that he was interested in finding the next ‘six-year-old Phil Hellmuth’ I ask a few poker pros to help me figure out if he is insane or is onto something special.
I have thought about meaning and purpose a lot since I quit alcohol seven years ago. Life before the worm was confusing. I couldn’t separate reality from illusion. I never knew who wore a mask, and who was staring through eyeballs steeped in authenticity.
I had a few questions.
What was the point of school?
Why didn’t someone ask me what I wanted to do or be?
Why didn’t someone tell me I could be or do whatever I wanted to be or do?
My boy is 16-years old.
It’s glaringly obvious that I have been trying to live my unfulfilled promise vicariously through my son. I hope I don’t do the same with my seven-month-old daughter. I hope this understanding sticks like a limpet on a rock in the thrash of the ocean.
If everything was so wrong, what would make it all right?
Who would I want to become?
What would I want to do?
What values would serve me best?
And when I think about these questions I see Fedor Holz staring right back at me. A 23-year old, who managed to find himself in a deck of cards. Poker gave him the opportunity to gain confidence, communicate, and share experiences with like-minded friends.
Poker gave him extraordinary wealth so he can now traverse life’s high wire without a long pole. Holz has freedom, can dip in and out of a game he loves when he feels the need for speed, and he has learned to harness his peak emotions and still function without putting his head through his greenhouse door.
And so when Joey Ingram announced on Instagram that he wanted to find the six-year-old Phil Hellmuth, although I wasn’t sure if he was high or serious, I couldn’t help feel that it wasn’t a bad idea.
The English Premier League (EPL) side, Everton, approached my nephew when he was barely out of nappies. If the football clubs are picking them up so young, then why not poker?
I asked a few people standing on the rail for an opinion, and this is what they had to say:
Teaching Poker in Math Class
I hated math class in school because I was no good at it. I switched off. I was too cool (or stupid) to raise my arm and ask questions. It’s one of the primary reasons my poker game never got out of first gear.
Although I sit on the fence when it comes to picking out a six-year-old Phil Hellmuth, I do believe there is a lot of merit in teaching our children how to play poker, and why not begin in school?
“I think that teaching poker in schools is a great way to manage bankroll, and help with maths, percentages, and helping you to mix socially with different kinds of people.” Said the former professional footballer and poker player Steve Watts.
Bryan Paris has won over $10m playing online poker, the stuff of dreams. Paris recently had a child of his own, and he also believes there is some merit in teaching children how to play poker.
“I do think children could stand to learn many of the positive lessons from poker, like the difference between process and outcome and the ability to calculate the expected value of your various options,” said Paris. “I would be in favour of teaching kids these lessons at a young age, but I don’t think grooming them to be a full time professional is a good bet.”
Kat Arnsby, Poker Manager at Evoke Gaming, is another favourite of the teach children poker early model of life – with some caveats around the finances.
“Kids should be encouraged to play poker as young as five years old; it will help them develop cognitive skills at a time when they are most malleable and receptive to learning,” said Arnsby. “I don’t see the concept of gambling as a problem, although perhaps with sweets or toys instead of money?”
Danielle Moon-Andersen is a professional poker player and parent, so she is in a great position to offer advice, and she too would like to see children learning poker at a young age.
“The only way I’d be on board with teaching poker to young kids is if it was done with the intention of demonstrating important life skills like math, assessing risk, psychology and such. In that way, I think poker can be very educationally beneficial.” Said Moon-Andersen.
The Child Poker Protege Theory
Let’s be honest here, the likelihood of a young kid being pushed to play poker professionally from the age of five is about as likely to happen as Salomon Ponte competing with Doug Polk for one million bucks.
They don’t teach poker in schools, it’s not exactly Mousetrap or Buckaroo, and there is no open gateway for kids to walk through to learn the game. So unless you live in North Korea, there is little chance your child is going to be the next Phil Hellmuth.
“I take issue with the idea that kids should be encouraged to play poker with an eye on a future of “becoming a pro,” in the same way that kids should be able to play football without thinking it’s a realistic career option,” said Kat Arnsby. “If a young child shows a natural predisposition towards skills relevant to certain tasks, games or pursuits, they should always be encouraged. Poker is, first and foremost, a game, and I see no reason kids shouldn’t be involved.”
The former European Poker Tour (EPT) Champion, Ben Wilinofsky, believes the kids are better off seeking enlightenment elsewhere.
“I think focusing on nurturing people’s talents at a young age is a nice idea,” said Wilinofsky. “I think setting children on a path at a young age before they can decide what they want for themselves is child abuse. I hope that we can find something more meaningful for the bright and talented than a life of grinding out zero-sum games.”
When it comes to liberal views, you don’t get more chilled out that The Netherlands, and so I had an inkling that Steven van Zadelhoff might be in the why not brigade.
“I liked Joey’s video of starting to look into very early stages of development to find the next prodigy of what is nowadays known as ‘The Great Game of PLO’. You have to start learning early enough if you want to reach the top of the world, in tennis or soccer or whatever. And indeed it might be a big advantage for poker too.”
And when your last two YouTube videos are called Sex Confessions With my Teenage Daughter and Hot Tub Sex Talk on my Birthday you just know that rearing your child to be a poker protege is not on the difficult decision list for Ebony Kenney.
“I think teaching kids to play PLO is great. Plus could have potential positive outlying effects by helping them appreciate not only mathematics, but deep strategy, game theory, and the art of war,” said Kenney. “Unless you’re a complete degenerate raising a complete degenerate, this can’t be too bad. I would hope the training would include some general people and social skills because most of the online generation in poker are lacking. And fuck what an entire lifetime of gaming would do to kids who are not staying on top of the social aspect of life. If you get all of those things, I will enrol my kids. Great idea Papi.”
Let The Children Fly
The most obvious problem with taking a young child and turning them into a $20m poker machine is the removal of choice. As the author of Conscious Parent, Shefali Tsabary, reminds us:
“Children learn who they are and what they really enjoy if they are allowed to sit with themselves. Inundated with activity and subjected to lesson upon lesson, how can they hope to recognise their authentic voice amid the din of all this “doing?”
And why would you be doing this?
Is it because you want your child to succeed in life?
Or do you need them to succeed in life because they are your child?
Back to Tsabary, again:
“When you parent, it’s crucial you realise you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than moulding them to fit our needs.”
You don’t have to an accomplished author of one of the greatest books ever written on parenting to have an opinion. Here are a few from the rail:
“I believe in letting children develop in the direction where their passion lies. But if my kids were highly interested in poker, for sure I would not stop them to pursue their dream.” Said van Zadelhoff.
“I think trying to push a child into ANY profession at such a young age is ridiculous,” said Moon-Andersen. “There’s enough pressure on young adults as it is, particularly in America where the society standard is graduate High School & immediately start working toward a specific degree in college. Let kids be kids. Let young adults be young adults. Life comes at us fast enough without expediting the growing up process with adult expectations and responsibilities.”
What About Those Robots?
And if you are tuned into the messages sent into the multiverse by the likes of Raising for Effective Giving (REG), Tim Urban, and the rest of the too smart crew, then you will be fully aware that in the very near future, artificial intelligence (AI) will own our souls, and this entire discussion is therefore mute.
“It would potentially be a waste of training anyway,” said Moon-Andersen. “I don’t think anyone can predict what the poker landscape will be like in 10-15 years. The young PLO prodigy may inherit a fame that is unbeatable because of high rake, low popularity, cheating devices, etc.”
“This doesn’t seem like a good idea to me at this stage of poker’s development,” said Bryan Paris. “Unlike with football, poker is a relatively new phenomenon without the long history of other sports. Between the development of AI and legislation, there’s no guarantee that poker exists in its current form a decade from now. Just compare the landscape in 2017 to 2007.”
Is Joey Ingram The Right Coach?
I am a big fan of the contrarian view and am in awe of the thought-leaders who take a chance where others see nothing but bear traps. So for that, I applaud Mr Ingram for his idea, unless the whole thing is a piss-take. But do we want to entrust the future of our nation in the hands of the King of the Poker Podcast?
Kat Arnsby thinks Ingram would need to shape up before he can start shipping out a conveyor belt of PLO talent.
“I don’t think Joey should start approaching parents breathlessly ranting like a meth sniffer with eyes like saucers,” said Arnsby. “The only reason there’s a question of whether kids should be introduced to poker is because of its unjustly “seedy” reputation and any public encouragement of young children into poker would have to be from parties who initially appeal to parents. Get Ingram to have a haircut and put on a shirt with sleeves and he might just be the youth ambassador we’re looking for.”
And then, right at the end, van Zadelhoff goes and blows my theory that the Dutch are up for absolutely anything.
“I don’t know if I would be super happy if my five-year-old kid was picked off from the street by Joey to be locked up in some kind of boot camp basement,” said Van Zadelhoff. “Although it would probably result in some pretty GTO discipline and table manners.”
Now it’s your turn.
Is Papi nuts or does he have a valid idea?