Poker Lessons From My Toddler Son

From managing to dealing to playing I spend between 40-60 hours per week around poker tables. Poker is the second greatest passion of my life, a solid runner-up to raising my young son. Being around poker, and being a new parent in the past two years, I have found that what I observe around poker and what I observe from my toddler son are mutually-beneficial life lessons.

Be Patient — Having a 19-month old son as a single father takes patience. And more patience. And even more patience. He likes to open and close cupboard doors. He likes to slam every other door in the house. Tupperware is his favorite toy, despite his plethora of actual toys. Anything he can push, he pushes. The bigger the object, the better. He drinks a lot of water so he needs his diaper changed often. All of this has led me to being a much more patient person. I have to understand that what my son is doing any given moment makes sense to him even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. Otherwise I would go crazy over my son’s daily crazy (but alway cute) antics.

I have carried that patience over to my poker career. When I play, I am throwing away more starting hands than ever. I am planning ahead on my places and games to play. I know that if I have a losing session I can bounce right back the next time and having a winning session. When I deal, I understand that every player isn’t paying attention all the time and I can gently ease them along to keep the game going.

be_kindBe Kind — Poker players, generally, are selfish. The game is set up as nine players trying to take your money, and you trying to take nine other players’ money. Players get guarded and defensive. It can lead to some unkind moments. A couple of weeks ago a self-important poker player was at my table. When asked to square up the table — that is sit correctly in front of his cupholder so all the player’s had ample room at the table — he decided to throw a petulant little fit, berate the dealer and the supervisor, threaten the supervisor that he would tell “thousands” of people of his injustice and leave the poker room. This is not being kind. Kindness dictates that when you are politely asked to square up at a poker table you simply do it. In fact, a kind person would never have to be asked to square up because they would not selfishly be sitting in a way that compromises the comfort of the players around them. When you are playing poker you don’t want the other players to be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable players pick up their money and leave the table.

Kindess is something I work on with my son every day. He is a perpetually happy kid who loves to have fun. However, he can have his unkind moments. He loves his dog very much, but he is often unkind to his dog unintentionally. He thinks it is funny that when he pulls his dog’s tail his dog whips around. It makes my son laugh, but it hurts the dog’s feelings. We work daily on petting our dog, not being mean to him.

Be Generous — My son loves to share. He shares his lunch with his dog when I am not looking and with me when I call him on it. He hands me toys and the TV remote. He gives high-fives to the guy who bags our groceries and waves hello to perfect strangers. He is generous with his belongings and his feelings. It is something I am proud of and I encourage in him daily.

The ugliest trait I see at poker tables — and I see it daily — is a lack of generosity. Poker dealers work for tips. They don’t ask for much. In fact, most poker dealers would be very happy if they received $1 from every pot they dealt. Even if a pot is $200, a poker dealer would be happy to receive $1. Most poker dealers average 23-30 hands dealt per hour. In an eight-hour shift, a poker dealer might deal a total of five hours. Any dealer I know would be thrilled if they made $150 a night in tips on top of their minimum wage (the IRS takes most or all of the minimum wage in tip compliance). There is nothing worse than a “stiff” at a poker table. It is especially frustrating when the same player who wouldn’t give a dealer $1 from a $300 pot will hand the cocktail waitress a $5 chip for a free drink.

Being generous is just about the most karmic thing a person can do. Being generous leads to that generosity coming back to ten-fold.

Every day I am with my son and around poker, the life lessons keep coming.