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.

Chad: The Year In Review

Two thousand fourteen. Easily, the most eventful year in my life. As the final days of the calendar year burn away it’s a great time to reflect on the past 12 months.

That this was going to be a wild ride in 2014 was pretty much locked in when I found out in December 2013 that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant with my first child. At 44 years of age, I had thrown in the towel on having children and was enjoying my single life in Las Vegas. God had a different plan.

Having a child together wasn’t enough to bring my child’s mother and I back together in a relationship, no matter now much we tried. There was too much mistrust, animosity, anger and anxiety. In retrospect, we both should have tried a little hard and forgiven a little faster, but it didn’t happen.

By Spring we were trying to find ways to agree on a name, co-parenting and everything else through weekly doctor visits.

Meanwhile my plan to work part-time while pursuing some independent ventures got moved to the back burner (cause for some of the aforementioned feelings). Suddenly, I needed insurance and a full-time income to support this new little guy.

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino

My best option was a full-time job as a poker supervisor at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Unfortunately the only available full-time job was on the graveyard shift. With some trepidation, I accepted the position. Suddenly, I was working 1AM-9AM five nights a week learning the poker trade in the center of the poker universe — The Las Vegas Strip.

I agreed to these graveyard hours because I wanted to provide for my son. I told myself I would only work on graveyard for 24 months before I had to find a new shift or a new job.

On July 16 — five days early — Jace Allen Harberts arrived on the scene. Born with a correctable health problem, Jace spent 49 days in the NICU recovering. The strain of a fractured relationship and a birth of a new child was only intensified by the twice-daily 35-mile round trip to the hospital while also working a full-time schedule.

daddy_jaceJace made it through everything like a champ. I was grateful to all the amazing NICU nurses at Spring Valley Hospital who taught me how to properly care for this fragile little life. And that full-time graveyard job I reluctantly took? MGM’s great insurance paid off in spades when my son was racking up $2,500 a day hospital bills.

After Jace left the hospital we had to try to figure out how to care for this little guy. It didn’t matter how much I had prepared, all the stuff I had read or all the advice I received, a single 45-year old man cannot possibly prepare for the task of taking care of an infant child by himself 70-90 hours per week. It is a daunting task. The crying, the screaming, the not being able to fix the situation no matter what you do. The only solution I ever found was a Jeep ride. A few minutes rumbling around the neighborhood had a calming and sometimes sleepy effect on my young son.

The year has ended on a flourish. My son is showing no signs of the being long-term affected by his NICU stay. He’s growing up to be a healthy, happy, good-looking boy.

Thanksgiving week I was offered the opportunity to leave the graveyard shift for a split shift during regular hours. Now I work two days and three swing shifts. I never work later than 1AM. Being back on a normal schedule has led to me being less tired, and by extension a better parent.

Twenty fourteen was a great year, but there are still dreams unfulfilled and goals undone. I am planning on working hard in 2015 to see some of these dreams and goal come to fruition. Still, it will be difficult to top the events of 2014.