Playing poker with family

My brothers taught me how to play poker.

I was probably in 3rd grade and Jeff and Stew were in junior high. They figured I was an easy mark. I was very enterprising and always had money from selling "Creepy Crawlers" door to door (remember those?) and going through the woods with my red wagon (Sears, not Radio got a discount!), collecting soda bottles and redeeming them at the Grand Union for a nickel each. For an 8 year-old, I was loaded!

Although vague, I remember being pretty good at card games. I probably won more often than I lost. The problem was that my oldest brother, Jeff, would threaten to beat me up if I didn't give him back his money, and my other brother, Stew, would cry if I didn't give him back what he lost (or tell mom, and she would make me give it back). Usually, after 2 to 3 hours of play, we ended the game about even, whether I won or not.

A lot of things have changed since then, and some haven't. Jeff can no longer threaten to beat me up if I take all of his money. Stew, however, still cries. But I keep his money anyway. Unless he complains to mom.

Which brings me to the point of this article: playing poker with your family.

First, play for nickels and dimes. Although you can't win a huge amount, you can't lose that much either, and these are people you plan on seeing again someday. Poker with family should be for fun, not money.

Second, designate break times. There's always someone who doesn't want to stop for any reason. Set the break times before you start and you'll have a more harmonious experience.

Third, let everyone play. If they're old enough to understand it, they're old enough to participate. Plus, it's a good bonding experience. Nothing says love like gambling with dad.

Today I play in poker games where hundreds of dollars are riding on one hand. It's fun. I enjoy it. But not as much as the nickel and dime games I played with my brothers back when I was in 3rd grade.