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    Poker: a teaching tool or playing with fire?

    Date: 01.15.11 | by Judge Tom.

    Gambling among teenagers is a nationally recognized problem. A study* released in October, 2010 found that 15% of boys ages 14 to 17 gamble on card games at least once a month.

    Advocates say that poker is instructive in learning concepts of probability and statistics. Some argue that it’s a game of skill that can be used as a powerful teaching tool. “It’s about understanding the anatomy of reasoning and human behavior–about teaching them to contend in a contentious environment,” states Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson.

    Photo by Luis Perez

    Opponents respond that poker clubs at school encourage potentially unhealthy habits. Poker can lead to abuse and addiction says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “The excitement that a win produces, whether or not it’s for money, can have profound effects on decision-making in a young brain.”

    Colleges and universities have poker clubs but very few high schools. George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia is an exception. Math teacher William Snyder has two tables in his classroom–one for new players and the second for experienced players. Applying card-table concepts to math and logical reasoning is the goal. Real money is not used and part of each class is spent on fractions and basic arithmetic.

    How do you feel about this approach to math? Is there value in using card games at school to develop reasoning skills? What are the odds a student gets hooked and moves on to online gambling? Find out more about gambling laws here.

    * Annenberg Public Policy Foundation at University of Pennsylvania

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • Bam
      Mon, 14 Mar 2011 at 07:59

      i don’t think there is anything wrong with gambling, i believe it helps you think better and it makes your brain constantly learning, and if teens get addicted to it then i’m sure once they run out of money they will stop and if they don’t run out of money maybe you will see them on WPT (world poker tour)
      Dear Bam: Slim chance of that, but always a possibility. Thanks for your comments.