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Sunday Fundays! Poker for Kids (we swear, it’s educational!)

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There are so many important lessons to learn in card games, and board games - they can teach your kids concepts well beyond simply learning to play cards. In this blog, we'll teach you how to take advantage of simple games of chance where learning and having fun are the objective - with no gambling involved.

Simple Math - BlackJack

If your child can read, and is learning simple addition, BlackJack (also known as “21”) is a great game to help them sharpen their math skills and also learn a little about risk and reward.  BlackJack is a simple game of “over” and “under” - you get two cards, and you estimate the risk of going over 21.  With each new card, kids have to literally do the math - and then think about how close they are to 21 in order to make a decision about getting another card.

BlackJack teaches a few important concepts:

  • Simple addition
  • Converting symbolic cards to numeric values (Jack, Queen and King are all worth 10 points, and an Ace can be 1, or 11)
  • Evaluating risk
  • Comparing your hand to the dealer’s hand

If you are shy about betting - just score points - if you beat the dealer, you get one point, if the dealer beats you, she gets one point.  You can play 10 hands, and see who has the most points.

Patterns and Matching - Five Card and Seven Card Poker

With Poker, you make the best hand possible out of five cards.  There are dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of variations on Poker - to keep it simple, we suggest Seven Card Stud - it’s easy to learn and you get enough cards in your hand that kids can have the satisfaction of making meaningful matches and runs.

The rules on Bicycle include dealing some cards face up and some cards face down - if you want to simplify, let everyone hold all seven cards in their hands and pick the five best to play for their hand.

For younger kids - you could also simplify matching and runs - all red cards match, and all black cards match, then as they get older, separate out spades and clubs, etc.

The order of hands (i.e. which hands are the most valuable) goes like this (from Bicycle.com):

  • Five of a Kind - This is the highest possible hand and can occur only where at least one card is wild, such as a Joker. Examples of five of a kind would be four 10s and a wild card or two Queens and three wild cards.
  • Straight Flush - This is the highest possible hand when only the standard pack is used, and there are no wild cards. A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence, such as 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 of hearts. A Straight Flush is called “Royal Flush” when it includes A, K, Q, J, 10 (the highest cards possible)
  • Four of a Kind - This is the next highest hand. An example is four aces or four 3s.
  • Full House - This colorful hand is made up of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, such as three 8s and two 4s.
  • Flush - Five cards all of the same suit, but not all in sequence, is a flush. An example is Q, 10, 7, 6, and 2 of clubs.
  • Straight - Five cards in sequence, but not all of the same suit is a straight. An example is 9♥, 8♣, 7♠, 6♦, 5♥.
  • Three of a Kind - This combination contains three cards of the same rank, and the other two cards each of a different rank, such as three Jacks, a seven, and a four.
  • Two Pairs - This hand contains a pair of one rank and another pair of a different rank, plus any fifth card of a different rank, such as Q, Q, 7, 7, 4.
  • One Pair - This frequent combination contains just one pair with the other three cards being of different rank. An example is 10, 10, K, 4, 3.
  • No Pair - This very common hand contains "nothing." None of the five cards pair up, nor are all five cards of the same suit or consecutive in rank. When more than one player has no pair, the hands are rated by the highest card each hand contains, so that an ace-high hand beats a king-high hand, and so on.

Poker teaches some great things, too:

  • Matching - matching cards that are the same rank, and/or the same suit or the same color
  • Sequencing - learning to sequence 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.
  • If you elect to have betting - children will learn to evaluate their hand against the likelihood that someone else has a better hand.  They’ll learn about risk reward - and, the might also learn a little about acting (remember, put on your Poker Face!)

To take the “gambling” and betting out of Poker, you can simplify to reward points - for example, you could give points for all the cards that match, or all the cards in a row.  Or, for an older child, if four of you were playing, you could award 4 points for the highest hand, 3 for the next hand, etc.

There are so many important lessons to learn in card games, and board games - they can teach you concepts well beyond simply learning to play cards.  We know it can be difficult to get around the stigma that goes along with Poker - but we invite you to call your game something fun (The Smiths Seven Card Smash, for example) - and talk to your kids about the things that they’re learning. Focus on the concepts and the fun - everyone will love the game, and your kids might even think it’s your own secret family game - how cool is that?!

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