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Gavin Griffin: Poker Questions Asked And Answered

Griffin Explains Why He Would Teach His Children To Play Poker


Gavin GriffinPeople in the poker community often come up to me and ask about whatever is on their mind. Some of these questions are good questions, and some are bad beat stories in disguise. I’ve been through quite a few things in my poker career and I like to help whenever possible, and in this new Card Player series, I’d like to share my experiences and knowledge. Feel free to ask any poker-related question, and I’ll do my best to answer it in the space below.

Question: Will you play poker with your kids? Would you ever want them to be professional poker players? — Steve R.

Gavin: My children are currently 17 months and T minus one month old. As a result, I haven’t thought too much about whether I will play poker with them. Most likely, though, I will, because I love games and I hope my boys will share a love of them as well. There isn’t much I like more than getting together with friends or family and playing a good tabletop game. It’s a fun competitive outlet most of the time and can sometimes be a good cooperative jaunt as well. Poker is an amazing tabletop game and can teach you so many things.

First of all, it’s a great tool for learning counting and sorting when they are very young. “How many hearts are on this card?” or “can you put all of the spades in this pile together?” Secondly, when they’re older they can learn about odds and probability. It’s easy to show them what a ratio looks like when using cards. “If there are 36 unseen cards and we need 1 of the 9 hearts remaining, what is the ratio of bad cards to good cards?” In addition to being very useful for teaching math, poker is a wonderful tool to teach children how to win and lose gracefully. Of course, there are poker players who do not win or lose with grace but they aren’t a good example for others. I do my best to be gracious to the people I’m playing with when I lose and quiet when I win. In fact, I sometimes go out of my way to discourage others from being poor losers and especially poor winners at the table.

If they can gain all of these things from playing poker, I can’t really see a reason not to play with them in a controlled environment. Of course, I worry about all of the things my children will get into and how it will affect them as humans so I would worry about them getting involved in gambling at an early age when they aren’t quite mature enough to handle the things it can do to your brain. I would also worry about the way money can change the relationships they have with their friends. Poker can be an unforgiving and relentless game and if they are playing with their friends for money, relationships could be badly damaged for a long time over a game of poker.

I can probably categorically say that I would not want my children to be professional poker players. Over my 10 years as a professional player I’ve struggled with self-doubt, money issues, anger issues, questioning my ability, depression, and countless other things that come up in the struggle to make a living playing poker. I have to constantly be on the lookout for people trying to cheat, scam, and rob me. I have had to worry if I can make enough money to pay my rent that month. Of course, people all over the world have to worry about all of these things but they often have the security of a job to fall back on. The freedom you have when you’re a professional poker player comes at the cost of security and that’s totally fine for someone who is young and doesn’t have commitments but it’s an altogether different thing when you’re nearing your mid 30s with a family to support and a tough job outlook because you have no work history for the last 10 years and you are going through a really tough downswing for four months.

Of course, I will support my children throughout their life and trust them to make good decisions with the resources and talents they are given. I hope that I’ll raise kids that make a difference in the world no matter what field they go in to, that they’ll positively impact those around them in such a way that they can always feel like they have someone to turn to, that they’ll always feel like they can turn to me for conversation, advice, or just quiet contemplation, that they’ll desire to be the best they can be at whatever they choose to do, and that they’ll be happy in the career and life path that they choose. We can prepare ourselves and our children to the best of our ability but we can’t control their decisions and I wouldn’t want to. I can just hope that if they do end up being professional poker players, they are more successful than me and enjoy it at least as much as I do.

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over 7 years ago

It is great to see poker players like Gavin, who has a WSOP, WPT and EPT title, be completely honest about how tough poker really is.

Anyone who thinks poker is an easy way to make a living is mistaken.


over 7 years ago

Sadly, I think there will be an entire generation of men, many college educated, who gave up a more traditional career in order to "live the dream" of a being professional poker player. When they become flat out bust or even worse, realize they no longer truly love poker all that much, they will find themselves in their 30's with no job experience, competing against others with 10 years relevant experience and/or higher education. It will be a rude awakening how little will be available to them, other than "would you like fries with that" or "Knock, Knock, Hi, here's your pizza, thanks for the tip".