— chances are, they can tell you how many cards there are in the flop, and how important it is to get the right card “on the river.
Earlier this year, opposition education critic Gerry Reid issued a news release suggesting the Department of Education take a hard look at a card game called Texas Hold’em, because the game is infiltrating high school lunchrooms across the province. It’s a popular kind of poker, one that’s all the rage in television tournament play right now.
You can watch it many nights of the week on sports channels, and see everything from the seedy to the dissipated to the downright geeky play for high stakes, often while hiding their eyes behind weird sunglasses or low hat brims. Some choose even stranger antics — behaviour that would shame even the most peculiar members of the sports fraternity, like one-time Montreal Expos pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee.
Reid, however, is partially right and partially wrong in the concerns he raises — Texas Hold’em may well be a problem in high schools, but it’s also being played regularly, all the way down to students in grades 5 and 6.
Plenty of 11-year-olds can tell you the best betting strategy for a suited ace-king, and plenty more can tell you what kinds of hands to fold before you get to fourth street, even if it means bailing on the money you’ve already got in the pot.
Now, fads are fads — this year’s Texas Hold’em may be something completely different by next fall.
But there are interesting concerns to this fad that schools — and the Department of Education — might want to consider. Many of the players now making their way into professional cash tournaments have thousands of hours of experience playing Hold’em on Internet card sites.
A new reason for people to fritter away time on the Internet is the last thing we need; a computer expert interviewed by a European news service said Wednesday that one workplace computer he serviced had been used to play 27,000 games of solitaire.
And, with the overwhelming prevalence of gambling in our culture already — from the Internet to video lottery terminals to lottery tickets to bingo — we hardly need to be using unsupervised time in our education system schooling a whole new crew of gamblers.
Summer vacation starts next week for many students. Maybe part of the next few months can be dedicated to trying to figure out what role — if any — gambling should play in the province’s lunchtime and recess classrooms.
This year’s Grade 6 gambler, after all, probably has better odds of being a future problem gambler.
Like a royal flush picked up by the right break on fourth street and the river, you can virtually take that to the bank.