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Children Should Play Poker To Learn About Risk Says Headmaster

In a speech to the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) annual meeting in Brighton today, BSA chairman Christian Heinrich will spell out how he believes private schools should encourage children to spend more time developing life skills.

“Children and young adults learn about sharing and borrowing, about others’ feelings, concerns and priorities, about self-control and perseverance and, perhaps most importantly, about curiosity, in an environment in which it is possible and much encouraged to learn safely from your mistakes rather than to repeat them,” Heinrich will tell delegates.

“So I exhort children at my school: ‘Climb trees! Cook your own lunch! Drive a go-kart around the car-park (cordoned off!). Even play poker!’. There’s more to school than classrooms and exams. Make mistakes whilst the consequences can be managed and the lessons learned.”

Heinrich is headmaster of Cumnor House School in Sussex, a prep school for four to 13-year-olds in the south west of England. Schools like his are well placed to offer children activities outside of the curriculum, according to Heinrich, but are instead, like the state sector, pressurised to achieve particular scores in different cognitive ability tests, at nine, 10, 11 and 12.

“To an increasing degree our senior schools are using these rather bland and sometimes quite harsh tests to decide whether to take children. They do not take into account their full abilities,” says Cumnor.

His call for children to be exposed to activities such as poker and its many benefits in engendering “self-control”, “perseverence” and risk taking will come as no surprise to the poker community. Only last week, PokerUpdate’s Firat Dural published a piece comparing poker skills to stock trading in the financial markets.

The article draws attention to men such as David Einhorn, the founder of Greenlight Capital fund and Andy Frankenberger, an ex-trader for JP Morgan, who also both happen to be World Series of Poker champions.

As Firat says, both the world of financial markets and poker teach you money management and risk management: an insight Heinrich seems to share.

And, considering the number of prep school kids who go on to become leading financiers, the headmaster’s advice is salient – at least in this writer’s opinion.

Like life, poker teaches you that sometimes you have to cut your losses and fold. At others, you need to be aggressive, have a plan and play a long game. But perhaps the best lessons that poker teaches you are learnt hard – sometimes you could do 20 things right, all of which are negated by one wrong move.

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Bradley Chalupski

Bradley Chalupski made his first deposit onto an online poker site in 2009 and has been paying rake and following the poker scene ever since. He received his J.D. from the Seton Hall University School of Law in 2010.