Nearly every year I spend Thanksgiving with a couple of friends that I have known since they were kids. They used to be campers at 4-H camp and our bond has lasted for decades.
While visiting with them today, I was reminded of some of our poker escapades during camp. As I wrote about a few months ago, I used to use Five Card Draw as a way to introduce kids to poker and it wound up being a great social activity for shy campers.
Below are a couple of stories from my various exploit of teaching kids how to play poker.
Bribing the Counselor
My very first “poker” story involving kids actually goes back to my very first day as a Teen Leader at my 4-H Camp. I was a 13-year-old counselor and frankly was out of my element.
Back when I first started camp, things were very different than they are now in how the program was ran and even basic rules for behavior. For example, campers were forbidden to bring playing cards to camp. My guess is that the camp staff felt it encouraged gambling and they didn’t want to “corrupt” the kids.
Each day, there were two recreation periods in the afternoon where the kids could play sports or go swimming. I was scheduled for pool duty so I went back to my cabin to get my swim trunk.
When I walked in, my campers were sitting in a circle in the floor playing poker. They were also drinking sodas and eating Pringles and other snacks, both of which they were not supposed to have brought with them.
When the realized it was me, they all froze and looked at me with the “we’re busted” look on their face. I quickly sized up the situation, grabbed my swim trunks and said “I like Pringles and Dr. Pepper and I’ll be back later to take all your money.”
I then left.
When I came back after first recreation, there was a can of Pringles and two cans of Dr. Pepper sitting on my pillow.
That started a beautiful relationship between those campers and I. They had so much fun that week that they all got together the next year and “stacked the deck.”
Campers are allowed to request two friends to be in their cabin but what these kids did was something my 4-H agent had never seen.
They got together and each of them requested on friend that was in the cabin and myself. For example, Will requested Patrick and I. Patrick requested Will and I. Kemper requested Jake and I, and so forth.
So my first two years I had the exact same group of kids with the exception of one addition in year two.
Three Year Old Card Shark
This story isn’t exactly camp related but it does involve a five card draw game with some kids. A friend of mine had some nephews who absolutely loved me and so on occasion I went with him to North Carolina when he’d visit.
On one of those visits, I was playing Five Card Draw with the three kids for goldfish crackers. The oldest boy was 8, the girl was 7 and the youngest was 3.
Well, the youngest pretty much would just try and get all the “people cards” that he could when he played. Sometimes he’d make a pair or two but he really didn’t know what he was doing. He was just playing and eating goldfish.
Anyway, after playing about 20 minutes, I dealt a hand and had A-K and three garbage cards. On the draw, the 7-year-old took two card and the 8-year-old took three cards. I took three cards.
When I asked the 3-year-old, he looked at his cards with a real stern look on his face and looked at me and shook his head no. He was three so he didn’t really understand the whole drawing concept.
Sometimes he’d hold all five cards and have nothing. Sometimes he’d hold the “people cards” and ask for more. There really wasn’t a pattern and we didn’t care. We were playing for fun and HE WAS THREE.
Anyway, the girl checked and the 3-year-old started shoving all of his goldfish into the center. He normally didn’t bet or he would put out one goldfish because he wanted to keep them to eat.
When he shoved them out, he looked at me and said “I win.” The 8-year-old called because he figured his pair of aces were good.
At this point, I have a bit of a smirk on my face because when I drew, I caught Q-J-10 for a Broadway straight.
I looked at the 3-year-old and said, “I have a big hand buddy. I might have to take your goldfish.” He shook his head no like I didn’t know what I was talking about.
I called the bet and the girl folded. “So what do you got buddy,” I asked slightly amused.
He said, “All matching.” I replied “huh” with a bit of a WTF look on my face.
He showed his cards and sure enough, he had a queen-high flush. Both the other kids looked at me wide-eyed and I said, “all I have is a straight. You win buddy.”
The 3-year-old then stood up in his chair and started raking his goldfish into a bowl. He then hopped down and took his goldfish into the living room to watch TV.
“Don’t you want to keep playing?” He said, “Nope, I want to eat your goldfish.”
Since he took three-fourths of the goldfish in play, the game broke after that.