Talkin' About Poker includes information on the history of poker; the different types of poker and their definitions; background on Texas Hold'em; whether poker becomes a sport or addiction; characteristics of young poker players; parenting interventions; a poker journal and checklist; and behind-the-scenes insights at the end of each chapter from the author's professional poker playing son, Christopher Ackerman.
Christopher Ackerman started playing poker for baseball cards at eleven years old. By the time he was 18, Texas Hold'em was his game, and in college he found himself continuously playing online poker. Since his grades were good, his parents weren't that concerned, until the day the credit card company called, wondering why Chris's overdue payment wasn't sent.
His mother, Loren Ackerman, 52, a teacher of gifted students and recipient of several New Jersey educational awards, wasn't sure what to do. After talking with her husband, she embarked on a mission to help her son by learning everything there is to know about poker and gambling, and tackling the issue head-on with Christopher.
The result of her five-year emotional and intellectual journey is a book she co-authored with her son called Talkin' About Poker: Straight Talk for Parents and Their Players. The goal is to provide a quick, simple guide to help parents determine if their kids' poker playing is "healthy," and provide palatable tools for informed decision-making and communication.
With the popularity of TV poker tournaments, and gambling acceptance in the US increasing steadily over the years, it's no surprise that addiction, especially by young people, is on the rise. In a September 2005 study on gambling addiction by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, 54.5% of young people who gambled every week reported at least one serious "problem" as a by-product. For Christopher, it was the love of Texas Hold'em that sparked his passion. Thanks to his parents' intervention, what could have become a serious poker addiction is now for Christopher, at 24, a lucrative, professional career choice.
"Initially, we thought our son was headed down a path of destruction, and we simply didn't know what to do and I was terrified," she said. "It was my fear of him becoming addicted that led me to learn everything there is to know about poker, so I could communicate with my son intelligently and in a way he would not find threatening."
After persuading Christopher to talk with a professional about the potential problems of playing poker both at tournaments and online, and keeping a journal of the process, Ackerman decided to research the poker phenomena, and share her and Christopher's experience in an effort to help parents and their children.
"When I heard about the Lehigh University student robbing a bank due to a poker debt, I felt bad for him," he said. "The atmosphere can be dangerous if you get out of control and make poor decisions. Not everyone who plays poker will become addicted, and I probably wouldn't have either, but there is no guarantee. It's important to recognize your value of the dollar and not get carried away with games beyond your financial means," he added. "This can be difficult for some people, especially if they are young. As a professional poker player now, I can look back on my mistakes and be thankful that they weren't destructive, just careless and impulsive. Communicating with my parents was an important part of the process, and I appreciate their openness to listen and help, when it was necessary."
Ackerman believes that open-minded, educated conversations are the best way to help avoid potential poker addiction problems in children. "In the book, I explain, among many things, that when you educate yourself, your emotions become healthier," she said. "Knowledge really does balance your emotions, which can absolutely go haywire when you're facing a potential gambling problem with your child. But when you successfully intervene, you find that you grow as a parent and a person too, and that is the ultimate reward."
Talkin' About Poker includes information on the history of poker; the different types of poker and their definitions; background on Texas Hold'em; whether poker becomes a sport or addiction; characteristics of young poker players; parenting interventions; a poker journal and checklist; and Christopher's behind-the-scenes insights at the end of each chapter, among others.
The book is available on Amazon.com, and on Ackerman's website, www.talkingaboutpoker.com. The retail price is $14.95.
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