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Introducing Myself

Posted By: phil simborg
Date: Friday, 21 February 2014, at 2:35 p.m.

In Response To: Introducing Myself (Taper_Mike)

I have no idea if any of them gambled when they were children, but I would bet on it! I certainly did, with my parents. My family would often play games, starting when I was very young, and the loser had to do the dishes that night, or some other chore or treat. My entire family were avid card players and we were taught, from a very early age, to wager small amounts, for fun and excitement, and our parents encouraged it and enjoyed it. Of course, I played cards and gambled all through high school and college and ever since, and I think it has greatly helped my logic and reasoning skills, it has been fun and rewarding and has greatly added to my life.

When I was 6 years old I remember playing our favorite card game, Casino, with my brother almost every day to see who did the dishes. Yes, I turned out to be a degenerate backgammon player (before that however, I did have a distinguished career in commercial real estate for 40 years--I believe what I learned about competition and risk/reward greatly helped me succeed in my profession). My brother, on the other hand, given the same family environment and training, went on to graduate as Valedictorian of his high school, No. 2 at the University of Illinois, and at the top of his class at Johns Hopkins Medical school where he later became a professor. If you google Donald Simborg you will see that he is one of the worlds leading experts on computerized medicine, he donated an entire athletic building to the Marin County Jewish Community Center, which is the Simborg Athletic Center, and is now a retired multi-millionaire.

My other brother, also raised in the same environment, is not only one of the best gin rummy players I have ever known (and I have know most of the greats in the U.S. and played with many of them), he loves craps and blackjack. At the same time, he has retired a multi-millionaire after establishing a most impressive real estate development business which is now run by his son, my nephew, and he has also donated huge sums of money to charity. He will tell you that his gambling skills are the major reason he was able to acquire so much wealth in real estate...it's the same skills...weighing risk and rewards to be able to estimate when the odds are in your favor to provide you with a positive outcome worth the risk.

I would be happy to extol the benefits of gambling and I am totally on your side that a strong case should be made for parents to teach their kids how to wager...better that they learn it right, and at home, than on the streets. Anyone who thinks their kids will not be exposed to wagering hasn't been watching TV for the last 50 years.

But that is not the same issue as whether or not someone other than parents should be providing a platform for kids to wager. As Rockwell said, chess tournaments give cash prizes to kids every day, and the parents know about it and approve or the kids wouldn't be there. I don't see why backgammon should be any different, but because many others do, and because it would hurt the cause of bringing more kids into the game, I have taken the stance that we must keep kids out of the playing-for-money side of the game.

At what age this should change is highly subjective and debatable. I personally think you should not teach children anything about playing games for any kind of stake or reward until they are at least 3, but I am sure others might disagree.

In my "official" post as teaching pro for the USBGF, and in everything I do as a volunteer for that organization, and for myself, when I go into schools or other children's organizations and start backgammon clubs and teach children backgammon, I have always kept money out of it. In my help with the initial design of eXtremeGammon, I helped influence Xavier to use the term "unlimited games" instead of money games, and when I teach kids to play, I first teach them to play "single games" and not "money games." Then I teach them match play.

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