A Tribute to the Person Who Taught Me How to Play Poker

By Robbie Strazynski
October 19, 2012
Tomorrow, the person who taught me how to play poker, my Dad, turns 64 years old. There are certain people in life you just don’t always know how to get the right gift for, so hopefully this tribute will make Dad smile just a bit bigger.
Me and Dad at my first charity poker tournament

Me and Dad at my first charity poker tournament

Learning the Game

Like many recreational poker players out there, I learned how to play the game “around the kitchen table”. After he taught me the rules of the game, Dad would sit with me and play 5 Card Draw poker with plastic chips for hours on end. Seeing that I was clearly taking a liking to poker, Dad also went and bought me my first mini video poker handheld game.

Our family used to take trips to Las Vegas about 5 or 6 times a year back in the 90s. Mom would play the slots, my brothers and I would be in the video arcade or by the pool, and Dad would spend hours on end in the poker room, usually at the Mirage. On those trips, when we reconvened for lunch and dinner and back in the hotel room at night, it was common for Dad to distribute a bucket full of coins among us kids and we’d play “penny poker”.

Dad used to have a weekly game with his buddies way back in the day. The game rotated from one player’s house to another, but when it was at our house it was held in the room above the garage. Though I was still in grade school, Dad knew how much I loved the game and let me come up and watch everybody play.

My First Real Money Poker Games

When I was 17, my family flew to New York for a cousin’s wedding. The day before the wedding, a “big game” was organized among lots of my family members who were staying at the same hotel. I can’t describe the excitement I felt when Dad invited me to join everyone at the table and play (on his bankroll). When I ended up losing that night, to the tune of $90, it might as well have been $1 million, but Dad told me not to worry and that he was happy I finally was able to join him at the poker table.

The Biggest Supporter of My Love for Poker

When I turned 21, I started to play poker recreationally in home games, and often I’d join Dad and his regular group. In his games, which I still occasionally play in today, He taught me a whole bunch of new poker disciplines including some of the most complicated wild poker games you’ve ever heard of (and probably some you haven’t :-)). Just as in my first real money poker game, anytime I’ve ever fallen to the felt, it seems like Dad has always been right there to prop me up, stake me, and get me back in to the game I love.

The first time I started to organize a charity poker tournament a few years back, Dad immediately stepped up and offered to host the 40-person event in his office as well as sponsor refreshments. Many great poker nights and charity poker fundraisers have since taken place on those “hallowed grounds”.

It goes without saying that everything Dad has done for me poker-wise represents just the tiniest fraction of the love he’s shown me in my 30 years. That said, poker is one of my life’s true loves and it will forever be associated in my mind with one of the people most near and dear to me.

Dad, I love you. Happy birthday and may life always deal you the winning hand!



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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