Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the April, 2009 issue.
Lately, for some reason I have not yet figured out, maybe because spring is in the air and our posters are getting worried the players of the opposite sex may not approve of them, there have been an awful lot of posts about morals and ethics in the forums. Even after looking up the official definition of the two words, I am not sure what the difference between them really is. So from my view point they can be used in place of one another for the most part. Since one of my pet sayings is that, ”what you do in the poker world follows you around for the rest of your life”, a player must be very careful of his reputation and how he conducts him or herself while playing and being part of the poker scene.
Borrowing and lending money comes to mind. When you lend money to another person, make it clear when it will be returned and what happens if the agreement is not fulfilled. Unless the person is extremely close to you, it is not unreasonable to ask for collateral or having another person okay the loan. Okaying a loan means this other person is responsible for paying it back if the original borrower does not pay. It is your money and why should you loan it to someone without total assurance your dough is coming back. Virtually all the gamblers I know have huge amounts of money that they will never see again because of soft heartedness or stupidity in their lending decisions.
When being a borrower, the same story prevails. You want to be able to borrow again from the same person and others if need be. A few mistakes of late paying, not paying, or lying about when the money is coming, ruins your ability to raise capital when finding yourself a little under the weather.
So from both sides, make it clear what you want and are going to do and definitely follow through.
A situation that comes up quite frequently in a poker game is when a player next to you lifts his cards too high and you can see them. What is the right thing to do? The answer is clear, and that is to tell the player what he is doing and ask him to stop. That is the morally right thing and is ethically correct. Did I place those two correctly there? Or was it ethically correct and morally right? Many players feel that since the player is making a mistake and poker is about making money from one person’s mistakes, it is okay to look at the hand. Some feel it becomes okay to look after telling him or her once or twice, and if they keep showing the cards, tough luck. After thinking about that, no way can you justify this mild form of cheating. Even if you can justify it in your own mind, what about the other players seated at the table. When you see another’s cards, you are in fact taking advantage of all the others that do not get to see his cards. A form of cheating everyone else playing with you is what it is. So, do not do it as the little you gain brands you forever. As for others that see what is going on, they should put an immediate stop to it as it hurts their chances in the game and can easily drive off the players you want to stay.
A few other times come to mind when a player is faced with an ethics decision. One is when you are pushed a pot that doesn’t belong to you, like when the winning hand is tabled and not noticed. It is best to bite the bullet and point out the winning hand and suffer the perceived loss, which was never yours to begin with anyway. Another is when the dealer flashes a player’s hole card and you get a peek. Same as above, you should tell the player you know one of his cards and let the house decide what to do about the card. Split pots are occasionally made uneven. You might as well speak up now as later on someone else will and you won’t look so good.
Probably the word that fits in to all of this as well is trustworthy. I have known most of the famous gamblers of all time, and the one thing that the gamblers that have lasted have had was a reputation for being trustworthy. Sooner or later, a player will be faced with opportunities that can make or break him depending on how he is looked upon amongst his peers. Those that are trustworthy and especially those that fall into the high morals and ethics class are the ones that get the breaks. Those that are not get the brokes.
I hope with the economy in a huge slump the poker games don’t fall too far down in quality. That has happened in the other downturns in the past so it is likely to be the same. What I saw was less loose money coming in until the games became populated with mostly the same players. Those same players got tighter and tighter as their money dried up from spending and not generating at the old levels. All I can say is to pick your spots more carefully, conserve what you have, and eliminate tilt from your repertoire.Good luck to all in the tough times.