Why Professionals Cheat

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The canons of poker, as clearly understood and tacitly accepted by every player, allow unlimited deception to win maximum money from ownerless pots. Therefore, everyone can and should freely use unlimited deception in every poker game. But no one should use deception outside of poker. If a person "plays poker" outside of a poker game, he becomes a dishonest person. Even in poker, however, a person becomes dishonest if he violates the understood and accepted canons of poker by usurping money through cheating. (Cheating is any manipulation of cards or any collusion that gives a player or players advantages not available to other players.)

Many poker players, including most professionals, do not fully distinguish between what is honest and what is dishonest, in and out of a poker game. For example, many professional players who day after day lie and practice deceit in poker ironically do not grasp the rightness of their poker deception. To them, lying and deception in poker become little different from cheating in poker. Their ethics become hazy and ill-defined. They feel the only barrier to crossing the line from lying and deception to cheating and stealing is the threat of being caught. By removing that threat (e.g., through undetectable Neocheating techniques), they cross over the line and begin cheating.

The failure to understand the black-and-white moral differences between deception in poker and cheating in poker is one reason why many players react so strongly (often violently, sometimes murderously) against a cheater. They fear that without strong anticheating reactions, everyone would easily cross over the line from deceiving them to cheating them. Sensing their own capacity to cheat, they assume the same capacity resides in everyone. Thus, even if they never cheat others, they fear that

others will cheat them. Generally those who react most violently against cheaters are those who would most readily cheat others if their fear of being caught and evoking similarly violent reactions from their opponents did not restrain them.

Most amateur poker players hold the classical but misleading views about cheating. They perceive nearly all cheating as being done either by bumbling amateurs who are easily caught or by highly dexterous and invincible cardsharps who have perfected sleight-of-hand skills through years of laborious practice and dangerous experience. In holding those misleading classical views, most amateur poker players remain unsuspecting of the casual, natural-appearing collusion cheating and Neocheating practiced among the professional establishment.

As the stakes of public games increase, the percentage of professional players increases--as does their motivation to cheat. Every player should increasingly expect and look for cheating as he progresses to higher-stake club or casino games ... right up to the highest-stake games, including the finals (down to the last three players) of the million-dollar world championship, freeze-out tournaments held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Most finalists in those tournaments are public-game professionals who have worked in the professional establishment for years. Few members of the professional cheating establishment would have qualms about making collusion arrangements in those tournaments or any high-stake game: Two of the three final players could safely and swiftly squeeze the third player out of the game with collusion betting to assure both the remaining players, for example, a several-hundred-thousand-dollar return on their original $10,000 stakes (their entry fees). By their collusion, the final two players would vastly improve their investment odds--they would eliminate any possibility of losing while guaranteeing themselves a large win.

When, how, and why does a public-game professional begin cheating? Imagine a lonely public-game player struggling against the house cut to become a full-time professional and suddenly discovering a friendly professional establishment with an ongoing cheating system readily available to him . . . an undetectable cheating system requiring no special skills and available for his immediate profit. Such a player, especially if he is a mediocre or marginal professional, will often embrace that opportunity by tacitly cooperating with the establishment professionals in perpetuating their system. He accepts their collusion cheating as a trade tool required for playing competitive, professional poker. As he blends in with those professionals and adopts their system, he becomes increasingly dependent not only on their establishment but on collusion cheating to survive. He loses his independence and becomes a stereotyped, public-game professional. With a sense of professional righteousness, he becomes a cheater.

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