Is Playing Poker for a Living Moral?

    • alpynus
      alpynus
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      Joined: 12.03.2011 Posts: 4
      I play poker for a living since November 2012. To live as an immoral person is not my cup of tea, therefore I often ask to myself if my current source of economical income is wrong.

      I'd like to let you know I'm not here to moralize. Even if you are not a professional poker player, you have an easy option to simply don't care about morality of your profession. But you should know you are always fully responsible for almost everything that happens in your life and for all consequences of your actions and decisions.

      I'm aware of my choice to earn money in online poker and here's a few thoughts of how I'm dealing with it.

      At first I need to make sure I won't just rationalize and justify myself. Thus I put myself in a position of a person in a butchery asking himself if buying and eating that piece of flesh is really moral and ethical. Like a man in a butchery, I also have a freedom of choice to earn or not to earn money by playing poker. And just because I have an option to make money in this game, it doesn't necessarily mean it's not wrong. Similarly, just because there are butcheries and dairies giving you a possibility to buy and consume their products, you shouldn't turn the autopilot on and mindlessly pay for those goods.

      Okay, now I will try to be as honest as possible and as critical as possible.

      First of all, what's my outcome of playing poker? What kind of a service do I offer? Who puts money into the poker industry?

      It's relatively easy to answer these questions. Nearly all funds in online poker come from recreational players, also known as fishes, whales or donkeys. I simply don't know why someone is able to invest money into a complex game with no or minimal knowledge about that game. Let's assume they have a vision of easy money or they have so much fun while playing poker that they don't mind gambling their bankroll away.

      Having said that, my function as a regular player is to give a possibility to recreational players to realize their vision of easy money or provide them fun while playing and losing their money.
      Online poker is only a redistribution of money from amateurs between professionals, playrooms and the state, of course.

      One could say it's completely fine when money designated for fun is redistributed by providing fun. It's reasonable to think some human beings need to have this kind of entertainment and if they are voluntary willing to pay for it, there's nothing wrong with playing poker for a living.

      As a lazy thinker and a comfortably person, I might be satisfied with this conclusion. But as I mentioned above, I should be as critical as possible and therefore I should search for objections. At this moment I've found two.

      First, money appointed for enjoyment could be spent more effective than by playing a game with a gamble nature. Let's get one thing straight — I have no doubts poker can be educative and helpful stuff. I developed long-term and effective thinking and much more useful skills by playing and studying this game. But it doesn't mean all players have this ability. I'm not sure if player regularly calling three streets with third pair could sometime take from this game as much as I took. I think recreational players can spend their money reserved for fun in a better and useful ways than by playing online poker.
      By providing online poker we are giving those people a possibility to spend their money worse than they could. It doesn't sound like a moral thing.

      Second, a man not involved in this industry could rightfully consider that poker is just fooling. More clever and more intelligent persons offer to others to play with them and they know they will be profitable in long-term. This activity doesn't look like a moral activity. Moral and intelligent beings should not abuse their intelligence.
      As a man involved in this business I must admit poker has a spirit of fooling less smart people. And fooling is definitely immoral.

      If we all had suddenly stopped playing today, then they wouldn't have the option of spending their money in this way.

      These two objections look like a valid arguments supporting statement playing poker for a living is not moral. What should I do now? Should I abjure playing poker?

      I don't see things in black and white. In some cases, morality should be considered relatively to circumstances. Intentions are part of actions and they should be evaluated in morality statements.

      For that reason playing poker for a living in a short-term or a mid-term is not inescapably immoral. It depends on intentions.

      If I would play poker only to get rich and to live selfish comfortably consumerist life, my morality would be very questionable.

      Therefore I must have serious altruistic intentions while playing poker for earning money. I should spend all of the gained money very reasonably. I should spend as little money as possible for my own existence and I have to invest most of my earnings into smart philanthropical projects.

      I'm trying to be influential vegan, animal rights, environmentalism and anarchism activist and I'm doing my best to spend each dollar for my own needs properly.

      From my point of view, I'm still not sure whether even in this case earning money in poker is moral and in the future I'd like to generate money in different and more moral ways. Wish me luck!

      Feel free to discuss this difficult topic. I appreciate all of your comments.

      Good luck at tables!
  • 116 replies
    • Tomaloc
      Tomaloc
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      Joined: 17.01.2011 Posts: 6,901
      why do fish play? why do they call 3 streets with bottom pair no kicker? :f_biggrin:
      these are difficult questions which may have a variety of answers.

      specially on stars you can see lots of "regular fish" with goldstar status and even higher.
      surely they must know that they are losing? maybe with rakeback and everything they don't lose enough, so the entertainment is reasonably worth it?
      or maybe they are just hopeless gambling addicts, so the "moral question" is, is that amount of money significant to them? who knows, that's not your business.

      i guess you could make an announcement every time you join a table "hey, i'm a regular, i've studied this game for a long time" (aka "i have an edge on you")... most probably still wouldn't care anyway.
      once you get the money it's yours, and then it's at least not any worse for it to be with you than with some random degen or fishreg. i don't have any moral/ethical issues with it.
    • NightFrostaSS
      NightFrostaSS
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      Joined: 25.10.2008 Posts: 5,255
      Don't see how being poker pro is any more immoral than let's say being a chess pro or a day trader would be.
    • spreeboy
      spreeboy
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      Joined: 06.09.2010 Posts: 223
      Boxers, tennis players, mma fighters, and basically all athletes doesn't have any finish products that could benefit the society. We label them as sportmen and we could say that they entertain and inspire us in some way. However, the same people receive millions by endorsing products from large companies and we don't think they are immoral. But come to think of it, they are taking advantage of their fame to rake in extra money.

      I think its the nature of the game of poker where "taking money from others" is directly obvious which make us think that a poker player is immoral compared to other profession. Remember that the moment a fish sits on a table, he agree that he could lose their money anytime to anyone. He should know that he is not forced to play and his action is not the responsibility of a reg.

      The bottom line is, I know that I am not stealing money from others. I work hard to gain edge and maintain my sanity. I'm fine with that :D
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
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      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 9,418
      I can see that someone might consider it wrong if the people that won consistently did things to coerce the losers into playing.

      Even so, most -- if not all -- modern corporations doe exactly that.
      They call it "marketing". It is a system where they communicate to potential users in a manner intended to build a desire for the product, with complete disregard to whether the potential consumer even needs the product.

      Is THAT moral?
      I think not when deceit is used to entice.
      Yet such deceit is is perfectly legal.

      Banks and landlords are allowed to turn people out of their homes for failure to pay. Is that moral? It is certainly legal.

      In the case of a poker game, both parties are willing participants.
      Both parties are fully aware of the rules.
      No-one is doing anything to entice the other.

      The very nature of the game, though, depends on deceit.
      Since both parties are aware of this, and agree to this, there can be offence.

      If you know or suspect that the person you are playing against has a gambling addiction, I can see a moral obligation to refrain from playing that person.

      I am a "recreational" player -- I have a full time job.

      Poker for me is a challenge -- I enjoy learning new things, and developing skills. Over almost 3 years I am more-or-less break even. I don't care.
      I will eventually be a winning player. Or I'll just chuck it in if it ceases to be enjoyable.

      Good thread.

      Good comments.

      Regards,
      --VS
    • Leito99
      Leito99
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      Joined: 27.07.2009 Posts: 754
      I see my poker winnings as a tax on people who are dumb. I guess calling fish "dumb" is a bit of an exaggeration. They could be very smart in other areas of life. However, if I am winning their money in poker, then they weren't willing to put in the effort of learning to play the game well, which I did, so I deserve this. They could either be too lazy to learn the game, they are delusional to think that they are naturally good at it or they could willingly gamble to lose for the fun of it. Either way, there is no reason I should feel guilty for it.


      Sometimes I do sit there playing wondering what am I doing with my life... but then I snap out of it remembering I need money!
    • Chowchow12
      Chowchow12
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      Joined: 04.06.2012 Posts: 365
      This is an interesting topic, I was thinking about this myself for a while.

      On one hand we have all talked to the person who just likes to gamble for a rush, and more or less do it responsibility. A class mate of mine said he would spend $50 at party poker every month and just play the NL2 tables, he would bust out, and he said he really didn't care because he just wanted to have fun. I think it comes down to the mind set, and I almost want to say learning can be stressful for some people, so they want to relax in their downtime, then when they enjoy poker they can't be bothered to actually learn, and they just "gamble." My step-dad is a great example of this, he told me when he plays with his friends, he might get something like 62s, and think, well maybe I will get lucky, then proceed to over-limp. So I think there is nothing wrong with making money of people who don't care if they see that money again.

      On the other hand there are people with gambling addictions. Before I get to that there is a study that i read about in a behavioral psychology textbook that talked about gambling addiction from positive reinforcement. The experiment took pigeons, and presented them with 2 disks, one which gave a fix amount of food per every x amount of pecks. The other was like a slot machine, it would give a variable amount, but over a long amount of time not enough for the pigeons to live off of. The power from the positive reinforcement on the pigeons "Big score" of 8 pellets or whatever overpowered the fact that the other disk gave out more food per/decent sample of time. It got so bad the pigeons were in danger of dying from starvation, and the lab coordinators had to put them back into a normal cage with food to get them back to a normal body weight, but when they put in the pigeons back into the cage they would go right back to the slot machine disk. I think this experiment can demonstrate the power of Variable-reinforcement. (Which is exactly what happens when that stinky fish hits his gutshot, 2p etc.)

      In a sense this is what keeps them coming back, because they know that one time they stacked a guy with a gutshot, even though in the long run they lose money from it. So I guess i feel some morality issues based on the fact I think it is innate, and we as the more educated kind of prey on that. But I think relative to all the other things that do that out there (i.e slot machines). Is not as bad, but at the same time..does that make it right?

      I really don't think there is a simple solution to this answer, but I think it comes down to personal beliefs. I like to learn this complex game, I would play it if it was 99% regs (mind you it would be a lot harder). So, to me, the fact you can make a living off of it is a nice aspiration or something of the sort, but not the main drive. I think if you have a game were no one knows what they're doing and they are all gambling addicts, and one only plays because he can make money off of them; then there is a completely different moral there. I guess in my view it all comes down to intention on what side of the grey scale you are on. (Not that I am saying I wouldn't be at that soft game in a minute, because who doesn't like to win right? But if those games didn't exist I would still study poker.) I am not even sure where i stand on the issue, but that is my ramble.
    • alphabeat
      alphabeat
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      Joined: 30.04.2010 Posts: 728
      Good discussion.

      I sometimes worry that playing poker isn't truly productive, as there is no finished product/useful service coming out of it, apart from entertainment. But as Spree pointed out, sports is guilty of the same.

      I think that as long as someone lives morally, ie, pay their taxes, doesn't hurt people, then the question is truly moot. We take money from people who either largely don't mind losing it, or other regs who we outsmart in a battle of equals.

      That said, the poker world seems to be moving towards the No hud, no fishing type of environment, so many moral qualms might be on the way out. Tsk tsk
    • VorpalF2F
      VorpalF2F
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      Joined: 02.09.2010 Posts: 9,418
      Originally posted by alphabeat
      That said, the poker world seems to be moving towards the No hud, no fishing type of environment, so many moral qualms might be on the way out. Tsk tsk
      Although it is perfectly legal for poker rooms to set any house rules they choose, I for one, dislike the fact that poker rooms attempt to affect the outcome of the game by some means other than the cards themselves.

      Others don't seem to mind.

      Your call.
    • thazar
      thazar
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      Joined: 14.09.2009 Posts: 6,561
      this is my own opinion and not necessarily the one of PokerStrategy BTW :)

      I don't think me playing or not playing will affect whether a bad player stop playing and if all good players were to stop playing then the same thing would happen as if all bad players stopped playing: only the poker room would make money.

      I do not see anything wrong with playing poker and making money from it, whether it's for a living , whether it's for a lifetime or whatever. IMO it comes down to one thing only: Is it +EV to play?

      Regards

      Thazar
    • amater0001
      amater0001
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      Joined: 07.04.2011 Posts: 192
      From the winning player point of view is the game IMO moral if a few conditions are met:
      - the winning player hasn't any objective suspicion the recreational players are poor or losing their last money (i.e. they can afford to lose money),
      - the winning player plays according to rules (i.e. no collusion or softplay, dealer cheats, etc.),
      - every player should be strongly cautioned about possible negative consequences of any gambling activities.

      Quite a few of the players I consider degenerate gamblers, frauds and/or racketeers/loan sharks. Poker with its promotion of "cheating" (misleading the opponent) is only one of their ways to present their dark side and - what's worse - to train it to perfection.

      That's why I think that casinos shouldn't be allowed in areas that are not tourist areas. Plus self-exclusions should be allowed and marketed in every casino and online poker/gambling room.
      Basically I am saying poker rooms/casinos and states should have high responsibility.

      I'm not defender of a capitalistic belief of freedom - I just don't believe in people's ability to be responsible. We are predetermined to enjoy, be euphoric, looking for instant satisfaction but that's not what help us in a long run...
    • amater0001
      amater0001
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      Joined: 07.04.2011 Posts: 192
      Some additional reasons:
      as said above all poker helps (HM, sharkscope...) are only the additional factor why I don't consider tha game to be fair to recreational players.
      In our country there is no tax to poker which is also not fair because working people pay tax to even their minimal wages yet I know people earning 10 or times that paying no tax.
    • ains21
      ains21
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      Joined: 04.06.2011 Posts: 303
      It seems to me that poker is in fact one of only a handful of financial activities that can be considered "fair" with regards to all those participating -- something essential to considering the "moral" nature of an activity.

      The thing that strikes me first and foremost is the following:many businesses/services make their profits selling commodities that can be considered essential or semi-essential to the health and well being of their purchasers. In some vague sense, then, many individuals have no option but to "enter the game" of commodity exchange -- they've got no choice but to buy that food, those clothes, that apartment. It's not uncommon for this to be construed as being in some sense "unfair" when we take into account not only the alternative options (redistributive schemes and so on), but also existing problems of established monopolies, patenting, land ownership, poverty and so on.

      Poker, on the other hand, is a completely voluntary agreement between parties that is not in anyway necessitated by the health and well-being of individuals. It is a game: individuals know that they are playing only for entertainment, and can in no sense be considered to be "forced" to play (in the same way they are forced to play with other businesses in their world). I think no-one can claim that it is "unfair" when they lose their money playing poker, and that this has a lot to do with the question of the moral status of playing for a living (or at least it does for me).
    • Alleen86
      Alleen86
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      Joined: 27.05.2010 Posts: 5,110
      Is playing poker moral... I ask this question myself often. I'm a Catholic, believe in God and life after life. Not like I'm always in chuch, praying all the time and stuff like that. I'm just trying to live right and helpful life as much as I can and not to hurt anyone.. But the thing is that if you are, for example, recreational football player and want to enter some tourney with your team, you need to pay for it. You will maybe not earn the prize, which could make you a gambler because you are risking money and are not sure if you will return it. If your team is good, you will win the prize, but many teams will lose money because you have higher skills then they do. This could make you immoral, because you made the money from less skilled teams. I don't see why poker would be different than this. You are risking money and earn money if you have more skills than the competition..

      Hope I managed express my thoughts right...

      In addition, if it's ok for him, why would we ask questions? :)

    • SPeedFANat1c
      SPeedFANat1c
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      Joined: 04.01.2009 Posts: 5,150
      I was thinking about this also, but still agree to many of the comments. Lot of business are not moral. Almost nobody is working (playing) to make others happy. Everybody is working/playing to earn money.

      About hud stuff - its bit unfair we could argue that fish is playing without huds. But I think instead of making anonimous no hud tables - to make it equal - the holdem manager should come together with poker software so every fish has it and they just choose if they want to use it or they are good enought and dont even need those maths :D

      Because those anonimous tables remove skill advantage when regs vs regs are fighting and reg vs reg already has small edge even with hud.

      About not allowing casinos - its the same as not allowing alcohold or cigaretes. Just becaue some stupid loose money and health on that, it does not mean they need to be dissalowed.

      Ok maybe there is the problem - security - the more people loose money, the more people start robbing, so you feel less safe walking at night with your brand new iPhone or whatever. So for that reason it could be argued about limiting casinos, but imo there is not much casinos anyway, becasue at least in our country - they already have hard time earning money from what I heard. In rich coutries thats diffrentb, but then in those people are already rich and they will not become homeless unless they have really lost their mind.

      But partially I agree about limiting casinos, because when I was a teenager, I was also that big fish at school who was playing cards and lost about 2K $ to one guy, which was good friend and let me not pay everything. I payed only like 1/20 of that, not sure. Things could have been much worse. BUt as I am adult I would never be in such situation because I understand how things are working. BUt I know that shitty feeling when you are losing, want to quick get money back and there were no such things as pokerstartey, I did not even have an internet.

      From my experience this addictiveness to loose comes from lack of knowledge how things are working, how to win. You want to win, you are trying variuos things and they are not working and you dont understand why. You think - if they can win, why cannot I. Especially when I know I was decent at math comparing to field at school.
    • IvicaIliev77
      IvicaIliev77
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      Joined: 31.05.2012 Posts: 4,157
      Without going to much into it , answer is NO.
      Nobody made those fishes invest and give away their money.
      For me poker is a sport a rivalry. I play it to improve and be best at what I do. It happens that along the way you can make money vs worse players great.
      Remember that we all do this by our choice. Nobody made fishes deposit over and over and nobody is making me give away to better players. As you move up the levels opponents are better on average therefore you must put more hours to study and work on your game.
      Don't see anything immoral in fact its better for them to give me their money (which I earned through countless hours of studying this game) then to play lottery or chase some silly jackpots.
    • ihufa
      ihufa
      Gold
      Joined: 18.03.2008 Posts: 3,323
      Originally posted by Alleen86
      Is playing poker moral... I ask this question myself often. I'm a Catholic, believe in God and life after life. Not like I'm always in chuch, praying all the time and stuff like that. I'm just trying to live right and helpful life as much as I can and not to hurt anyone.. But the thing is that if you are, for example, recreational football player and want to enter some tourney with your team, you need to pay for it. You will maybe not earn the prize, which could make you a gambler because you are risking money and are not sure if you will return it. If your team is good, you will win the prize, but many teams will lose money because you have higher skills then they do. This could make you immoral, because you made the money from less skilled teams. I don't see why poker would be different than this. You are risking money and earn money if you have more skills than the competition..

      Hope I managed express my thoughts right...

      In addition, if it's ok for him, why would we ask questions? :)

      sportsteams don't pay to participate in leagues, sponsors pay for them. if u believe in god then gambling is for sure immoral, but u can try to rationalize it saying the fish would've lost the money to someone else etc. Im sure there's also bible quotes which say u mustn't gamble.
    • MichaelGotAA
      MichaelGotAA
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      Joined: 23.03.2010 Posts: 90
      Making money from playing Poker is not immoral. TBH it seems a stupid question to me. It seems very clear to me at least, that its not immoral. I could go into all the points ect but can't be bothered, but if you think making money from playing poker is wrong then surely that means you think working for a brewery in any way, or as a bar tender is wrong since you help people kill themselves with alcohol & what about people that work at casino's. Surely they are all helping people gamble their lives away. Even the toilet cleaner is just as guilty.

      Obviously none are guilty. They are just doing an honest job trying to earn a living, just like a poker player. People have something called free will which allows them to make their own decisions. You are not responsible for others decisions, whether they are right or wrong. also Poker unlike gambling is a game of skill. You can be a consistent winner.

      At the end of the day if you still think earning money from poker is wrong. Then just stop playing. if your a winning player it can only be good for the rest of us to lose some winners from the player pool & increase the chances of the rest of us playing weaker players. I certainly have no problem with that.
    • Alficor1
      Alficor1
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      It's not immoral, I mean what part of it is? There are lot more immoral jobs than a poker pro, like being a pimp or a drug dealer.
    • SPeedFANat1c
      SPeedFANat1c
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      Joined: 04.01.2009 Posts: 5,150
      Im sure there's also bible quotes which say u mustn't gamble.


      But poker is not gambling :)