Sunday, July 19, 2009

Poker Ethics

I had two distinct situations arise in a tournament the other night that brought to mind the issue of ethics in poker.

The first happens during a break in a tournament while the green chips are being colored up. I happen to have quite a few greens, in fact I have a full stack of 20 (t500) plus a couple of odd chips. The dealer counted down my stack to make sure it was actually 20 and a moment later he tossed two t1000 chips to me. I processed for a second because sometimes when they are coloring up they will get some larger denomination chips from you to round up to larger chip amounts, but I realized all he had taken were my greens. I said something like, "I think you gave me too much dude" and showed him the two t1000s. He quickly realized the error took those back and gave me a single t500. There were a couple of other players there and one of them said something indicating appreciation that I would bring that to the dealer's attention myself.

The second incident happened once we had lost a couple of players at the final table. I opened the pot all in with KJ offsuit and got one caller. I was happy to see him roll over K9 of diamonds. I was even happier when the flop came A72 with no diamonds. The turn was another 7 and as the dealer gets ready to put out the river, I'm just thinking "no 9". I got my wish as the river was a non 9. I saw my opponent deflate a bit and listened to the dealer reading the board, "7s with an AK and the jack will play." As the dealer got ready to push me the pot I took a closer look at the board and realized the river was another 2, leaving the board to read A7272. Two pair with an ace kicker on the board. Not only does my jack not play, neither does my king and neither do either of my opponents cards, we're playing the board. I tried to keep my voice as even as possible while telling the dealer that we we're both playing the board. The dealer looked for a second and then realized wha happened and corrected himself. I think my opposnent was the last to realize it. The dealer chopped it up and the lady sitting on my right said "wow you're really honest!"

I appreciate the compliment, but I think it's kind of unwarranted. First, I'm pretty sure that the dealer would have caught the situation even without my pointing it out before the pot got pushed. More importantly though me pointing out the situation to the dealer is in my own best interests. Every player has an interest in protecting the integrity of the game and that interest is way more important than the results of any individual hand.

I think by and large people who take poker even moderately seriously recognize this fact and as a result the game becomes a little self policing, not unlike the golfer who calls a penalty on himself. By me making sure that the results of a hand comport with the way the cards played out, all I'm doing is keeping the game healthy, and in the long run that's good for me.

It's interesting especially in light of some of the national exposure the game got recently on the "Celebrity Apprentice" with Joan River's diatribes about poker players and her implications, if not outright statements, that poker players are basically a sleazy bunch. Quite the contrary, I think as a rule, poker players are people of high integrity. I wonder how many people realize the extent to which money is borrowed, repaid and what not, simply on handshakes. Sure there are some bad apples, but as a rule, I think most players are good people.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you Glenn on your honesty. Karma, what goes around comes around.
    Like golf, and in the UK snooker, poker is a game that runs heavily wth player honesty about mistakes/rules infringements.
    Like you I guess. I couldn't face the whole table thinking I was not being honest about things like this especially when you play against the same people all the time.