Given Only This Information, Is This Ethical?

poker twitter ethical question

An interesting post in my Twitter feed:

There were over 50 responses, predictably ranging from “definitely unethical” to “obviously not.”

Here is my response, followed by some elaboration.

I brought this up whilst playing poker earlier this week, and the initial sentiment at the table was No, this is not unethical as long as the two players are not actively colluding.

This led to some discussion about why two pros, sharing profits equally, would want to sit at the same table. Maybe they play better or win more that way. Or maybe they don’t fully trust each other, so playing at the same table mitigates the risk of one partner cheating the other. If they played at separate tables, how would they ensure accurate reporting and sharing of cash game results?

After all, as someone remarked, they are human. [Queue ominous sounding music.]

Which means they are fallible. Religion, philosophy, psychology, observation and common sense teach us and remind us over and over of the flaws inherent in the human condition. So does Tantalus, the Greek God of Temptation.

“That’s right!” I pointed out. If basic human fallibility makes it difficult for professional poker players sharing equally in each other’s profits to play cash games out of each other’s sight, the same fallibility makes it even worse for them to play at the same table. They may not intend to take any unfair advantage (“NO COLLUSION!!! WITCH HUNT!”), but isn’t it inevitable they will have opportunities to exploit other players?

Given that professional poker is a “hard way to make an easy living,” every pro should be looking for every edge. How can they be expected to resist?

Who’s going to believe them when they argue that there is no edge to be sought or gained from this arrangement; they just prefer to sit at the same table? Always.

And so the discussion ended.


As for KKing David, I’ll gladly exploit your generosity in helping me grow my blog audience. Just scroll down a bit to enter your email address for automatic notifications of new posts. Then share this post on social media. Many thanks and Happy 2019!

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