Monday, November 07, 2011

Soft-playing is cheating

I once again feel compelled to write a post in response to something Very Josie has written. In describing a recent trip with Waffles to Foxwoods, she mentioned that she and Waffles had an agreement that if either of them had a big hand, they would bet big so that the other would know to get out. She was upset that Waffles violated this agreement by, among other things, bluffing her. She also said that having some sort of agreement like this was routine for her when she played in cash games with friends. It might take different forms (like agreeing not to get into big pots with each other), but there is usually something put in place in advance.

I wish I could quote directly from the post so that you don't have to take my word for it, but unfortunately Josie has redacted the post to remove that section. (I read it several hours ago, and assumed it would still be there intact when I got around to writing this response.) I'm guessing that this was in response to the criticism she received in the comments.

At the risk of piling on, I think it cannot be repeated too often or too emphatically that such conduct is, to be blunt, cheating. We have an obligation to the long-term good and integrity of the game to denounce it as such whenever we are made aware that it is going on.

Mike Caro writes about this frequently. Here are just two of the columns he has published specifically addressing the problem of friends soft-playing each other:

Here's an extended excerpt from the latter piece:
When someone robs a convenience store, you know who the bad person is. He’s the guy with the gun. As wrong as that is, in my mind it’s not as sinister as a poker partnership. The robber and the convenience store haven’t exchanged solemn promises. With poker partnerships, the thieves usually go unnoticed and nobody knows anything was stolen. Lives can be ruined when unethical players break their promises and directly target the honesty of others who are being fair to them. What’s worse than that? That’s why I have long-ago stated that poker cheaters should be boiled and eaten. If you think I’m not serious, you boil; I’ll eat.

Soft-play friends.

Strangely, many players think they should give friends a break. But when you soft play friends at the table others get hurt in the crossfire.Aggressive opponents, who are playing honestly, especially suffer. That’s because they mistake what’s happening through secret alliances as tactical traits exhibited by the group of friends.This causes those honest players to make poor decisions for the wrong reasons on future hands.Much worse, soft playing often means that honest players get less value when they hold strong hands because some opponents have decided not to participate in order to make it easy on their buddies. Also, honest players may call trying to catch a bluff, not realizing that the opponent would never have bet a weak hand due to a secret understanding with a participating friend.Soft playing friends is cheating. If you want to be generous, win the money through honest play first.Then you can give it away to your friends later.

Best hand.

Some players consider that playing best-hand poker (where partners signal each other and only the strongest hand is played) is a gray area of ethics that isn’t quite cheating. They’re wrong. Playing best hands is a simple and serious form of cheating and the method will usually destroy ethical players. You should never consider joining such partnerships and if asked to participate I believe you should report the players immediately. Tattling may seem uncool, but you have an obligation to other players to keep the game honest. As uncomfortable as it may seem to do this, poker can’t be protected without your help.

Obligation of pros and other players.

Look, we’ve made great advances. Poker has crawled out of the dank corners of taverns and dimly lit two-table card rooms. We’ve survived the era when scammers roamed and ruled. Now poker is in the spotlight, but it won’t stay there unless professionals and other honest players protect our game. It’s no longer enough to look the other way and just refuse to participate.We need to let unethical players know, in blunt terms, that we don’t tolerate any form of cheating, including partnerships big or small. It’s our game and we will defend it. The consequences of tolerating unethical poker are too great; the stakes are too high. Tell them that exactly. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to start boiling the water.
I've written about this, too, though less eloquently. When I saw a published interview in which Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso admitted to soft-playing each other, and apparently thought there was nothing wrong with it, I wrote a long post explaining exactly why it was a form of cheating and how it hurt the other players:

I stand by that.

Josie, when we play at the same table, whether cash game or tournament, I expect you to do everything in your power to take all of my chips, and I will be doing the same. Whatever happens happens, with no hard feelings. However the chips and cards fall, we leave the table just as much friends as when we sat down.

That is the only kind of agreement friends should have with each other before playing poker together.


Memphis MOJO said...

A friend of mine used to say, "Just because I'm trying to take your chips doesn't mean I don't like you."

Crash said...

100% with you, Rakewell. How could it be any other way? Josie is cool, but that is wrong,.

Mitchell Cogert said...

So true. There are sometimes up to 4 players that soft play each other in the $15-$30 limit game at my card room. They check it down when they are the only ones in the pot.

Anonymous said...

what's your view on the latest online "scandal" grumpy - pokerstars billion hand promo...two friends sat 24 heads up tables and turbo folded on each table to increase their h/hour and hit the jackpot $70k without ever playing a hand thus paying no rake -_-

Josie said...

It is wrong. I really never looked at it that way. It was never the intention to collude and take peoples' money. more like why take my friends money when this isn't a tourney, i'll take the fishies instead.

There's no need for it though. And to say I regretted it is a gross understatement. All I can say is it will never happen again.

Pete said...

I find it ironic you call out a friend for cheating in this post which immediately follows the post where you admit cheating at the Rio by playing against other players while having the guy next to you show you his cards.

sevencard2003 said...

women are always that way, at least ones ive played with online, they expect u to cut them breaks and not try to take their money. they even get mad if u are staking them and then win back their money.

Anonymous said...

I swear to God I once saw you on a PS single table HORSE S&G that you (chip leader) were trying to stack Cardgrrl (short stack) and ended up leaving her as bubblegrrl

Rakewell said...

Yes, that has happened, and she has returned the favor. We agreed within the first few days we met that we would never soft-play each other.