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.
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.
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.
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.