|How To Play Poker
On the surface cheating appears to be the wrong thing to do. It's dishonest. And you are not only cheating your opponents but also yourself because you are not playing the game by the rules. I could come up with a list of reasons to condemn cheating but I can also come up with many reasons to advocate it.
How about first trying to figure out how many people cheat when they play cards, or any other games, for that matter? I often ask people if they ever cheat. I do not keep track of these statistics but I know that most of them say they do cheat, even if only a little bit; so at the end of the day I am left with the impression that the majority of people cheat. Some of them have no idea how to cheat but they do admit that they try to take advantage of situations when those present themselves to them. Most people think that it is no big deal.
There are people who are completely unaware of the fact that they were cheating on occasions, until someone points out certain facts to them. Have they ever accidentally glanced at a card? Have they ever noticed a bend or any other imperfection on the back of a worn-out card? (That card may as well be face up). If so, did they publicly announce that they unintentionally gained knowledge (which is an advantage over the other players) at that time? They may not realize that they have an advantage, they may not know what to do about this advantage, but technically they are cheating. Let's call this form of cheating unintentional cheating. It is still cheating, though. The adjective "unintentional" does not make it square.
That takes care of the group of people who are not aware of the fact that they are unintentionally cheating. Then there is another group of people who will never admit that they are cheating. Those are cheats and liars. Hey, let's call a spade, a spade.
In addition to asking people about their personal cheating experiences I am also conducting an ongoing Internet survey on this site. The numbers keep changing because people keep adding votes but the percentages are more or less stable. (And yes, I am aware of the fact that I do not have enough votes to account for the world's population).
My survey is straightforward. The question is, "Do you ever cheat at cards?" And there are only three possible ways to answer this question: always, never, or sometimes. The group that never cheats fluctuates around 40%. Realistically, this group consists of three kids of people -- those who actually never cheat, those who are unaware of the fact that they sometimes unintentionally cheat, and liars who cheat and will never admit it. So the group of people who actually never cheat (yes, I guess they do exist) is probably smaller than a survey would show it. Then there's another issue, how many non-cheats are absolute virgins (meaning that they've never done it)? And while we are speaking metaphorically, remember, even once is enough to get you pregnant, so in the gaming lingo that would mean that even one cheating attempt could result in a sucker hitting rock bottom.
In any case, I am convinced that the non-cheats make up well under 50% of the card-playing population. This tells us that any time you play a two-handed game the odds are that one of the two players is a cheat. If you are not the cheat, than there is more than 50% chance that your opponent is. (That bastard!) Hence the old poker saying, "If you can't spot the sucker within the first five minutes, than you must be the one."
OK, I may be oversimplifying things but you must decide for yourself if you are better off - a) assuming that your opponent is cheating, or - b) run the risk of becoming the sucker. That is the question that I can't answer for you because if you and I ever sit down at the card table you are my opponent. I personally opt for option a).
So am I saying that it is OK to cheat just because there is a likelihood that others cheat? This is a complex issue and as with any other complex issue, there are no simple answers. Examples of simple answers would be "yes" or "no". Really, this is not a question that can be answered with "yes" or "no". One of the reasons is that we first have to agree to what constitutes cheating.
According to Nevada laws, cheating is any activity that results in the alteration of the outcome of a game. A well, isn't this a bit too simplified? This is obviously a rule that was put into the law books to suit the interests of casinos -- the number one industry in Nevada. This rule is again open to interpretations.
First why don't we try to determine what constitutes cheating, for ourselves. And while we are at the subject of casinos, why don't we leave them in the mix.
There is a big question, do casinos cheat? Most people will tell you no. What this really means is that they most likely do not engage in any activities outside the rules of games. But the fact is that most people are of the opinion that casino rules are unfair and that players do not really have a chance of winning, unless of course... But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's first elaborate on the subject of unfair rules.
Does unfair equal cheating? Unfair means that one has an advantage over the other. But is it cheating? You tell me!
Let's take it back to the basics. Why don't we analyze a simple game called "heads or tails". The basic rules are simple -- you place a bet on the outcome of the spin of a coin. If you fail to predict the outcome I take your money, but if you win I pay an amount equal to your initial bet. In other words: 50% odds and 1 to 1 payoff.
Now let's change the rules a bit to make them unfair: when you lose I take your money (same as before), but when you win I pay only .50c on every dollar you bet. Now not to make it look as if I am being unfair, let's say that I justify this by charging a 50% commission on all you winnings so that I can pay for my expenses. Furthermore let's make all the local laws to agree that these rules could not constitute cheating because all the players agree in advance that they accept these rules.
In this particular case many would agree that these rules could not fall into the category of cheating because no one in the right state of mind would ever agree to them. But what if you make it your business to drag people who are not in their right state of minds into this game? What if you trap a group of mentally handicapped people and tell then that this is an opportunity to make some easy money? Should you be called a cheat then?
But aren't I going a bit too far with this? Casinos don't drag people from mental hospitals into their establishments. No, of course not. These people don't have enough money to make it worthwhile. Instead they serve free drinks and after a few of those you no longer are in the right state of mind.
But the unfairness of the games is not depended on those free drinks. In reality casino rules are rigged so that all will appear fair on the surface but in truth they are shortchanging you every time you win. It's like an apple that shines on the outside but inside it is rotten.
Casino games are far more complex than "heads or tails". This complexity offers far greater opportunities to conceal the scams. This is why casino management always gets worked up whenever anyone is winning too much. They simply assume that the player must be cheating. They assume this because they know that no one should be able to win against their set-up. In reality a fair bet would take place only when the parties involved have no knowledge of the outcome. Casinos also don't have any knowledge of the outcome of individual bets, but they know the outcome of the long run; so the individual bets become immaterial.
We could go on and on about the unfairness of casino games. No doubt they will have a reason for this and an excuse for that. More so the law is on their side (at one point in history the law was on the side of those who were burning witches). In my opinion casino business is nothing more than a well-camouflaged form of cheating. They are not gambling, they are just playing a sure bet. And a sure bet is not a bet -- it's a scam. I call it "organized cheating".
Since, by playing a sure bet, casinos are running a scam then a casino is no place to gamble. You can't gamble if you have no chance of winning. Playing in casinos is not gambling -- it is falling for a scam.
So where can one truly gamble? One can't do it in a casino because apparently they are rip-offs. On the other hand it would seem that in private games more than 50% of people cheat. So where do you gamble? I don't have an answer, but I know that in a casino you have a 100% chance of losing in the long run (unless you don't gamble but...) and in private games you have over 50% chance of being cheated.
So am I saying that we should all go out there and cheat? Yes and no... I say, don't gamble! But if you do want to gamble or if you just want to play a game of cards then I say, have a blast, just make sure you don't get caught. Unless you are willing to accept the alternative, that you stand more than 50% chance of being cheated.
Some people are skilled in sleight-of-hand and/or have above-average knowledge of cheating. To some it would seem that those people have an unfair advantage over less-skilled people who only cheat from time to time. Well, that's what cheating is all about -- an unfair advantage. I am certainly not going to worry about hurting someone's feelings, especially not if there is more than 50% chance that they are trying to cheat me.
It really comes down to psychology and tying to make the best judgment. There is always a difference between playing a friendly game of cards with one of your most trusted childhood friends, or playing the same game against a bunch of strangers at a summer camp (regardless how friendly those strangers appear to be).