Moral Poker

In the discussion of poker as a moral question, we can divide our utility/motivation for playing into two fundamental categories, entertainment and income. There are many different ways to view the game, but we have chosen this specific division for reasons to be explained and understood later in this writing. We might see this either as a sliding scale in which a player is either more to the entertainment side or to the income wanting side, or instead we might see each player type as a function of their want of entertainment (E) + want of income (I).

This division allows us two distinct player archetypes the ‘rec’ and the ‘pro’. It can be argued there are many different types of player some overlapping and some not, but first we deal with the two most basic, the rec player who (by our definition) exchanges dollars for a form of entertainment, and the pro that (by our definition) receives these dollars for providing this entertainment.

We might note there are other types of players to be examined such as the breakeven player that doesn’t make money nor lose it, and gets just enough entertainment to keep playing (average E and I). There are ‘forever wanna-be pros’ that are habitually spewy/losing players that tilt often and can’t fully be said to enjoy the game (both low E and I). There are many types of player to be explored and understood.

It shouldn’t be hard to argue, in ‘today’s’ world (from a players view) the ‘ideal player ‘covets both income and entertainment in the highest forms (high E and I) **later we can look at 2nd level intention in this regard**. This can be contrasted with a type of winning pro that doesn’t enjoy their ‘work’ (very low E, high I).

Nonetheless we want to look at the game in relation to the simple division between ‘recs’ and pros’ as this is the fundamental sustainable environment we are all used to as our model.

We also need to introduce another aspect of the game, ‘integrity’, and set forth its definition. Integrity of the game can be split into two sub divisions, the first being the fairness or equality of the game in regards to the rules and boundaries of it (obviously a very gray and debatable subject not to be gone into in this writing but certainly of great concern to all player types). This includes things such as security leaks that result in unfair advantages for certain players. The 2nd subdivision of integrity in poker is the profitability of the game (specifically that the brightest/best players get paid). The author wishes to show that it is poker of the greatest integrity that leads to moral poker (then the goal of course is to show that moral poker leads to ideal poker).

****We should point out the obvious but great caveat that such points only hold true in a world of inequality, and that poker with integrity and its subdivisions are discussed only in relation to a game with irrational agents- that integrity should not be a detriment to ideality.*****

It’s true these two subdivisions of ‘integrity’ are not completely unrelated and are no doubt slightly overlapping, but we didn’t want to prematurely exclude certain aspects relating to the subject. As long as these things are seen and held in their place, poker (and its variants) can be seen as a game in which rec players with excess funds for entertainment pay pros hourly (in linear time perspectives) for such entertainment.

For a rec player, this arrangement is fair, provided they have a decent ‘chance’ at making a score regardless of their lack in skill edge. It is much like playing lotto only more fun, and the rec player likely gets more entertainment value for their dollar. Of course the direct winner is the talented player, and we expect this player to turn around and use their money in a talented way (on average) when spending it in society.

If we look at the flow of money in a poker game of high integrity, money flows from those that have excess funds to those minds that use creativity and intensive study to collect it. Even if we consider the flow of money from a habitual gambling addict, we still watch it flow from someone who tends to spend irresponsibly to someone who is likely to put it to better use.Not all winning players spend their money the wisest, however it shouldn’t take much convincing to show that, in general, economic decision power lies best with the poker players who maximize their ev (with respect to others’ decisions given similar circumstances).

All countries (governments) and all peoples should recognize (not argue with) the importance of the economy of poker, in which irl moneys flows from either the rich or ignorant, into the hands of the creative and gifted minds of the world. It is an exchange of efficiency in which a determined hard working well studied humble students of the game (and of life) might have a shot at real success and contribution in this world starting from the ground up (possibly even rebuilding from prior misfortune and/or failure).

It is true there might be those that poker effects in a negative way, players that are consistent losers with no hope of becoming a winning player, yet their life roll cannot support such an expense. We have already noted that society is happy to funnel such persons’ money to peoples that make better (higher) and more frequent +ev decisions. We can also point out under this model, we as players are not counting on this player type in the economy of poker for either a moral game of high integrity or an ideal game. Players of these types should be discouraged by both the poker community and society (noting the difference between discouragement and shunning). A better approach might even be to teach them to change for the better whether to continue in studying the game of poker or move to studying the art of +ev decision making in irl.

As money in this world shifts from the ignorant to the wise, better economic decisions will result. Better economy obviously follows. Poker is but one of the great vehicles to achieve this result. Both society and governments should readily welcome and facilitate the exchange of money for chips to be redistributed probabilistically to those with the greatest ev/edge. It is good for all concerned (all sentience).

In (quick) regards to taxation of the game, taxes serve to bring down the integrity of the game, specifically in relation to profitability. This lowers the utility of both the rec and the pro as both player types are interested in a game of the highest integrity. As a result economy (both poker and global) does not function at its maximum capacity. In light of this, we might understand poker is really a game of charity and sponsorship in which the lesser of the intellectually motivated part our society funds the greater. It is only by a misunderstanding of the economics of poker, and economics of the world, that one might impede the free flow of chips in any unnatural way.

A good thread on the subject of Recs and Pros and different players perspectives on the definitions.

A great example of moral poker and its effects on the general community via Victoria Coren.

A good debate on what is “moral poker”.


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