Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.
For eight years, I haven’t talked much about cheating at poker. Unfortunately, today’s word “cheat” came up at random from a pool of candidates whose size can be calculated by 16,384 times the reciprocal of 2 to the 14th power. Here’s a self-interview, in which I get to ask my own questions and respond however I like.
Question 1: How come you haven’t talked much about cheating publicly in recent years?
After decades of dealing openly with the topic and headquartering my Cheater Monitoring Service at two different casinos, I was slapped around by entities and players I considered my allies in efforts to keep poker honest.
It happened a decade ago, when I announced that there would be a public interview with three cheaters who promised to expose all. In recorded, preliminary, private questioning, they ended up making many unfounded and false accusations along with some legitimate ones. Because of that, I decided not to conduct public interviews, but the cheaters themselves distributed stolen video. Even today, this subject is sensitive. But you can do an Internet search (both on the web and in the Usenet newsgroups) if you want to piece it together for yourself.
I learned from that episode. I also concluded that you can’t combat cheating effectively in a public arena where anonymous trouble makers contribute to the conversation and nobody, except those who are objectively investigating, have a clue who’s telling the truth and who’s lying.
Poker today is played in the spotlight. It’s no longer unnoticed in dingy backrooms. So, management and players have more to protect. It’s obvious that poker is more honest today than ever and that most real-world and online poker rooms try to ensure poker integrity. But it’s a challenging job, and one that can best be handled behind the scenes. That way, the weapons used to combat cheating are usually a surprise to the criminals.
Question 2: Did you say “criminals”? Is that how you feel about players who scam poker?
Yes. And there should be an even more repugnant word for them. Guys who rob convenience stores are very bad dudes, in my book. But at least you know who they are. They’re the ones in the masks, holding the guns.
But poker is a game of implied promise. We pledge to each other that when we sit at the table, we’ll be playing as individuals, not as teams. An honest player simply cannot compete with opponents who join together and help each other out at the table. And that’s why I keep reminding people that poker partners are serious criminals. You’re honoring your pledge; they’re not — and there’s usually no way to know it! They’re not just stealing from a Seven-Eleven, where everyone knows a crime is committed. They’re destroying fair chances to win, hope, homes, fortunes, and more. And they’re doing it while counting on you to keep your word to them.
If poker partners sound to you like the lowest bacterial life on earth, then we share similar opinions.
Question 3: What can honest players do?
Don’t tolerate cheating. Don’t look the other way. Don’t just get out of a game and seek safer grounds. Say something, if you’re sure. Scream. Our game is too important not to protect. Poker is all over television. It has crawled out of dank windowless basements and been exposed to the sunlight. Honor our game by not letting anyone cheat. The days when people glamorized and envied poker cheats are long ago, yesteryear, before humans walked upright. Protect me and I’ll protect you.
Question 4: What inspired you to do this interview after saying so little about cheating for so long?
Question 5: Ford?
Yes, Ford. Ford Motor Company has created the most obnoxious advertisement in history. Hardly anyone is saying much about it, which is scary.
The announcer promoting a pickup truck says: “I figure the engineers who built the all-new ’09 F150 are probably the same guys we all cheated off of in science class. We’re thinking about pizza; they’re thinking about aerodynamic weight properties. Crazy smart.”
Right there is the end of poker. Yes, I realize that the latest generation doesn’t consider cheating something that makes you a social outcast. Recent polls report that most students think cheating on tests is okay — and many do it. And, apparently, Ford thinks it’s cool to target an audience of that age with those beliefs. I pity any teachers who still try to teach that cheating is a severe offense, that if you do it, you’re stealing the future of others who won’t excel as much comparatively from their efforts. Here’s a corporation of world stature claiming “we all cheat, so let’s buy this truck.” To me, this is beyond reprehensible.
I teach and admire many aspiring young poker players. They definitely don’t share Ford’s outlook.
Still, beware of the next generation of poker players. They’re on the way. — MC
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Audience