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Are Poker Players Predators?

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Oct 16, 2013

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Linda JohnsonEvery year for the past 11 years, Jan Fisher and I have taught the poker classes and been the tournament directors for the poker tournaments at Mickey’s Camp in Indiana. Mickey’s is a charity camp that is attended by very high-profile people; there are lots of doctors, lawyers, philanthropists, and politicians among the campers. They spend two days networking and socializing at Bradford Woods, a beautiful area spread over 2,400 acres in the woods in Martinsville, Indiana. Much of the tuition they pay to attend goes to local Indiana charities.

Mickey’s Camp hosts a woman’s camp and a men’s camp. This year, after giving a lecture about poker and the poker lifestyle during the men’s camp, one participant raised his hand and said, “I’m not trying to be rude, but isn’t poker playing a predatorial profession?” I had to think about it for a moment before answering, “Well, I think it depends on the individual poker players…some could be called predators and others are not.”

I explained that I had struggled for many years with the concept of taking money from others and not really contributing to society. However, there are many things that players can do to give back. First of all, poker players help provide jobs for cardroom employees. If there were no games, there would be no need for the thousands of poker dealers, floor people, cashiers, shift bosses, cardroom managers, and so on. Most players tip when they win a pot and that is helping others to make their livings.

I also think the manner in which you conduct yourself at the poker table can help determine if you should be classified as a predator or not. I always believe you should do your best to try to win, but the way in which you win is what counts in my opinion. You can play fairly and not angle shoot. You can provide feedback when you see situations or problems in the cardroom that need to be addressed. You can follow the rules and make sure others do too.

You can be a decent human being at the poker table. People who beat their opponents and then berate them or make fun of them are predators. There are bad winners all the time. For the first few years that I played poker professionally, I felt badly for my opponents when they lost, especially if they were older and reminded me of my father. Eventually I grew to understand that those people are going to lose anyway. Someone is going to win their money and if it is me, at least I am compassionate and try to make sure they have fun and keep their dignity, even though they are losing. I always have three goals when I go out to play poker and each of the three is important to me: One is to make money, one is to have fun, and the third is to make sure that my opponents have fun. Being nice to your opponents has both emotional and financial value at the poker table. I’ve found that if your opponents like you, they don’t mind losing to you. Players know in advance that if they put bad beats on me, I’m not going to scold them and tell them how badly they play. Therefore, they are more inclined to go for long-shot draws against me, which equates to profitability for me in the long run.

I explained to the gentleman who had asked the question that many poker players give back in one way or another. Poker players are generous for the most part. Millions of dollars are raised every year in charity poker events. Many players pledge to donate some of their winnings to charity. I pointed out that volunteering my time at Mickey’s Camp each year is a way to help raise money for various Indiana charities. I’m also one of the proud founders of PokerGives.org.

Another way to give back is to help educate other poker players so that they can last longer at the poker table and even become winning players. I fulfill part of my need to provide a service to the poker community when I teach WPT Boot Camp or host seminars and retreats to groups all over the country. I enjoy mentoring players through various poker discussion groups. I answer hundreds of emails every month from players asking poker questions.

As a poker player, you have to decide how you want to play the game and what, if anything, you choose to give back to the community. I believe that you still can be successful without being a predator. ♠

Linda is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. She is available to host poker seminars, corporate poker events, and charity tournaments. You can contact her through her website at www.cardplayercruises.com.