Monday, September 17, 2007

The Sickness

Kevin: When someone gives you 10,000 to 1, you take it. If John Mellencamp ever wins an Oscar, I'm gonna be very rich.

"The Office"

There is an old saying that if an offer seems too good to be true, then it must be. Especially when it comes to someone offering you something for free, you know there must be a catch – the sceptic in us all immediately pipes up and probably rightly so. I've tried something very similar to friends and other degenerates I meet at the poker table. I have told them about some of the kick ass affiliate deals I have and what they can do for someone looking to start an online bankroll for nothing but don't want to clear raked hands and so on. It was a good deal where I offered them $150 to just deposit into a room – play or not, I don't care but once you have deposited the money is theirs. Withdraw the next day without playing a hand if you like – you're still getting the $150.

The BS radar on some people spiked, and they asked what the catch was. When I explained that there were no hidden costs, no follow up needed and no on going commitment, they still seemed a little hesitant and suspicious. How can online card rooms and casinos afford to do this – why isn't it sending them broke?

Because for 10 bonus whores I send to these sites that take out $150, they'll get 1 person that will drop $10K a month to them, every month for the next year.

When Joe Hachem was on a local football TV show, the resident comedian told the joke: How do you get a gambler off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.

Even the pros get broke from time to time, so how are the mere mortals and weekend warriors supposed to keep their head above water? Obviously the answer is to play within their means – but for some people that is a problem and something that is hard to talk about with poker loving folk. Maybe that's because we all have been in that place at some stage, or maybe it's because as a poker player you are pretty much conditioned to take advantage of when someone else is in that situation – the donkey, the fish, the pigeon, the ATM – we all want that weaker player to have deep pockets and a seat at our table. What if they have a problem and can't walk away? Is any poker player in a $10/$20 or $200NL game going to tell them they've had enough and should leave? Less than 1% would tell a stranger they should call it quits.

I saw something similar at the casino once, where in typical fashion a guy who had a little too much to drink (just drunk, not falling over or making a problem or anything) was dipping into his pocket time and time again, as he just "bluff-called™" another all-in with 4 th pair no kicker. I was a railbird at the time, sweating a buddy of mine at the table who was doing well. When Drunk Man had lost his first buy in he was looking for a drink but the waiters and waitresses were few and far between, so I offered to grab him the round he was after, without payment of course. It was just 3 beers for him and a few of his mates at the table. All poker aside, they were top blokes and everyone was having a good time – why not right?

Then while I was waiting for the drinks at the bar, I was thinking to myself that my nice deed would yield some karma points with the poker demons, when I then considered what the other players might see as my reasoning for doing this. My buddy at the table had just won a nice pot of Drunk Man, and now I was making sure he was getting more alcohol so he stayed at the table. Doesn't it look like I am trying to make sure he is happy for my buddy to keep fleecing him? While I obviously wasn't, I could see how some cynical could see it that way.

By the look of the guy, I'm sure he could afford it and eventually one of his mates thought it was time to call it quits. He was playing well within his monetary limits, but was bleeding buy ins even though he was not visibly on tilt. Judgement definitely impaired, but not by tilt.

You hear stories about the person who fleeced a business out of $100K to put it all into the slots, or to play roulette at the casino and lost it all. We think about these people and how stupid what they were doing seems, and perhaps that's because we know that they don't have a chance at winning – and even if they did, who knows how long they will hang on to it? Poker is slightly different, because on the face of it any player can turn a profit. The odds are not stacked against anyone – well, not explicitly like in roulette or slot machines.

I know a few people in our home games that have a problem with gambling. I mean, we all have some of the sickness, but we control it and know when our limits have been met. Others do not and continue to gamble and they are always on the worst of it, looking to get lucky. When I have a good night, it's usually because of one of these guys.

Sure, we don't play at levels that could adversely affect their financial situation – as far as I know – but I'm sure there are plenty of others in home games and casinos around the city that do.

I have been around gambling ever since I can remember. I have had a bet on the Melbourne Cup horse race ever year since I have been alive – not really sure how I selected a horse when I was 3 months old, but I did something and Pop put $2 on it. Dad doesn't mind a punt either, but we've always had the mind set that you've lost any money as soon as you gamble it – anything you get back is a bonus. Similar to when you walk into the race track – any money in your pocket at the days end is a bonus. The rest was a fee for the days entertainment. And if you end up in front then it's your shout.

I feel that everyone has a responsibility to themselves – we're all adults, and you have to take ownership of your choices and decisions when you play and for how much. Is that just a way of me avoiding any guilt I may have towards taking people's money when I know I have an advantage over them? It's a justification, but sensible reasoning and it has always been there even before I knew about poker.

I have felt near enough to gambling addictions before – no things other than poker. Fortunately I am quite thrifty, so losses do not tend to be too great many times, and on the few times when there were large losses they were from winnings and not initial outlay. Chalk it up to experience, and don't do it again. I have that discipline to move on from it, but you see people that can't all the time.

I have felt addicted to poker at least once – sure, I've always loved playing but there were a few times where I just had to play, just had to get to a table and through some chips around. I ended winner that night though, and felt satisfied that the itch had been scratched.

But for every addict in control like myself, there are 2 that are not. Maybe more.

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