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That was a long time ago
September 20, 2010 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Ron Fanelli was a poker player. Victoria Coren liked him. Then she learned that he had confessed to brutally killing 'bar girl' Wanphen Pienjai in Thailand.

The online poker community (and the Thai Expat community) responds with equal parts disbelief, callousness, pleas for silence, and an outpouring of charity toward the murdered woman's family. Many find that the signs of his degeneration were clear from his forum posts.

Meanwhile Fanelli's fate still hangs in the balance, and his confession (like many other farang crimes) may not be enough to convict him.
posted by Potomac Avenue (86 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The "callousness" link reminds me why I tend to steer clear of unmoderated or poorly moderated online forums.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:54 AM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "The "callousness" link reminds me why I tend to steer clear of unmoderated or poorly moderated online forums."

Man alive, you ain't kidding.
posted by jquinby at 8:59 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Short version of Victoria Coren article:
That is the story I have written for Ron in my head. I know he ran out of money. I know his wife left him. I know he posted on internet forums about all the kinky things he was up to with Thai hookers. I know he has confessed to this murder. I don't know anything else. I have no idea how he felt, or feels, about anything.
posted by mazola at 9:05 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the best part of that thread is the whole side-conversation about 'geez, it's ridiculous they won't let us talk about this on the main forums, what censoring bastards, SILENCED ALL MY LIFE.' (Seriously, that's the best part. The rest is so odious that it defies description.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:05 AM on September 20, 2010


Former twoplustwo forums regular here. Just wanted to point out that BBV4Life (the subforum that both the "his forum" and "posts" link go to is generally somewhere around a /b/ level of discourse. My experience is that everyone posting there is generally trying to one-up each other in terms of who can appear to be the biggest misanthrope. For many of the poster it is, I am certain a game. Obviously this guy is scum, but I don't think anyone could have been expected to know to what extent based only on BBV4Life posts.
posted by 256 at 9:09 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that these comments represent "the online poker playing community". I imagine that there are vast numbers of online poker players, some of whom have found kindred spirits in a handful of online forums. Encouraged by the veil of online anonymity, this small minority has stumbled onto the 4chan experience. No offense to 4chan intended.

That being said, there are more people on this Earth than we wish who have callous disregard for other human beings, rationalized or justified by saying they are "just Thai hookers", or some other dismissive, bigoted, and fallacious argument.
posted by Xoebe at 9:20 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Phuket City Police Superintendent Wanchai Ekpornpit told reporters after the press conference that several factors appeared to have contributed to Mr Fanelli’s mental state at the time of the stabbing: he was drunk; his Thai wife had left him and taken their young child back to her native Maha Sarakham province in Isarn. He had also recently lost his Internet connection, he noted.
Heavens to Betsy, not the internet connection!
posted by delmoi at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this reminds me why I've basically checked out of poker and TwoPlusTwo after taking the game and the online meta-discussion of the game very seriously for about a decade.

As context, it may help those unfamiliar with the online poker "community" to know that the demographic of internet poker players skews heavily to young men who each seem to be living proof of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. The TwoPlusTwo sub-forum BBV4L ("Bad Beats and Variance For Life") and its many imitators seem to produce a concentration of this sort of callousness and fuckwaddery.

Also, "Christ, what an asshole."
posted by mosk at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2010


Koeslitz: That discussion isn't about a different main forum of donkdown, it's about the 2+2 forum, the largest poker forum in the world, deleting many threads about the murder and links to news stories from other threads. They're presumably doing it because Fanelli having been a longtime poster there reflects badly on them, but it's also because they have many contributors who live in Thailand and don't want to alert various authorities to the fact that there is large group of expats who are playing poker online there. I'm sure sure of the legality of US citizens playing online poker there, but I have heard that poker players are nervous about this story causing both the US government to become aware of their activities and the Thai government to grow hostile towards them living in Thailand.

256: Sup bro.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:26 AM on September 20, 2010


Actually kind of surprised to see this here. It's a pretty interesting story but I didn't know it would interest people outside of the poker community. I know this guy peripherally, it was really kind of a big deal when it happened. They tried to keep things quiet mostly because even online poker is illegal in thailand, but there's a large expat community that plays poker online for a living.

So 2+2 tried to keep things a bit quiet, especially in the Travel forums, to try to lower the profile of online poker players in thailand. They figured the murder was going to draw attention to 2+2 and specifically the thailand regular's thread and a lot of people were going to be outted as living in thailand and playing poker.

But yeah, BBV4L is basically 4chan. It's an... outlet. Much of 2+2 is a great community of poker players, with a lot of good strategy advice. There are a few popular forums that exist pretty much to just blow off steam, such as BBV4L, BBV (which it split off of), "Other Other Topics" or OOT, etc. There are also politics, relgion, science, sports, etc forums and these are all quite popular - poker players like to discuss random bullshit with people who also play poker. It's kind of a closed community.

(Disclosure: I'm a moderator on 2+2, under the same name as here)
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?
posted by Justinian at 9:36 AM on September 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Sorry, but: Christ, what an asshole.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:36 AM on September 20, 2010


Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?

Not really, and it's created the impression among a lot of Asian women in that region that white guys are all sleazy. I dated an Indonesian girl for a while and her and all her friends' first thoughts when a white guy was nice to them was that they were expecting an easy lay.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 9:48 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Justinian: "Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?"

Every reason Sleazy has to live there is a sleazy reason. Har.
posted by mkb at 9:49 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I miss rec.gambling.poker - helpful advice for newbies, and WSOP winners and no-limit big fish flaming the hell out of each other.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:53 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will have to check the rest of the links out later, but I thought the Coren article was really touching, if you read it right.
It's not so much about the hard details, but more about a human being coping with the fact that someone they were friends with had done some so atrocious.
In that sense, I thought it was fascinating.
posted by Theta States at 9:55 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?

Cheap living?
posted by ODiV at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that these comments represent "the online poker playing community". I imagine that there are vast numbers of online poker players, some of whom have found kindred spirits in a handful of online forums.
BBV4L (the forum linked to) is definately one of the lowest common denominator spots in the online poker world. There are many who post on 2+2 who find much of its content offensive and many others who avoid 2+2 altogether. I read it from time to time to keep up with what is going on, but I don't feel that it speaks to me or my friends. There is a kind of unpleasant frat house vibe on many poker forums because many successful online players are young males who dropped out of school and have money and no adult supervision and live a kind of young adult Animal Farm kind of life.
Heavens to Betsy, not the internet connection!
If you remember that he is a poker player, that is in fact a big deal and could be read as "he just lost his job" instead of just lost his ability to be a jackass on BBV4L.

I've personally not played with the guy, but a lot of my British poker playing friends have done so and the general reports are all the same. He acts at the table in a way calculated to annoy and pester other players and put them off their game. I've long believed that the poker world would be better place if we didn't label these kind of anti-social behaviors "funny" and tolerate them.

Nicely assembled post, Potomac Avenue. Bill Rini is a stand-up guy.
posted by Lame_username at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will have to check the rest of the links out later, but I thought the Coren article was really touching, if you read it right.

Yeah, this. I've never found out that my friend was a suspected murderer, but I have had to deal with smaller-scale personal "betrayals". Coren's self-examination seemed very thoughtful and spot-on to me.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2010



.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2010


I will have to check the rest of the links out later, but I thought the Coren article was really touching, if you read it right.

I agree. Those last two paragraphs are very good.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:03 AM on September 20, 2010


Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?

Manufacturing support for US/EU companies doing business in southeast Asia. Thailand is apparently more inviting than, say, southern China.
posted by underflow at 11:11 AM on September 20, 2010


Manufacturing support for US/EU companies doing business in southeast Asia.

Being sent somewhere for a corporate job isn't really the same thing as just moving somewhere, though. I'm talking about the guys who just decide that, hey, I think I'll pack up and move to Thailand.
posted by Justinian at 11:27 AM on September 20, 2010


I'm talking about the guys who just decide that, hey, I think I'll pack up and move to Thailand.

Usually they're teaching English, no?

Or maybe you mean "people over 40 that pack up and leave for Thailand"?
posted by Theta States at 11:45 AM on September 20, 2010


If you make your living off of online poker, you are almost guaranteed an asshole, since you make your living by taking money from other people without providing any sort of service to them. They have to be less intelligent than you are in order for you to take their money, so it breeds a feeling of superiority and contempt for people in general.

If you live off of online poker in Thailand, it means you aren't really as smart as you think you are, either, since you most likely don't make enough money off of it to live someplace expensive. In fact, if you really were as smart as you think you are, you could live off of table poker in a first-world country. The suppressed knowledge that you aren't really as smart as you think you are drives a cycle of self-contempt and contempt for your marks.

And so you're an asshole. It shouldn't be any surprise that occasionally an asshole kills someone.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:00 PM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"If you make your living off of online poker, you are almost guaranteed an asshole, since you make your living by taking money from other people without providing any sort of service to them."

You are providing them with entertainment. They enjoy playing poker and couldn't play it if they didn't have anyone else to play against.

"They have to be less intelligent than you are in order for you to take their money, so it breeds a feeling of superiority and contempt for people in general."

There's actually a lot of really smart professionals who play poker as a hobby, but don't bother to learn how to play *well*. Professional poker players don't make their living off of stupid people because stupid people don't make enough at their day jobs to afford to donk off that much at poker. It's the people who are smart enough to make a good living that feed the poker economy.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:06 PM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


If you make your living off of online poker, you are almost guaranteed an asshole, since you make your living by taking money from other people without providing any sort of service to them.

This is ignorant and downright offensive. It's also pretty clear that you don't know many people who play for a living - many of them are very nice people. Some of them are assholes.

Regarding the intelligence/superiority thing - I work with a lot of people who are scary-smart. They are almost uniformly terrible at poker, and I know, because I've played with them. There's a huge skill gap in poker and it's not all about intelligence.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:18 PM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


While I disagree with Jimmy Havok's premise, there are a lot of online poker players that are useless assholes, and despite many exceptions, I think we (as I am one, though not professional anymore and never especially any good) need to address this issue.

For a lot of online poker players, Thailand has become the go-to spot because it's lushly tropical, cheap, has relatively modern conveniences, the government pays little attention to what you're doing, and it is full of other poker players. But also, since poker players are well known for being anti-social and bad with girls--whether out of nerd nervousness, youthful churlishness or the short attention span and innate laziness of all gambling addicts--tales abound of their sexual exploits in Thailand, both paid for and not, often with a heaping helping of blindness to their own privileged status in relation to the women there.

Tolerance and encouragement for this kind of behavior both among expats and online goes beyond the jokey 4chan sexism beloved by BBV4L, and in this case, contributed to this dude losing control of himself and murdering an innocent prostitute.

The fact that twoplustwo refuses to let their members discuss these events as well as its own role in the atmosphere of assholism is, in my opinion, shameful to the whole community.

That's imo. Also imo Bill Rinni is awesome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:30 PM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


“How do you know if a man on a business trip is likely to visit a sex venue with his Thai colleagues?”
Well, the CBP goons better not ask him when he returns to the U.S.

Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?
Can’t imagine someone would just pack up and move there without thinking of some line of work. Lots of U.S. businesses out there. Marine propulsion is big.
There’s some instability there and so some disaster capitalism and merc work as well.

So, non-sexual, yeah, non-scuzzy …? Unless they’re an aid worker or NGO guy or other sort of humanitarian (or holy roller), they’d probably be suspect.
Sort of a corrosive atmosphere unless you’re very solid in your principles or ideals or work or syndicate or whatever. Some very skuzzy people have zero interest in low cost sex with prostitutes. Rakesh Saxena comes to mind as a (non-white) example. Not all forms of corruption/degeneracy cross over to other forms. Gambling doesn't necessarily lead to sexual degeneracy.

Fanelli seems like he following a path to self-destruction. Unfortunately sometimes people traveling that way destroy other people first. Again, there seems to be a nurturing environment for this sort of attitude in some places which opens the field to a kind of behavior and thinking that can lead to loss of self-esteem, etc. if one doesn't participate in or is unsuccessful at - in this f'rinstance - misogyny.
Speaking of which:
“Look, if you are really researching the social factors of this, you should consider if men might come here because they’re fed up with the ball-breaking females they have to deal with at home. Maybe they want to meet the sort of gentle, beautiful, kind-hearted women they’ll find here.”
Yeah, Koldowski doesn’t sound like the kind of guy I’d want to sit next to on a long flight either.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:45 PM on September 20, 2010


Unless they’re an aid worker or NGO guy

I wouldn't let our heroic aid workers off so easily. Never been to Thailand, but in West Africa a lot of that aid money goes right to the heart of the problem, though not exactly in the route intended...
posted by iamck at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2010


If you make your living off of online poker, you are almost guaranteed an asshole, since you make your living by taking money from other people without providing any sort of service to them. They have to be less intelligent than you are in order for you to take their money, so it breeds a feeling of superiority and contempt for people in general.
I'd consider making smug statements about people you apparently have never met a better predictor than playing online poker. The asshole:nice guy ratio is higher in poker than many other fields of endeavor, but there are a lot of fascinating and wonderful people who make their living that way. I'm not even defending myself here because I have a day job.
In fact, if you really were as smart as you think you are, you could live off of table poker in a first-world country.
Two of the three of the people I know who currently live in Thailand make more than 250k a year -- they choose to live where the living is cheap and the weather is great. I'm not sure that earning your living sitting on the beach with your laptop proves you aren't very smart.
The fact that twoplustwo refuses to let their members discuss these events as well as its own role in the atmosphere of assholism is, in my opinion, shameful to the whole community.
This. A thousand times this. Of course, they have a few other shameful episodes in the past as well. Sklansky's role in the Brandi thing is not exactly the stuff self-promotion is made of either. I guess in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I'm a moderator at a much smaller, but much nicer poker forum. Its like a brown trout convention at MeFi today.
posted by Lame_username at 1:13 PM on September 20, 2010


>The fact that twoplustwo refuses to let their members discuss these events as well as its own role in the atmosphere of assholism is, in my opinion, shameful to the whole community.

This X 1000. Look back a few years to the way 2+2 handled the Brandi Hawbaker scandal, which was also shameful and ended tragically. Mason Malmuth, the owner of 2+2, is very conscious of 2+2's position as the site of record for serious poker discussions (a point which may be debatable these days, but which is still more true than false). As he has written himself, first and foremost he's a book publisher, and he started the 2+2 site to help sell the strategy books he publishes. That he happened to be in the right place at the right time (and with the right book titles and authors in his stable) when poker boomed has been a very happy and profitable coincidence for him. However, in the aftermath of the poker boom -- which for a time saw his site crack the top 50 list of most heavily trafficked sites on the entire fucking web! -- he's tried to steer his site away from "controversy" at the expense of truth and transparency.

Poker is, by definition, a game of shadows played by people who have a heavily vested interest in creating false impressions and misdirecting their opponents. It's exactly the sort of milieu that will attract more than it fair share of psychopaths -- still small in real numbers but statistically large within this demographic. I don't think this would surprise anyone. However, given this context, it IS shameful that 2+2 doesn't work harder to make this community a better place, and frown more on the general assholery that pervades the community.

Obligatory "'Sup, bro?", etc.
posted by mosk at 1:19 PM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


You poker players can claim to be nice people all you like, but the bare fact of the matter is that you are taking money from people and giving them nothing, neither goods nor services, in return. Even worse is that many of the people you are taking advantage of have a psychological problem with gambling.

Poker is all about lying. If you play poker, you are a liar. If you play well, you are a good liar. There's no reason to believe anything a liar tells you, even if he believes it himself.

My brother plays poker online for play money. He is doing it for entertainment, and the people who play with him are doing it for entertainment. When you play for real money, it is no longer about entertainment, it is about hurting other people for your own benefit. You can lie to yourself and say that the people you are hurting can afford to lose that money, or they wouldn't be playing, but you play poker: you're a liar. Why should you believe yourself?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:06 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next up: Jimmy Havok condemns bartenders, strippers, and politicians.
posted by ODiV at 3:26 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


>When you play for real money, it is no longer about entertainment, it is about hurting other people for your own benefit. You can lie to yourself and say that the people you are hurting can afford to lose that money, or they wouldn't be playing, but you play poker: you're a liar. Why should you believe yourself?

That is certainly one point of view, but I think the reality is more nuanced than that.

Poker is not chess, a game in which all positions are exposed to all opponents. It is a game in which the participants have incomplete knowledge of the cards their opponents hold, and vice versa. Because of this, the game is based on misdirecting ones opponents. That is, in part, what makes poker a game of skill and not a game of chance. The skill is in the combination of which hands I choose to play and how I play them, and in my ability to discern which hands you would play, and how you would play them. The criteria for these decisions are fluid and change throughout the course of play -- the way I play a hand one time may have a bearing on the way I play a similar hand another time. Or it may not; there are many levels of thought that a good player will investigate before making a decision about how he or she will play a hand, including the incorporation of some "game theory optimal" randomization. In practice, the decision process looks something like, "I have X and I think you have Y, and I think you think I have Z..." The trick is to think one level beyond your opponent, and/or to convince your opponent to think the way you'd like them to: to convince them you are bluffing when you aren't, or to convince them you are not bluffing when you are. Yes, this means the game is rife with deception, but that deception is a central function of how the game must be played.

And as far as "playing for money" goes: as has often been said, poker is a betting game played with cards, not a card game in which one bets. It's not a game with betting, it's a game ABOUT betting. Remove or nullify that element and you may be playing cards, but you are not playing poker.
posted by mosk at 3:51 PM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Poker is all about lying. If you play poker, you are a liar. If you play well, you are a good liar. There's no reason to believe anything a liar tells you, even if he believes it himself.

I agree with you completely. Want to come over and play some Diplomacy? It sounds like your kind of game.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, this means the game is rife with deception, but that deception is a central function of how the game must be played.

I believe that is what I said. I can see where poker could be a valuable exercise for people who must engage in and deal with a certain amount of dissimulation in their profession (lawyers and politicians spring to mind), but if you make your living at it you are making your living by lying for the purpose of profiting from other people's weakness. There's no way around that.

The fact that your victims are volunteers is the only redeeming aspect of the situation. You may think that redeems it entirely, I do not.

Bartenders, strippers and politicians render a service for their pay. In case you hadn't noticed. There are immoral bartenders, strippers and politicians, just as there are immoral truck drivers and fast food cooks, but immorality is not a structural part of their professions.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:15 PM on September 20, 2010


Want to come over and play some Diplomacy?

I'm part of a board gaming circle that sometimes plays Risk 2210, and the discussions of why you should attack someone besides me can be quite entertaining.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:19 PM on September 20, 2010


I don't deal directly with the forums that have had posts about this, but today I talked to some people who are.

There was one thread that was censored, in the travel section, at the behest of some of the posters in it. The "censorship" was removing posts those posters had made that they thought would damn them in some way, in a thread that was likely to get a lot of attention now that the murder had happened.

Some other threads about the incident have been closed, but were not edited or modified in any way. Closing threads that are winding down or getting out of hand is fairly common practice, I don't think there's any reason to believe there's any attempt to stifle conversation about the incident.

If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, you can MeMail me here or PM me on 2+2 (RustyBrooks there also) and I'll look into it.


LOL at people who think poker is about lying. To some people, maybe. To me, no. I'm a very mathematical player, poker to me is about exploiting the mathematical mistakes most players, even skilled ones, make. Really, if you do not play poker seriously, do not try to tell me what poker is "about" or what poker players "are like". It's pretty ridiculous.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:34 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


>...immorality is not a structural part of their professions.

Is acting immoral? Actors routinely elicit feelings of joy, sympathy, anger, etc., from their audiences, feelings that contrived, but which are true enough to make us laugh or cry. We call this entertainment, and professional actors get paid handsome sums for successfully making their audiences experience these feelings. Their job is to lie so successfully that we are entertained by (and believe) their lies.

For some, gambling is a form of entertainment, but the emotional release -- joy or sorrow -- is tied to the risk (and potential reward) the gambler experiences. These are real emotions, perhaps more so than those experienced by an audience attending a staged performance. And just like a staged performance, the circumstances are contrived: money is wagered, and by wagering we contrive an investment in the outcome of the event upon which we have wagered.

You say that it is immoral for me to make money by tricking you, and that this immorality is ameliorated only very slightly by the fact that you have consented to voluntarily participate in a circumstance where trickery is a condition of the enterprise, a condition that all parties acknowledge ahead of time. I would suggest, instead, that the chance to partake in this sort of trickery is its own form of entertainment. We don't all get to act in movies or on a stage, but for X dollars I can sit down at a table with my "peers" and attempt to fool them all, just as they are attempting to fool me. If I want to fool the very best, I have to pay more for the privilege of making that attempt. That's where the entertainment comes in, and that's why people willing engage in this endeavor.
posted by mosk at 4:53 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing professional online poker players should consider is that in Australia, for example, five out of every six dollars gambled comes from problem gamblers. These are not people who can afford to lose the money they regularly do, and taking money from them - be it a casino or another punter - is an act of exploitation.

Now, if we're talking fifty dollar pots here, or a room full of professionals, that may be a different story, but here at any rate, the vast majority of money gambled is coming from people with an addiction.
posted by smoke at 5:00 PM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hmmm, rereading the above I want to clarify: I don't mean to suggest that the only reason to do this is entertainment, lol. When I played for serious money, it was money that I was trying to win, and any emotional benefits/discomforts were definitely secondary considerations.
posted by mosk at 5:06 PM on September 20, 2010


There was an economics blog I read for a little bit - I forget its name. It was written by a graduate student, I think, and she occasionally had articles on things like using credit cards to buy bonds interest-free and get free money. Stuff like that. Anyway, its author got into gambling when the online gambling sites were handing out money ("Sign up and we'll give you $100 in poker credits!") and you could use various tricks to multiply this. Then she got a boyfriend (after running an online application process - I kid you not) and he got her into real gambling, which is apparently incredibly profitable but for some reason she was still eating at free buffets in Las Vegas and trying to get people to sign up as affiliates with gambling sites. So it all got a bit transparent and sad and I stopped reading her blog.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:13 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Defining poker as "taking money from someone else" is really weird at a statistical level. If someone were more skilled than average at identifying fast horses and went to a parimutuel betting track and placed bets that won on average, I think we'd have a hard time saying that person was taking money from someone else - the skilled bettor was simply exercising his statistical advantage, and it would be hard to in aggregate identify any one person he was taking money from, and it would be very clear that the other bettors had equal opportunity to make profitable bets, but opted not to.

But in poker this is, at a high level, exactly what's going on. When an inexperienced player makes a bet they shouldn't and an experienced player is the benefactor (should the odds follow that particular edge), it's the inexperienced player who is freely providing the excess equity, free for whoever is able to identify it. Every hand is a multi-way transaction of people making actions with a positive average value (fast horses) and a negative average value (slow horses). And if you think bad players don't sometimes walk away with good players' money, you haven't seen enough poker.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:27 PM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jimmy, you just have no idea how poker works do you? God how many nights have I sat around wishing good players were like thieves and bad players were like ATMs...since when have you ever heard of a thief breaking into a house and losing $1000? On any given day the bad players can win a lot and the good players can lose. And everyone who does it, EVERY SINGLE PERSON, thinks they are the good player at the table. Yes, without exception, even the pathetic gambling addict who couldn't fold a napkin--he thinks he's got the game licked. Poker players (many of the best ones especially) can be charitable and honest far beyond what any regular person could imagine, because all we've got is our honor. Without honor, you don't get to borrow money, transfer funds between sites, get invited to good games, or even allowed into the cardroom. This guy was an anomaly is my point, he was an obvious scumbag based on his treatment of women and his attitude at the tables and for no repaying his debts, and folks should have seen it coming.

So anyway, bugger off.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:47 PM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


RustyBrooks: This thread was permanently moved to the moderator forum, de facto deleted. No plausible reason was ever given. Like I said, I understand that they wanted to protect the players that are in Thailand, but this was bigger than that. Then they locked this thread (and this one) questioning what happened to the threads. None of the users really cared too much, but it does seem like a shame to me that they chose sweeping something unpleasant under the carpet rather than addressing it and addressing their own conflicted interests in remaining the biggest source of travel info for poker players moving to Thailand as well. But that's kinda been 2+2s track record: take the path of least immediate controversy without any attempt to view a bigger picture that could be more beneficial long term. C'est le vie, c'est le sklansky.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:51 PM on September 20, 2010


I think reading the last post in those threads, by the closing mod, are pretty explanatory. The threads devolve into jokes, and often there are a half dozen of these ZOMG WHERE IS THE DELETED THREAD posted at once across 4 or 5 forums, many or most of them get locked or heavily moderated. It's very different than the metafilter style of modding and I don't 100% agree with it but I don't think anyone's really trying to cover anything up.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:01 PM on September 20, 2010


I don't know anything about the moved thread. Do you remember the post title? If it was moved to the mod forum I can look it up
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:02 PM on September 20, 2010


OK sorry to post so much serially. I figured out the title from the url (duh) and looked around. There are a few references to the thread in the mod forum, but nothing about moving it. In fact the main reference says "we're going to try to contain discussion about this there" (the thread you linked to). I have to admit I didn't follow the discussion that closely when it happened so maybe someone mentioned moving or closing it, but I don't remember t hat and I can't find reference to it now.

Anyway, yeah, occaisonally 2+2 takes very risk-averse stances. It sometimes makes them us I guess) look kinda short-sighted. The mods working there really do try to do a good job though, and there is a lot of spirited discussion about what the right thing to do is.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:08 PM on September 20, 2010


Thanks for looking through those Rusty, and I'm well aware of the differences of opinion and good intentions of the 2p2 mods, some are friends of mine. It's a minor point in the larger tragic story, but I still think that the general poker world's attempts to shut people up, to minimize public attention on bad things that certain players do, is part of why poker, as a lifestyle more than a pastime or a spectator sport, is dying again. That and the fact that everyone is broke.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:53 PM on September 20, 2010


So anyway, bugger off.

Now there's an honest argument, in distinct contrast to all the other twisty rationalizations offered up in defense of your "entertainment."
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:56 PM on September 20, 2010


I know of at least one milieu where gambling served a valid social purpose (so long as we restrict our view to only the social circle concerned, and ignore the society as a whole). This was among the noble class of England (and I suppose the rest of Europe as well), where those with income could share it with those who were, despite their membership in the titled class, impoverished, without placing them under a burden of obligation, simply by gambling poorly. There was a good deal of social status to be gained by losing cheerfully.

Of course, this applied only to gambling between the members of the titled class. Gambling with members of a lower class was a sure route to losing social status.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:27 PM on September 20, 2010


0xFCAF wrote: If someone were more skilled than average at identifying fast horses and went to a parimutuel betting track and placed bets that won on average, I think we'd have a hard time saying that person was taking money from someone else ...

Bets at the track are made between the punter and a bookmaker. Bookmakers cover both sides of the bet - that is, the volume of winning bets should equal the volume of losing bets. So your hypothetical race track gambler isn't taking money from anyone. In fact, he's saving money for other gamblers by shortening the odds on his preferred horse and lengthening the odds on the other horses (i.e., making those bets cheaper). But your comparison fails in another area: poker is partially about manipulating the other players so that they they bet more on losing hands and fail to call potentially-winning bets.

If your hypothetical gambler were like a poker player he'd be going around trying to get people to bet on losing horses, either to help a bookmaker who had failed to "lay off" his bets or so that he could get better odds on his own horse. In Australia this used to be called "touting" and it's illegal.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:12 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


My brother plays poker online for play money. He is doing it for entertainment, and the people who play with him are doing it for entertainment. When you play for real money, it is no longer about entertainment, it is about hurting other people for your own benefit.
This is self-contradictory. Either poker has entertainment value or it does not. In one case you are risking money and in another you are not, but that doesn't change whether the game is entertaining or not. There are groups of people who play poker for money amongst themselves for decades who apparently find it entertaining as hell. People as diverse as Mark Twain and David Mamet have written about the entertainment value of poker. At some point people might find that the amount they lose exceeds the entertainment value received, but that figure is probably at different points for different folks. Claiming that the entertainment value immediately vanishes when you play for money is transparently nonsense.
Poker is all about lying. If you play poker, you are a liar. If you play well, you are a good liar.
I realize that you may not believe this due to my highly advanced skills at deception, but this is a popular misconception about poker. Poker is not primarily about deception or bluffing. Many casual players believe that it is, but they are wrong. Those of us whose play is grounded in cold-hearted mathematical calculation will end up with the money most of the time.

Regarding your point about essentially taking money from people with problems of addiction (also expressed by others in the thread), I think that this is a problem many of us wrestle with from time to time. There are certainly a number of problem gamblers who lose money that they cannot afford to lose and I'd rather not play with them or take their money. However, there is no way for me to weed them out. I rationalize it by realizing that if they didn't lose it to me, they'd lose it to the casino or the lottery or the local sports bookie, but it is still an uncomfortable aspect of playing poker for money. Oddly enough, it is less troubling for me at higher stakes. Events that require a $10,000 buy-in don't attract a lot of people who don't have enough money for the rent. The $200 cash games offered me more angst as I watched people lose money they didn't look like they could afford.

I think a lot of the money I make on the stock money comes from people who make bad decisions about how to invest their money. When I profit from shorting a stock, it is coming directly from people who made poor choices. Some of them are losing their retirement. I can live with that too. Maybe I'm just a jerk.
posted by Lame_username at 8:12 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bets at the track are made between the punter and a bookmaker. Bookmakers cover both sides of the bet - that is, the volume of winning bets should equal the volume of losing bets. So your hypothetical race track gambler isn't taking money from anyone.
That isn't how parimutual betting works. All the bettors money goes into a pool, the house takes a cut and the winners share the money generated by the losers minus the house cut. The winners are taking the money directly from the losers minus a handling fee (or tax, I guess if the government is running the pool).
posted by Lame_username at 8:16 PM on September 20, 2010


That's not a great rationalisation, Lame-username, from a moral standpoint. You cannot control other people's behaviour, and nor are you expected to, but you can control your own. And you are essentially playing the part of a drug dealer with the excuse that if you didn't sell the crack, someone else would, and it's hard to tell the addicts from the hobbyists.

The difference between this and your share market analogy is partly a numbers game that a player that you should be able to appreciate, in that the vast majority of money gambled is coming from addicts, whereas the vast majority of shares traded are not. Further, losses in the share market are more often than not as part of a larger portfolio and thus risks are minimised, or at least spread, and additionally made as an investment or savings option and so typically not coming from people that cannot afford to lose - especially in the more risky investments. The legal framework around trading also protects the buyer in markets like Australia (I cannot speak for other places).

(Though I do agree more broadly with your comments and reasoned contributions, and the fact you're even questioning the basic moral framework of something that is obviously a large part of your identity and perhaps livelihood is genuinely admirable, and I hope you continue to reflect on it).
posted by smoke at 9:16 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"but for some reason she was still eating at free buffets in Las Vegas"

Because I'm a nit!
posted by Jacqueline at 9:28 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Smoke: no that condescending analogy is huge failure. Poker is game, not a drug. We're all playing on the same level of fairness which we agree as adults has certain risks.

These analogies are all very silly but let's make one more. If I challenge you at checkers and you think you can beat me and we both lay 20$ down and I beat you because I've studied the game more and am smarter than you, have I taken advantage of you? No, it was a fair game with known parameters and rules. Gambling addiction is bad, and casinos (online and IRL) should and do take measures to make sure people ruining their lives are kept away from the table, but most people playing poker aren't unstable, they are adults making decisions about their own abilities. They win or they lose, and a lot of it has to do with luck, but they're all betting on what they perceive as their edge against the other players.

Argh, whatever, could you just stop making analogies and state clearly why, based on poker's real rules and risks, you think a long term winning player is abusing some unfair advantage over the other players?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:51 PM on September 20, 2010


Potomac, it's because most money gambled (in Australia, and I've seen no data to suggest this is different from the world over, certainly not in Asia at any rate) is coming from problem gamblers with a gambling addiction.

People with addictions are not capable of making rational decisions about their own wellbeing. Facilitating that addiction means contributing to a problem with large social and economic costs in our community. Taking money from someone with a gambling addiction is taking advantage of someone's disability to line your own pockets.

Note, I am not saying that every poker game, every transaction, every player, etc. is a gambling addict, and that there can be no gambling or poker that is free from problematic issues. However, if you participate in the greater environment of gambling, especially when you're betting against other players as opposed to the house, then you need to recognise that you are at some point taking money from people with an addiction - a disability - and profiting from it, and you are facilitating a destructive habit that wreaks a lot of harm.
posted by smoke at 10:43 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You cannot control other people's behaviour, and nor are you expected to, but you can control your own. And you are essentially playing the part of a drug dealer with the excuse that if you didn't sell the crack, someone else would, and it's hard to tell the addicts from the hobbyists.
I'm not sure how I could be the dealer in your analogy. I'm more like a guy who buys the addict's stuff on craigslist so that they can keep buying. Not exactly admirable, but not quite the same as selling them the drugs. But I would agree that arguing from analogy is not helpful. Essentially, I consider myself a third-party beneficiary of their addiction and do not regard myself as having a responsibility to them. Even if I could identify the addicts, I'm having difficulty understanding what you would hold as the morallly correct action -- should I then move to a table with no addicts? If we agreed that my opponents were primarily gambling addicts who couldn't afford to lose, I would agree that I would be obligated to quit. I just don't think that is the case.
the fact you're even questioning the basic moral framework of something that is obviously a large part of your identity and perhaps livelihood is genuinely admirable, and I hope you continue to reflect on it
I don't know that I agree that it is a large part of my identity and I could probably find this a bit condescending, but I choose to imagine that you meant it kindly. Ironically, as I have attained greater success in poker, I have become less interested in it. I'll probably play at my twice-monthly homegame until I die, but my live and online play is dwindling to nothing these days. I'm used to questioning my basic moral framework since my day job is as an senior executive (Marxist doubts) for a massive defense contractor (issues galore!) while being an heart a pacifist liberal. Clearly I'm pretty good at rationalizing (and/or willing to sell my soul to the highest bidder).
most money gambled (in Australia, and I've seen no data to suggest this is different from the world over, certainly not in Asia at any rate) is coming from problem gamblers with a gambling addiction.
I'm extremely sceptical of such a conclusion. I've got serious doubts as to how one would even construct a study to come up with meaningful results. The best work I'm aware of in this area is the massive study done by the British Gambling Commission which concluded that 68% of the British public had gambled and 0.6% of the public were identified by the DSM-IV as problem gamblers. There is also some data that shows that problem gamblers favor games with immediate win/loss results like blackjack, craps or roulette. Poker doesn't provide the same rush, because it takes longer. In fact, most winning players refer to it as "grinding" which better reflects what it is like that some excitement filled rush.
posted by Lame_username at 11:07 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a huge skill gap in poker and it's not all about intelligence.

No skillgap online anymore. Everybody's solid.

BBV4L (the forum linked to) is definately one of the lowest common denominator spots in the online poker world.

However, if you stand it next to Donkdown/Neverwin, it starts to look like Metafilter by comparison.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:16 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apologies Lame_username, I should have qualified that. Obviously poker is a large part of your identity compared to the general population, and it's obviously something you care about, that's all that I meant by that comment, nothing more. I'm genuinely sorry if I've offended you; it wasn't my intention.

Regarding stats: knock yourself out, but believe me you're going to need more than skepticism, this is solid research (note, there is virtually nothing about poker - I imagine, like you, that problem gambling may be lower for poker, but to suppose it's non-existent would be quite ambitious).

I can see where you're coming from in regards to your other point - and you're right in that problem gamblers are a tiny proportion of overall gamblers - a bit over 1.5% in Australia. However, 5 out of every six dollars gambled comes from them because they gamble so much more more.

Again, I'm not saying that all poker is evil, all gamblers who aren't addicted are evil, etc. But I am saying that gambling - including poker - is a deeply problematic industry directly responsible for large amounts of harm in our broader society - almost certainly outweighing any good it provides - and it's something that needs to be recognised and acknowledged rather than wallpapered over (I'm not saying you were doing this).

This is not to imply I think all betting should be illegal etc - I made a hundred bucks betting on our last federal election! - but I do think that recognising the true costs of gambling is important - vital, in fact - framing to any discussion about gambling, be it policy development or more idle speculation this thread.
posted by smoke at 12:18 AM on September 21, 2010


I can see where you're coming from in regards to your other point - and you're right in that problem gamblers are a tiny proportion of overall gamblers - a bit over 1.5% in Australia. However, 5 out of every six dollars gambled comes from them because they gamble so much more more.
The question is how much those people play poker, compared to other gambling outlets.
posted by delmoi at 12:30 AM on September 21, 2010


Not really, Delmoi, unless none of them play poker, which would be outlandish to say the least.
posted by smoke at 12:34 AM on September 21, 2010


I can see where you're coming from in regards to your other point - and you're right in that problem gamblers are a tiny proportion of overall gamblers - a bit over 1.5% in Australia. However, 5 out of every six dollars gambled comes from them because they gamble so much more more.
I've read the complete South Australian Gambling Prevalence Report and can find nothing in there that supports this conclusion. I also had a quick scan of several of the executive summaries of the other reports and they don't appear to have that claim either. In fact, the 2007 Australasian gambling review says the following "Expenditure by problem gamblers is estimated to make up a third of total gambling expenditure." which would appear to be completely at odds with your 5 out of every 6 dollars figure and as far as I can tell is still in the category of pulling numbers out of their butt (see the "estimated" bit).

I also have a database of every hand I have ever played online. In it, I have several million hands of poker recorded. If I sort by the people who have lost the most money to me over the years, I can see that the top 2% of those people who have lost money to me contribute 6.8% of my total poker winnings, so this makes it quite plain to me that it is not possible for 2% of the public with "problem gambling" to be contributing 80% of my winnings. Furthermore, I note that the top five "losers" in my database are players that I have played many, many hands against and 4 of the 5 of them are actually net winners in my database, although they lose money to me.
posted by Lame_username at 6:50 AM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's reasonable to talk about problem gamblers and winning poker players as if they're separate groups. I'm sure there is a ton of overlap.

I brought up bartenders because they also could be seen as preying on a disease that involves not only financial consequences, but also serious physical consequences. The physical aspect of alcoholism make it seem a lot more dire to me than gambling addiction, but I won't condemn bartenders for it and I'm no prohibitionist. I don't think it's reasonable to hold them responsible for alcoholism. If someone's drinking at a bar and they're an adult, then you assume they know what they're doing and can handle it. If it becomes clear they have a problem then you stop serving them or throw them out.

If someone's playing poker with you, not only are you not the dealer or casino, but you're playing poker right along with them. You're an adult choosing to gamble after deciding if it's worth the risk. It seems pretty patronizing to assume that the other people you're playing with shouldn't have the right to make the same choice. If they're adults then you give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
posted by ODiV at 9:40 AM on September 21, 2010


Lame_username - you're right, I do apologise, they have updated their factsheets from when I last looked at this (I used to work in the alcohol and drugs sector, so there some overlap as you can imagine).

The best info regarding this comes from the Productivity Commission, and it highlights the wide variability they say - in relation to machines only (which in Australia would preclude quite significant losses at races, for example, and online betting agencies):

Based on available survey data, there are between 80 000 and 160 000 Australian adults suffering significant problems from their gambling (0.5 to 1.0 per cent of adults), with a further 230 000 to 350 000 experiencing moderate risks that may make them vulnerable to problem gambling (1.4 to 2.1 per cent of adults).

Although there are substantial difficulties in calculating gambling expenditure, it is estimated that problem gamblers account for 22 to 60 per cent of total gaming machine spending (average of 41). The likely range for moderate risk and problem gamblers together is 42 to 75 per cent.


It's clear you and I can disagree about the numbers all day long. But the fact is, if you've played millions of hands of poker, it's highly unlikely you haven't taken money from someone with a gambling problem.
posted by smoke at 4:10 PM on September 21, 2010


it's highly unlikely you haven't taken money from someone with a gambling problem.

But what does that even mean if it is true? It's highly unlikely Amazon.com hasn't sold stuff to someone with a shopping problem. It's highly unlikely UPS hasn't shipped stuff to someone with a hoarding problem. It's highly unlikely any bartender hasn't served a drink to someone with a drinking problem. I could go on for pages.

You also haven't made a compelling case that any significant portion of people with gambling problems are actually at the poker table rather than at the slot machines or the blackjack tables or the roulette wheel. When I play poker in Las Vegas, it seems like the vast majority of people are just tourists looking to have a good time, but when I walk by the slot machines it's hard to tell which of the zoned-out zombies have been there for the weekend and which have been there the last three weeks straight.

Taking it a step further, it's extremely likely the numbers you have don't even include poker activity because, by its nature of a game between players rather than against the house, it's impossible for anyone to know who's winning and who's losing in any given game unless they're actually asking people as they leave the table (in which case people would lie anyway, rendering the numbers useless). Do you have citation that explicitly calls out how (or whether or not) they measured activity among poker (not video poker!) players?
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:36 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's obvious that a poker player's morality differs from mine to to such a degree that I would have a hard time even describing it as a morality. For example, it seems to have no prohibition against taking without providing something in return.

It's a thin step above a mugger's morality.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:24 PM on September 21, 2010


0xFCAF wrote: it's extremely likely the numbers you have don't even include poker activity ...

His numbers certainly do not include poker activity. They're talking about gambling machines, what used to be called one-armed bandits. In that report they're typically called "poker machines". I did a quick scan of the linked report and poker was specifically mentioned only about three times, each time along the lines of "poker is another game that may be played at casinos". But to quantify it, all casino table games collectively (including poker) are about a quarter as popular as poker machines: 10% versus 39% of Australians play them. Only 5% gamble on other things besides casino games, racing, lotteries and so forth. I presume this includes private poker games, although I guess it may be under-reported.

Short version: poker is unlikely to be a major source of problem gambling in Australia. But I still think it's morally problematic.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:38 PM on September 21, 2010


That's right, Joe, and really, that's all I'm saying. I thought it was fairly uncontroversial, but I guess not!
posted by smoke at 9:19 PM on September 21, 2010


Short version: poker is unlikely to be a major source of problem gambling in Australia. But I still think it's morally problematic.

I play socially with friends, but I don't play online anymore. Not because I lost, but because I felt bad about winning.

Sure, for some people it's an affordable pastime. An entertainment. However, every now and again, you'll come across someone who begs you to ship it back because they've just lost their sainted mother's funeral expenses and without that $50, moms corpse will lie around stinking up the house, infecting their kids with ebola.

Of course, you can't do this, because you know damn well that if the tables were turned, they wouldn't ship it back to you. They'd cash out and rub it on their titties.

And many/most people who are grinding are deliberately targetting worse players than they are. Inevitably some proportion of whom will be degenerate gamblers. This isn't really deniable -- question the ethics of this and you'll get no shortage of people defending their right to do so, and the right of the fish to keep on donating, regardless of how much they lose.

All of which seems logically defensible, but it still made me feel kinda slimy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:12 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: How do you feel about people who go to estate, library, or garage sales and look for items like books which are drastically underpriced? Many serious book collectors and specialty dealers do this. They'll go, find a book they know they can quickly sell for $150 priced at $2, buy it and immediately put it up for sale at the higher price.

They are leveraging their better knowledge of the market for books to make a profit at the expense of people who lack that knowledge. I don't see must difference between doing that and leveraging better skill at poker to make a profit against people who lack that skill.

But most people see nothing wrong with buying items at sales or on ebay which they know is being priced too low. In fact, it's often seen as just good sense. Do you find shopping for bargains like this equally problematic?
posted by Justinian at 5:30 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who shop estate sales for unrecognized treasures perform a service: they find those treasures for people who do not have the time or opportunity to seek them out. Likewise, the seller is not disposed by time or inclination to seek out buyers who would pay more, so the middleman is doing him a service as well.

On the other hand, when you use your superior skills at lying to take money from another poker player, you aren't performing a service any more than a con man is performing a service when he recruits someone into a ponzi scheme. You're the moral equivalent of a Nigerian scammer.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:32 PM on September 22, 2010


Poker may or may not be immoral, Jimmy, but the argument you are making doesn't cut it. If someone wants to play poker, playing with them is performing a service. The other players are making their desire to play cards possible in the same way that a chef makes my desire to eat at a restaurant possible.
posted by Justinian at 8:24 PM on September 22, 2010


If someone wants to play poker, playing with them is performing a service.

If someone wants to get rich quick, getting them into a ponzi scheme is performing a service.

Actually, my stance has softened. I don't regard casual social players as being morally bankrupt (unless they victimize a supposed friend who can't play). My moral disdain is reserved for professional players. The only way you could make a living at poker is to seek out weaker players and victimize them, since if you played with equals, you wouldn't be making a living.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:05 PM on September 22, 2010


Jimmy: Meet Barry Greenstein.

Also, I'm genuinely curious if professional poker players are any less likely to be gambling addicts.
posted by ODiV at 11:03 PM on September 22, 2010


If someone wants to get rich quick, getting them into a ponzi scheme is performing a service.

Well, now, that's a completely different argument than the one you were making before. You had been claiming that the immorality arose because there was no service being provided. Now you're saying that the service itself is immoral.

That's a perfectly understandable position to hold but it is an axiomatic one rather than the logically derived one you were claiming before. You're saying that taking money from people through poker is inherently immoral, therefore playing poker seriously is immoral. I get that position. But like I said, that's an axiom that you are asserting and not an obvious derived-from-first-principles position.

The logical end-point of your position is that gambling is an inherently immoral activity. Someone always wins and someone always loses. Like I said, that's an understandable position but I don't think I can agree with it.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 PM on September 23, 2010


The logical end-point of your position is that gambling is an inherently immoral activity.

Exactly. It comes from the desire for something for nothing, and like all activities based around that desire, it is immoral. Even the losers are acting out of an immoral motive. That's the parallel with Nigerian bank scams.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2010


I'm genuinely curious if professional poker players are any less likely to be gambling addicts.
I don't want to tell too many tales out of school, but the vast majority of the old school players that you know from TV have a tendency to gamble on inherently -EV casino games, especially craps, which are certain money losers in the long run. Even Barry, who I love as a person, risks what I would consider to unwise amounts at the craps table. I've personally seen him with upwards of 250k on the craps table before. Some famous players are perpetually broke (like have trouble making the rent broke) due to problems with craps. That is another problem with the whole "problem gambler" thing. By many standards Phil Ivey is a problem gambler. I'd be shocked if his craps losses aren't well north of $1 million. On the other hand, every time I've played in a tourney with him he has crushed me and I wouldn't ever sit with him in a cash game. He may be a problem gambler, but there is no one on the planet who is a better poker player. Many younger players seem to be able to avoid the tables, but time will tell.
It comes from the desire for something for nothing
As the man said, it is a hard way to make an easy living. There is no one who plays at the levels I play (and I'd say I'm a high middle-stakes player) that hasn't invested hundreds, probably thousands of hours in study and practice and review. Like most fields of endeavor on the planet, success is primarily a result of hard work and intelligence.
My moral disdain is reserved for professional players. The only way you could make a living at poker is to seek out weaker players and victimize them, since if you played with equals, you wouldn't be making a living.
Obviously, most of this is your personal moral code and therefore not subject to debate, but your second sentence is fairly naive. Particularly in tourney play, you may play in an event that has 20,000 entrants, but you will only personally face a tiny fraction of them even if you win the thing. Most of them get eliminated on tables far away from you. Their collective weaknesses are the source of your profit, but you don't seek them out or ever see most of them. They just contribute to the prize pool.

In cash games, things are more predatory and when a new face sits down, there is likely to a run on the other seats at the table. When I used to play on Ultimate Bet, seats at Phil Helmuth's table would fill in minutes and if you got on the waiting list you often never got seated. Of course, he is a multi-millionaire and he's never going to miss the money he gave me. For the most part, there are just one or two tables at the stakes I like to play and I play whoever comes by. I will stop playing if I think everyone is better than me, but since I'm a egomaniac, that doesn't happen often.
posted by Lame_username at 12:10 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: How do you feel about people who go to estate, library, or garage sales and look for items like books which are drastically underpriced? Many serious book collectors and specialty dealers do this.

I think it's totally unproblematic. But I don't see many of them go on to start begging the people they sold their books to for a stake so they can go away and buy another copy of Ulysses.

How do you feel about loansharks who take advantage of people's inability to manage their money and poor credit rating to lend them small sums at astronomical rates of interest?

They're absolutely providing a service that the lender wants and signs up for, knowing what the interest rates are. I certainly wouldn't want to ban such a service.

But I wouldn't want to be the lender either. Nor would I personally invest in a company that made their money that way, even though you'd surely get a fine rate of return on your investment.

I don't have any moral problems with other people playing poker though. Whether they win, lose or whatever. All I'm saying is, winning made *me* feel scummy, often enough not to want to play with people I don't know -- because of the number of degenerate donkeys who'd end up chasing losses that they profess to be unable to afford.

You only have to hang out on any of the major sites for half an hour and you'll be inundated with beggars, hustling for a stake. FWIW, I completely believe in an individuals right to put any substance into their body that they choose to put in there -- but I don't think I'd want to take up crack dealing for a living either, even if it were legal. Though I know lots of people smoke cocaine products without experiencing any significant problems whatsoever.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2010


Like most fields of endeavor on the planet, success is primarily a result of hard work and intelligence.

Just imagine if you did something useful with that hard work and intelligence, instead of using it to dupe people out of their money.

Never mind.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:23 PM on September 24, 2010


Hi, Bill Rini here. Thanks for all the positive comments.

That being said, there are more people on this Earth than we wish who have callous disregard for other human beings, rationalized or justified by saying they are "just Thai hookers", or some other dismissive, bigoted, and fallacious argument.

That was exactly why I decided to act. I saw several people within the poker community, in fact several well respected people in the poker community, calling Wanphen a "Thai hooker" or a "Thai prostitute" and I couldn't help but want to set the record straight.

In my eyes, Ron chose his own path to destruction. He is smart and had plenty of opportunities open to him. And I see guys go down the drain here in Thailand all of the time. They come here, can't make money, end up scamming friends or involved in crime and end up in jail. This place has a lure to it that is hard to describe but that lure can destroy people and make them do things that they wouldn't otherwise do just so that they can continue to stay here.

On the other hand, Wanphen had little choice about her lot in life. She was born poor and even then had the additional burden of supporting two small children from a previous Thai husband in a country that doesn't believe in child support or alimony. The best job a girl in her situation can get is something paying somewhere around 6000 or 7000 baht per month. That's about $200 USD.

She did what she had to do to survive. And to dismiss her humanity by writing her off as merely a Thai hooker inspired me to try to do something.

Are there a lot of non-scuzzy reasons for single middle aged white American dudes to be ex-pats in Thailand?

Yeah, plenty. Have you ever been here? Have you ever experienced the sabai-sabai culture? There are plenty of guys here for the sex and partying but there are just as many (if not more) here because of the laid back lifestyle.

There's an old joke about a businessman who take a vacation down in Mexico and meets a fisherman. The two start talking and the businessman talks about all the stuff he's done his entire life in the hopes of one day being able to retire and relax and just sit around on a beach fishing all day. The fisherman looks at him and says, but I haven't done any of that and I sit on the beach and fish every day.

It's sort of like that.

If you live off of online poker in Thailand, it means you aren't really as smart as you think you are, either, since you most likely don't make enough money off of it to live someplace expensive.

Well, I guess a lot of the guys making their living playing poker would say that is you who is not as smart as you think you are because you choose to slave away someplace expensive when you could be living in relative paradise cheaply. Sort of works both ways.

:-)
posted by billman at 12:43 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess a lot of the guys making their living playing poker would say that is you who is not as smart as you think you are because you choose to slave away someplace expensive when you could be living in relative paradise cheaply.

As if the opinion of useless parasites matters.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:34 AM on October 12, 2010


If it doesn't matter why are you still in this thread insulting people?

Maybe you should be seeking therapy instead to deal with whatever it is that has you so embittered. Denigrating people over the Internet can't be a very productive way of moving past it.
posted by ODiV at 6:38 AM on October 13, 2010


On the other hand, you lot keep coming back defending the indefensible.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:33 PM on October 13, 2010


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