In the history of poker, there have been a plethora of instances where ethics haven’t been a part of the game. Look back at the early days, when sharps traveled up and down the Mississippi and worked the “rubes” with marked decks that allowed them to stack the deck. Fast forward to the days of poker in Texas and Las Vegas where teams would work together to fleece the unaware from their money. It may seem a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but are today’s poker players – and, in particular, today’s online poker players – bereft of ethics?

Interesting but Unofficial Polling Says Yes

If you were to look at a very interesting but completely unofficial (and unscientific) poll from a top poker professional, you’d be inclined to say yes. Team partypoker player Patrick Leonard asked a couple of questions of his nearly 10,000 followers regarding what course of action they would take on the virtual felt. The responses were surprising, but who they came from also was quite interesting.

In one question, Leonard asked this:

As you can see, the results of the poll were stunning. More than 8 out of 10 players said they would aggressively and actively steal the blinds – in essence not giving the offline opponent a chance in the tournament. Furthermore, Leonard also found that a player up against an offline opponent in a heads up sit and go would seek out that player at other tables and attack there also.

Responses from Pros? Maybe Surprising…

Leonard’s unofficial polls had several top pros talking about the situation. World Series of Poker bracelet winner Bryan Piccioli responded to Leonard, saying that “it is a part of the game” to aggressively attack an offline player’s blinds (he did note that if he knew it was a “reg,” he might not be as aggressive). Longtime poker veteran Matt Stout, who has nearly as much earnings online ($3.8 million) as he does live ($4.1 million), stated that he “used to sit out and wait” but that nowadays you couldn’t guarantee that you would get that same consideration from your opponent. This, in Stout’s mind, made it justifiable.

For those that weren’t top professionals, there was a bit of a disappointing result. Those players chided the pros, stating that “they would steal because they want the money” or that “their opponent would do it if it were reversed.” Basically, there was a severe lack of ethical conduct on the part of poker players as a whole with the case presented.

Indicative of Today’s Society?

Ethics is allegedly important in society, but you wouldn’t know it from a look at some polls. In a survey from the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, 43,000 high school students in public and private schools were surveyed as to their actions in education. The results showed some stunning results that demonstrate ethical behavior isn’t being learned or taught in the school systems.

Of those 43,000 students, 59% admitted that they cheated on tests during the last year and 34% admitted that they did it more than twice. One out of every three students stated that they plagiarized an assignment by using material from the internet. It is also prevalent in college; a Rutgers University study showed that 7% stated that they, nearly word for word, copied work from another source without citation.

There is also plenty of examples of unethical behavior in the business world. Former business “bad boy” Martin Shkreli was lambasted for hiking the price of a key drug to fight infection by 5000%, and he isn’t the only one. Marathon Pharmaceuticals did the same with a drug called Emflaza, taking the price for a year’s supply from between $1000-$2000 a year to over $89,000. And it is well known that companies have a “cost effective” analysis method that weighs the risks of violating the law – or even killing someone – versus what profits can actually be made before being held responsible.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by Leonard’s poll results. As can be demonstrated, there’s plenty of unethical behavior in many areas of life. Instead of taking the “high road,” perhaps poker is just reflecting the current standards and norms that we as humans are exercising.

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