There are plenty of mistakes that you can make on the poker tables or in any form of gambling. From basic bet sizing errors, misreading your cards or an assortment of other actions, they can be easily corrected or eradicated through repetition at the tables and concentration on the game. But there are some things that are a constant battle for people in their gambling and poker endeavors, just as there are in their personal ones. Let’s call them the “Seven Deadly Sins” and they are a part of the relationship between gambling and religion.
The “Seven Deadly Sins” are a tenet of religion – in particular the Catholic faith but also found in Christianity – that attempt to direct the conduct of their denizens. Through indicating that the Church – and particularly whichever deity is being followed – isn’t supportive of such actions, they hope to change the behavior of their congregations. Gambling is one of those areas where the “Seven Deadly Sins” can arguably be found in full bloom. In examining each of those seven items – let’s put it in the context of poker, for example – gambling and pursuit of money can be found.
You might wonder how lust can enter into the realm of poker, but stick with me here (and on the other ones) – they will apply!
Lust is the uncontrolled desire for various things in life – money, fame, power. It is a lack of self-control that leads one to be lustful for those things. Too much lust can lead one into a whirlwind, constantly chasing that which they desire while never reaching it.
For example, constantly seeking the fame of poker could harm your game in trying to do things that aren’t in your poker toolbox, such as playing games that aren’t your strengths. If one is able to be honest with themselves and avoid the temptation of the supposed “fish” in a game that isn’t their strength, then they are keeping the sin of lust at bay.
We have all done it at one point or another. Sitting at the poker table, we’ve been able to increase our stack by 25%, maybe 50%, and we really should get up and leave. But the game is good, we rationalize. We can make more, I’m not tired. This is the sin of Gluttony raising its ugly head and, more often than not, it has decimated a chip stack (take it from me…been there, done that, got the tee-shirt). It can also be demonstrated in playing at stakes too high for the bankroll that you have.
The easiest way to not violate this sin is to set the “stop” level, whether it is a “win” rate or a “loss” rate (in fact, both are suggestible). If you double your starting stack (buy in for $200, chip up to $400), you walk off. Ergo, if you buy in for $200 and lose it, you walk away. Similarly, if you have $200, you’re playing $1/$2, not the $5/$10 table and the sooner you realize that, the better.
It may seem to go against the idea of poker – you WANT your opponent’s money – but too much greed can be a bad thing in the game. It can make a player make decisions that they normally wouldn’t make, take chances that they normally wouldn’t take and, in the end, lose more money than they should have. How many times have you “floated” a bet just on the chance that you thought you might be able to force an opponent off on a future street? While sometimes a good tactical move, it can also be a bit of greed speaking in that you are looking to greedily grab the hand from someone.
There is a time, as Gordon Gekko said, when “Greed is good” in poker. Too much of it can be detrimental to your game as no one will take you seriously and you’ll end up losing more in the long run. Be judicious as to the usage of Greed in your game, else the sinful violation unleashes havoc on your bankroll.
We’ve all seen the examples of Sloth at the poker table. It may come in the form of the man in the Six Seat who has been on a 48-hour bender because his rent money is on the table; it may come in the form of the man who orders a four course Chinese meal from the restaurant in the casino; it may be the woman splashing her drink on the felt.
Hey, pretty simple here. Try to step away once in a while and at least “freshen up” a bit at the tables. Damnit, DON’T EAT at the table (I really don’t want your General Tso’s Chicken residue all over the chips I’m stacking) and keep your beverages in the glass (even you, Bachelorette Girl!). Probably the easiest sin to eradicate at the poker table.
And here’s the second easiest sin to eradicate at the poker table. Wrath is, quite simply, “tilt.” Rage, anger, the uncontrolled desire to throttle the player against you who just cracked your pocket Kings with a 9-3 because he was in the big blind and “had to defend” …all examples of “Wrath” that can destroy your poker game. Although sometimes righteous (see Kings versus 9-3), it only serves to distract you from your first objective – making the right decisions – and your second objective – making some cash. Controlling Wrath or “tilt” should be paramount to a poker player and, if you can’t do it effectively, you probably should wait until you can to get on the poker table.
Envy is much like its partner, greed, but it is more about being rueful of someone’s good fortune and/or taking pleasure in their downfall. While we always are looking to beat our opponent fair and square on the poker tables, we should never take pleasure in their losses, even if they are an insufferable lout (AKA Hevad Khan circa 2007, Curtis Rystadt in 2014, Justin Schwartz last year).
Taking joy in our poker achievements is nothing to be ashamed of, but being a little TOO boastful of them can see the tides turn against us. Remember for a time how people say they liked (insert poker professional’s name here) but, after that player continues to either be successful, boasts too much about it and/or demonstrates how much BETTER they are than anyone else, the community can turn against them (see definition: Hellmuth, Phil or Bilzerian, Dan)? That’s pride doing the talking.
The best way to avoid this is to remember that it can all be taken away in a moment, especially in the world of poker. Every player has been to the highest of peaks and has plunged to the depths of the valleys below. By keeping in mind the Seven Deadly Sins of Poker – and walking a reverent line through the poker room – perhaps with success from the grace of the Poker Gods you will go.
In Part Three of this series, we’ll actually go to those who might know something about the subject. We’ll speak with some religious leaders and ask them the key question – what is the relationship between gambling and religion?