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Daniel Negreanu's Poker Blog

My Take on Poker and Gambling
28 Nov 2014

When I started out my career as a professional poker player it required me to answer a few questions:

Am I OK with making a living that requires me to take money from people who are less skilled?

Am I OK with the fact that some of those people are making very bad decisions for themselves and possibly their family?

Am I OK with taking advantage of the fact that those people donít know the odds are stacked against them?

Am I OK with playing poker in a casino that offers games of chance to people where the house holds an edge big enough to make sure they could never be long term winners?

Am I OK with eating dinner, or seeing a show in a casino where some problem gamblers are ruining their lives?

Well, the simple fact that I chose poker as a career and have been doing so for 20 years is answer enough. Iím aware of the dangers that exist for people when it comes to gambling. Whether itís poker where the professionals fleece the novice players, or the casinos offering ďfun gamesĒ that are unbeatable.

I would personally feel like a hypocrite if I justified that itís OK for me to take money from problem gamblers, but it's not OK for the casino to do the same. if itís wrong itís wrong, no matter who profits. As much as weíd like to separate poker from gambling, poker played for money IS gambling. There will be some winners, and a vast majority of losers. The stock market and sports betting are no different. Plenty of people make bad decisions in the market and on Sundays when they overextend themselves on NFL games. Poker, stocks, and sports, are all beatable games if you put in the hard work. The really hard work that most of you will not put in, but convince yourself that you have. When you lose, you may blame bad luck. You may be convinced by ads, marketing, or by watching other young pros win millions online, that this could be you. It could, but it probably wonít be. You may believe that you are a sports guru and that you can pick winners based purely on your instinctual gift to evaluate teams. Or maybe you think you are the next big wig day trader who is going to make millions in the stock market.

Examples exist in society of people we may aspire to be that have beaten the odds and made it to the top of poker, sports betting, and the stock market. I donít know of any such delusions when it comes to casino games. The math is quite simple, the more you play the more you are going to lose. You ďcouldĒ win, and you will win occasionally, but the game is obviously rigged in such a way to ensure the house always wins in the end. With casino games, there is no hope or illusion that you could become a roulette superstar. It is not a fair game, in the sense that with hard work you could beat it. That opportunity doesnít exist in casino games. Having said that, a recreational player who puts down $100 at a blackjack table is going to win more often than he would at a poker table. His ROI is going to be better at a craps table then it would be sitting down at a poker table full of sharks. Heíll lose either way of course, the only difference is who gets his money. The casino, or the shark poker players taking advantage of the disadvantaged recreational player.

I have thought about it a great deal and I donít see how I could rationalize being against casinos profiting from disadvantaged players, but all for taking those same types of players money for myself. If I truly felt that gambling was wrong and against my beliefs, that it should be illegal, it would require me to stop entering casinos for any reason. Not to see a show, or have dinner, and certainly not to play poker. Thatís what a stand looks like to me.

Iím fortunate enough to have more money than I could spend in my lifetime. I donít need to earn another penny the rest of my life and Iíll be OK. Iím not bound to gambling or a paycheck. Money has never been the driving force behind what I do. I do enjoy playing poker, sometimes betting on sports, certainly betting on golf, and occasionally playing craps and roulette despite knowing that Iím not going to finish ahead in that endeavor. I appreciate the fact that I have the right to do so in the city I live in. I enjoy playing poker online as well, and would love the option of also being able to bet on sports online. Playing online casino games doesnít interest me personally, but I am pro freedom to choose.

I both respect and admire Vicky Corenís personal stance on online casino gaming. I assume she asked herself a lot of tough questions, and in the end, drew a line in the sand that she wasnít willing to cross. I suppose everyone has their own line in the sand and they arenít all going to be in the same place, and thatís neither right or wrong. What matters most is that when you draw that line you also follow it up with doing what you feel is right, and Vicky deserves all the kudos in the world for doing that.

Iím aware that on my climb to where I am now it required me to step on a lot of heads. When I win, others lose. I donít take that lightly. The question I focus my energy on now is how will I give back to the world and inspire others to live out their dreams? Iím not talking poker here, Iím talking life. Poker is what I did to accumulate my wealth, but that doesnít preclude me from being a contributing member of society and making a difference for people, and for the world.

Daniel Negreanu is the 2004 Card Player Magazine and World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He presents his poker strategies in one-on-one virtual training at pokervt.com and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
Read all of Daniel Negreanu's poker blog and poker articles at Full Contact Poker


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