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Is Playing Poker for a Living Moral?

 photo alpyn: Damn, I lost a pot today.
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I play poker for a living since November 2012. To live as an immoral person is not my cup of tea, therefore I often ask to myself if my current source of economical income is wrong. I'm aware of my choice to earn money in online poker and here's a few thoughts of how I'm dealing with it.

I'd like to let you know I'm not here to moralize. Even if you are not a professional poker player, you have an easy option to simply don't care about morality of your profession. But you should know you are always fully responsible for almost everything that happens in your life and for all consequences of your actions and decisions.

At first I need to make sure I won't just rationalize and justify myself. Thus I put myself in a position of a person in a butchery asking himself if buying and eating that piece of flesh is really moral and ethical. Like a man in a butchery, I also have a freedom of choice to earn or not to earn money by playing poker. And just because I have an option to make money in this game, it doesn't necessarily mean it's not wrong. Similarly, just because there are butcheries and dairies giving you a possibility to buy and consume their products, you shouldn't turn the autopilot on and mindlessly pay for those goods.

Okay, now I will try to be as honest as possible and as critical as possible.

First of all, what's my outcome of playing poker? What kind of a service do I offer? Who puts money into the poker industry?

It's relatively easy to answer these questions. Nearly all funds in online poker come from recreational players, also known as fishes, whales or donkeys. I simply don't know why someone is able to invest money into a complex game with no or minimal knowledge about that game. Let's assume they have a vision of easy money or they have so much fun while playing poker that they don't mind gambling their bankroll away.

Having said that, my function as a regular player is to give a possibility to recreational players to realize their vision of easy money or provide them fun while playing and losing their money.

Online poker is only a redistribution of money from amateurs between professionals, playrooms and the state, of course.

One could say it's completely fine when money designated for fun is redistributed by providing fun. It's reasonable to think some human beings need to have this kind of entertainment and if they are voluntary willing to pay for it, there's nothing wrong with playing poker for a living.

As a lazy thinker and a comfortably person, I might be satisfied with this conclusion. But as I mentioned above, I should be as critical as possible and therefore I should search for objections. At this moment I've found two.

First, money appointed for enjoyment could be spent more effective than by playing a game with a gamble nature. Let's get one thing straight — I have no doubts poker can be educative and helpful stuff. I developed long-term and effective thinking and much more useful skills by playing and studying this game. But it doesn't mean all players have this ability. I'm not sure if player regularly calling three streets with third pair could sometime take from this game as much as I took. I think recreational players can spend their money reserved for fun in a better and useful ways than by playing online poker.

By providing online poker we are giving those people a possibility to spend their money worse than they could. It doesn't sound like a moral thing.  

Second, a man not involved in this industry could rightfully consider that poker is just fooling. More clever and more intelligent persons offer to others to play with them and they know they will be profitable in long-term. This activity doesn't look like a moral activity. Moral and intelligent beings should not abuse their intelligence.

As a man involved in this business I must admit poker has a spirit of fooling less smart people. And fooling is definitely immoral.

If we all had suddenly stopped playing today, then they wouldn't have the option of spending their money in this way.

These two objections look like a valid arguments supporting statement playing poker for a living is not moral. What should I do now? Should I abjure playing poker?

I don't see things in black and white. In some cases, morality should be considered relatively to circumstances. Intentions are part of actions and they should be evaluated in morality statements.

For that reason playing poker for a living in a short-term or a mid-term is not inescapably immoral. It depends on intentions.

If I would play poker only to get rich and to live selfish comfortably consumerist life, my morality would be very questionable.

Therefore I must have serious altruistic intentions while playing poker for earning money. I should spend all of the gained money very reasonably. I should spend as little money as possible for my own existence and I have to invest most of my earnings into smart philanthropical projects.

I'm trying to be influential vegan, animal rights, environmentalism and anarchism activist and I'm doing my best to spend each dollar for my own needs properly.

From my point of view, I'm still not sure whether even in this case earning money in poker is moral and in the future I'd like to generate money in different and more moral ways. Wish me luck!

Feel free to discuss this difficult topic. I appreciate all of your comments.

Good luck at the tables.

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