The days of the Cincinnati Kid and even Rounders are over. The poker world that I grew up in, playing in illegal games in the backs of bars or in basements is pretty much a thing of the past –ye, they still exist, but this is now the exception to where most people play, not the norm. Since the “Poker Boom” the game has undergone a transformation of sorts, and poker has been taken out of the smoky backrooms and its practitioners have been transformed from gamblers and hustlers to celebrities and wunderkinds.
Despite this amazing metamorphosis –still less than a decade old at this point– at its core the game of poker is about money, and whenever money is involved the lowest forms of humanity are sure to be lurking in the background, desperately grabbing at every last dollar they can get their hands on. So once you peel back the new upper layer of respectability you find a dark and seemly underbelly filled with con-men, liars, hustlers, cheaters and thieves.
Look no further than the threads no 2+2 or PokerFraudAlert.com where you’ll see some of the slimiest, criminal behavior on display. Look at some of the names that have been called out over the years for owing money, cheating or scamming: Erick Lindgren, Chino Rheem, Vladimir Geshkenbein, Brad Booth, Russ Hamilton, and others. There have also been lesser accusations fired at Daniel Cates, Sorel Mizzi, and other big names as well.
The upper layer –the layer the poker world wants you to see—has gotten far thicker over the past 10 years, but it still pales in comparison to what lies beneath. Not because there are more dishonest people in the poker world than honest people, but because the dishonest people hold sway over the poker community. You would be hard-pressed, dare I say it is an impossibility, to find a seasoned poker player who hasn’t been cheated or hustled. Unfortunately it’s just the nature of the beast.
Eventually you will probably fall victim to some scam or hustle, or you’ll be cheated in a game; the trick is to make sure you aren’t risking too much, and when these unseemly characters strike they don’t get a lot of your hard-earned cash. Think of this as keeping a minimal amount of money in your wallet, and all of your important cards, cash, and ID in a hidden location on your person when you might be in a bad area where muggings are common or at a gathering where pick-pocketing is a real possibility.
Don’t hand people money, don’t risk amounts you can’t lose, don’t trust people around your sensitive information like your laptop, and don’t enter into bets with people who might be freerolling you.
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