A magician explains the ethics of cheating at poker

So, have you ever been a dog?

This was written by magician Eric Mead, from his "Mumbles" lecture notes.
The Ethics of Hustling Poker

Boy, I’d hate to play cards with him...

It's bound to come out someday, so I'll just be the first to tell you that for a short time I hustled poker. I had a partner and we worked strictly in small time private games. Actually, we were quite good. Best hand forward all night long, double discards, known hole cards—only straightforward, no risk moves. We never tried brush work, never hopped a cut, never rung in a cooler. (Deceptology note: "brush work" refers to switching a small group of cards with another on the table, "hopped a cut" is using sleight of hand to shift the cards after a cut so that the deck is back in the order it was in before the cut, and "rung in a cooler" means to secretly switch a shuffled deck with a deck that has been "stacked" or placed in a specific order.) Thus, we generally only made two or three hundred bucks (which was divided between us) on a good night. But make no mistake about it—I was a thief.

ls it wrong to cheat at cards?

You already know the answer to that. But I'll show you around the territory a little. What seems honest to you:

Scene 1: You have manipulated three aces to the bottom during the shuffle, and your partner cuts so they stay there. You deal him the three aces and then help to drive up the pot by betting and encouraging others. Your partner wins an eighty dollar pot.

Scene 2: You and your partner have a system of signals to allow you to know which of you has the higher hand. On every play one of you immediately folds and the other (with the higher of the two hands) stays in. This not only insures the best chance of winning, but it also minimizes the risk for when you lose. (Authors note: This is the best scam ever for poker. You always come out ahead in the long run.)

Scene 3: You and your partner have studied poker carefully for thousands of hours so you know the odds of every possible play. You are playing against novice players who aren't really even sure when to bet big, bet small and fold. They have no idea. Without ever making a move you are clobbering them.

Scene 4: You have received a flush on the first deal. You decide to bet the house and really try to take a big one. As you are counting your stack of chips an opponent accidentally flashes his cards to you—and he has four fives. Even though you aren't supposed to have knowledge of his cards you fold a flush on the first round of betting.

Black and White and Gray all over.

There are people who would say that all of the above is dishonest. Others would definitely claim that none of the above is morally incorrect. I'd take either one of those answers as acceptable.

If you see some of it as okay and some as not okay, then you are a dangerous individual, and you should never play cards for money. Stick to advertising and law.

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