Tonight, I won

Tonight, I won, and yet there is little joy in the victory. For some reason on this night of all nights, it hit me that poker is a game that rewards aggression, and is indeed not a wholesome game. This particular reason for decrying the game are substantially different from the other reasons that I've heard - that it is a sin against God, etc. No, I object to the game for the simple reason that it rewards and reinforces bullying and dominating behavior. In essence it reenforces the opposite behaivors that are generally desirable in a human being.

Now, there is something to be said for differentiating between a "game" and "real life", and some poker apologists might very well claim that I am failing to make the distinction here. But I wonder, if real money is on the line (hundreds, thousands of dollars), and if money is only obtained through the expenditure of effort in real life, then is not the game leveraged against "real life" and so becomes a part of it? I'd argue yes: once non-trivial sums are involved, one is risking (sizable) chunks of a real life.

This is different than other games in which one might be quite cut-throat (for example, Monopoly or Chess), but because there is no money riding on the match there is no moral difficulty. There is only a pleasant sort of competition and a match of intellect, and perhaps a somewhat frivolous waste of time, but there is no true conflict.

To be more specific, poker rewards aggression in that, once you have the "big stack" it is the "correct" play to become very aggressive and attempt to "steal" blinds and such. The theory is sound: the big stack is risking the same amount on an absolute scale, but much less on a relative scale than his opponents. On average it is better for the big stack to overbet his hand (under certain conditions) knowing that, on average, his opponents will not be able to take the proportionally greater risk.

And this is all find and dandy, until real money is on the line. Then all of a sudden the big stack is simply using his greater sum of money to make even more money, a concept which seems, on it's face, quite abhorrent. (I can't help but wonder where in real life does this financial dynamic exist? Are there places where simply having lots of cash allows you to make a lot of cash? I'm absolutely positive that there are.)

Anyway, I won a bunch of money based on these principles, and I don't feel very good about it. I played "correctly", having a big stack and generally being very agressive. I was caught once or twice, but on average I continued to build my lead, and finally won the game.

And the victory is as ash in my mouth.

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