Recent events sparked me to write this article. There are rules in poker, but there are also unwritten rules too. Just because they are unwritten, some people choose to deliberately break them, while others gentlemanly follow them. There is no black/white right/wrong, but there are definitely good/bad definitions.

poker ethics

There was a recent cash game controversy at a Vietnamese game where a foreigner tabled King high but player with pocket tens misread it as a flush. After his tens hit the muck he realised his mistake and pulled his cards back. After some deliberation, floor ruled that his tens were still live and hence was the winning hand. The foreigner unable to communicate properly could not (any possibly did not) fend for himself. A Vietnamese actually later voiced out his disappointment on how the rules were broken to help a local buddy. For the sake of fairness and also the image of Vietnam, he felt that he needed to say something. Quoc Bao, you have my utmost respect. Sure the tens deserved to win the hand, but he also made a mistake. You can man up to your mistake, or you can ruin your reputation as well as the club and country’s by being the dick here. Credit to the foreigner for letting it go as well.

Only a few days ago during a tournament, friend of mine was facing a river bet. He picked up his cards to throw them away, but the chip covering his cards crossed the line. The other player insisted it was a call while clearly his intention was to muck. Villain wanted to call the floor but hero paid for the call anyway even though he knew it was a losing call. Bobby you may have lost a few more chips but you have won my respect. If I were villain in this situation, I would not want to win like this.

During my recent trip to Korea, I played a few hands with China Pro Guo Dong. He is well known for going deep during WSOP Main Event 2015 and has over 1.3 million USD in cashes. There was one pot where he faced a river bet of 4500. He called off but lost the pot. The dealer mistakenly threw his 4500 call back to him. I didn’t want to call him out and at that point, 4500 was a lot relative to his stack. No one said anything, and I don’t think he knew I knew. It was definitely tempting to keep it but he gave the chips back to the winner. He earned my respect not just as a pro but as a person.

Some of the best players I know are true gentlemen, while others are big time a-holes. Slow rolling, angle shooting, celebrating early, celebrating a suck out, taunting others, deliberately missing antes, hit and run, etc. Sure it is your freedom, just like in life where you can be a dick and cut queues, be rude, inconsiderate, selfish, etc. Or you can live a life you can be proud of. It is not always about winning.