A few years ago I was playing an online poker tournament when I got pretty deep and decided to massage my ego by advertising the fact through my social media network.
Within the hour a friend of mine (a professional poker player) had contacted me through Skype and we started talking as I made my way into the deeper waters of the tournament.
The same ego that wanted the world to know I was doing well wanted me to win the tournament on my lonesome. So initially, I didn’t want my friend to help me with my decisions.
Then things changed. Greed got the better of me.
So Did I Cheat at Poker?
At first I asked him for help when I was put into a tough spot. Then, as the tournament progressed, I revealed my hand more frequently and the advice flowed more frequently.
In my mind I had already started to spend my winnings. I followed his advice to the letter and I won the tournament.
So did I cheat?
I've thought about this long and hard and I don’t think so. Sharing your cards to help formulate a more informed decision is no different from any other form of coaching in the world of sport.
It’s the equivalent of a boxer having someone in his corner who has already fought and defeated the opponent he's facing. Every three minutes you sit down in your corner and receive advice on what to do next to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses. What about this?
Is This Cheating?
Let’s go back to the scenario I started out with. But instead of my friend helping me, he's playing in the same tournament and we end up at the final table together.
Not only can he help me but I can help him. I can tell him what my hole cards are and he can do likewise.
Imagine how vital this can be if we got down to the final three spots?
Is this cheating? I think it is, and doubt there are many people who would turn their nose up at this form of collusion.
In poker, it’s dog eat dog and everyone is a pit bull with a taste for blood. People wouldn’t think twice about taking this edge.
The high costs associated with being a professional poker player mean very few players are fortunate enough to play under their own bankrolls.
Instead you see syndications formed: the most common being in the shape of backer and horse.
Now Imagine Three of the Final Four Share a Bankroll
What happens when you get a backer, a horse and a random player in three-way action at the end of a tournament?
Are we naïve enough to think that conversations are not being held during the break on the optimal way to finish in the top two spots in live tournaments? Can you imagine the problems this creates when you are playing online?
cThe other form of syndication is one where players share the same bankroll. So instead of backer and horse you have a series of elite players who effectively use the same chunk of money to play poker with.
This has never been more prevalent than with the creation of the High Roller tournaments that are now the darling of every major tournament organizer in the world.
How does this affect the dynamic when three out of the final four players are sharing the same bankroll?
The reason this form of syndication can be damaging to the game is two fold.
Firstly, the financial rewards are so much bigger. We're talking seven-figure sums of money here.
Secondly, the player pools are so much smaller so there's an increased likelihood that the scenario I outlined will actually occur.
What’s your opinion on syndication and how it affects the game of poker?