Moral or immoral, high-stakes gambling

The morality of poker has become a hot issue. Recently, the U received media coverage for canceling a poker tournament to be held in the Union. Last weekend, leaders of the LDS Church criticized the game as gambling.

Rather than debate the morality of poker, I think there is value in pondering why intelligent, well-meaning individuals want to play it at highly competitive levels.

I don’t think the public’s perception of professional poker players is correct. Poker professionals are not swarthy anarchists who enjoy breaking the law. Most are well-educated individuals who lack the ability to achieve their financial goals through other means.

Poker is an intellectual game, a science like mathematics, psychology and sociology. Professional poker is likewise a science-an applied science.

Anyone who follows the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour knows that many of the players have advanced degrees in mathematics or business. They play poker to supplement their income.

My favorite professional player, David Williams, is an economics major at a prestigious university and was accepted to both Princeton and Harvard. Facing the bleak prospect of insufficient wages in the world of academia, he turned to poker.

Many professionals share the same story. They were successful academics, but insufficient wages led them to play the game.

I find it sad that some of the most intelligent among us are given such low wages. It’s sad that they have to resort to using their intelligence in poker to earn a higher income.

George W. Bush, a man barely intelligent enough to shine my shoes, is elected to the presidency, yet mathematicians, economists and philosophers must resort to poker to achieve their financial goals.

I think poker is not necessarily a lapse of morality, but the result of a great social injustice.

I don’t know if poker is immoral. I know most Christian churches deem it immoral. But rational choice, or in some cases utilitarianism, would deem it very moral for intelligent individuals to play (if it involves taking capital away from rich playboys who would waste it anyway).

Professional player Barry Greenstein, who doesn’t need the money, gives all his winnings to the poor.

I do not consider it fair to make poker-playing illegal. The Republican Party’s ideology is based upon personal liberty. From a Libertarian perspective, life is like a poker game and justice is a series of free exchanges.

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