Video Poker and The Golden Rule

According to Wikipedia, “The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in most religions and cultures. It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although different religions treat it differently.”

I’m not here to debate religion. Consider, however, the following:

  1. A juicy promotion begins at midnight. There are only a few machines that pay well during that promotion. This means only a very few players will get to play the good machines during the promotion, and most will be shut out. You get to one of those machines at 6 p.m. and play the machine slowly. This guarantees you will get to play the desirable machine and others won’t. After midnight you play much faster.
  1. Perhaps the same situation as above, perhaps a different one. You make a deal with another player to “take over” your machine while you sleep, and then give it back to you. Eight to ten hours later, you return the favor. This keeps the machine “in the family,” and others who want to play it, can’t.
  1. It’s a drawing with physical tickets. You’re a proponent of the theory that folding the tickets before putting them into the barrel gives you a better-than-strictly-random chance to win. But anything that increases the odds in your favor, decreases the odds of other players.
  1. A restaurant where you get comped meals has the policy that on your birthday, you get a free piece of Death by Chocolate cake, with forks for everybody else in your party so you can share. You claim about four birthdays a year at each restaurant that has a policy like this. This dishonesty reduces the profits of the restaurant owner for your benefit.
  1. At one casino, playing $20,000 coin-in a month maximizes the benefits you receive. You obtain ten multiple IDs and have a player’s card in each of them. This way, you can get far more benefits from this casino than the casino had designed.
  1. A casino ends a multiple point promotion at midnight, but so long as your card is inserted prior to midnight and remains inserted, you continue to get multiple points long after the promotion is intended to conclude. 
  1. You believe that casinos are sleazy organizations and don’t deserve to be treated honestly. So, you look for ways to cheat them.
  1. Someone has left $20 worth of credits on a machine. You insert a $100 bill into the machine, play a few hands, and cash out for $115. 
  1. There are only a few “good” machines available on a progressive bank. You want them for your friends. So you bring out foul smelling cigars and begin to smoke them in the vicinity. When other players leave in disgust, your friends sit down, and nobody smokes anymore.
  1. A floor supervisor taps you on the shoulder and asks if the $100 bill on the floor behind you belongs to you. In truth, you have no way of knowing. But your answer is, of course, “It must be. I pulled money out of my pocket and must have dropped that one. Thank you!”
  1. You’re too sick to go to work and expose people you know to your illness, but not too sick to go to a casino and expose strangers.
  1. You are dealt three aces and hold them, except you know you didn’t hold the third ace firmly. You draw the fourth ace, but the third ace “unholds.” Even though you know it’s your own fault, you call the slot supervisor over anyway and complain about stick buttons.

I could provide other examples, as could you, but you get the idea. I’ve been “guilty” of eight out of the 12 examples above, at least occasionally. And sometimes, once upon a time but not for years.

I consider myself a moral person. Do any or all of these types of behavior conflict with the Golden Rule?

On some of these things, like pretending it’s my birthday when it’s not, I can’t ethically justify — and yet I’ve done it.

On things like getting to a machine early to guarantee I’ll have a chance to play during the promotion is something I expect other strong players to do. I understand that others will be doing it so if I’m going to prosper in this business, I need to do it myself — only slightly earlier than they do it. I see it as akin to making a dinner reservation so when I get there at 7 p.m., a table is waiting for me. I believe there is nothing ethically wrong with this at all, and I understand that not everybody feels this way — especially those who didn’t plan ahead.

I don’t expect all of us to agree whether an individual action is right or wrong, but I think it’s a useful exercise to contemplate these things periodically.

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