Making the case for online poker (”The case for legalizing online poker in Maryland,” April 19), Adam Sutton and Joe Pettit present several odd arguments. First, they claim poker contributes to making us more virtuous. If so, then why is poker not offered in public education or children’s birthday parties? Poker encourages some of our worst vices such as greed, envy and pride.
Second, the authors assert that online poker is a great equalizer, as it offers a model of “systemic fairness and equity.” To the contrary, online poker is big business. It baits thousands of people as if they are sheep who believe they will be lucky enough to win the big prize. In fact, much like the state of Maryland and its lottery, the house never loses in online poker. If one side does not lose, it seems strange to assert that online poker can be a model of systemic fairness.
Third, the authors audaciously contend that poker is more difficult than chess “where all information is known prior to making decisions.” If so, then why do colleges feature chess clubs and teams but not poker tournaments? There are hundreds of books about chess openings, strategies, end games that provide intricate (and tedious) information. Not one book ever promises to provide all the information prior to making decisions. In competition one never has all the information about the adversary. That is why we distinguish a suspenseful game from a rigged game.
Poker circles among friends are one thing — an occasional gathering for some competition, chatter and good will. Online poker is not that. The authors are probably right about the legalization of online poker and how it will contribute to the coffers of the state. But please spare us the condescending lip service that this activity somehow contributes to our integrity and virtue as human beings.
Alexander E. Hooke, Baltimore
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