Title: Is Poker a sin?

        In this article we'll tackle if Poker is a sin. First and foremost, if you abuse Poker, then yes it is obviously a sin. But if you don't abuse Poker, respect the game, and manage your bankroll correctly, is it still a sin? We'll investigate this in this article. I'm not going to conclude for you if it is a sin or not for yourself however. You need to understand your own self control and behaviors to know if you think it is a sin or not in your particular case. Like many things in life, it is a gray scale from white to black on certain things. Poker lies in the gray scale, yet there are reasons why you might want to play it still.

        As Poker is a gray scale, I'm going to start at the white and move into the black. I find it hard pressed to think of anything wrong with Poker when you play it with play chips. The worst thing you could say about Poker when you're playing with play chips is that you're wasting time. Time wasting in general is bad for time wasting is time you could rather be working for money to help the poor, or you could be helping the poor directly. If you're against time wasting and have something better to be doing, you don't want to be playing play money Poker.

        Another thing people might say about Poker when you're playing for play money is that the game itself has an element of chance to it. Almost everything in life has an element to chance to it though. Finding your spouse is not guaranteed. There is no guarantee you'll get a job coming out of school. The stock market fluctuates. People are born into good and bad families. Even video games have elements of chance to them. If you're the kind of person who NEVER does anything that has an element of chance, you're writing off a majority of what there is in life. This is okay though if you're that type of person. Poker among MANY other things are written off if you do not ever take any chances on anything.

        For a great majority of people, I think they're willing to have recreation time and take chances. To have recreation and take chances is not a sin for all, but it might be for some. Let us move on to the next thing you must get over before you might find Poker as an acceptable hobby. You need to risk money in order to play. Obviously risking your entire paycheck is a sin because you need that money to pay bills. Poker is to be listed in your entertainment budget. If you think it is acceptable to spend $15 on the weekend to see a movie, maybe skip the movie and try playing Poker over the weekend. Not everyone thinks entertainment is an acceptable use of money. Some people are so strict they want every extra dollar they own to go to charity. So to people without an entertainment budget, you can't really justify Poker as an acceptable hobby when real money needs to be used. To people without any entertainment budget I warn,"If you have kids, and don't entertain them, they might think highly of the world when they're finally on their own and as such reject Christianity for repressing their enjoyment of life."

        A bankroll is what you play from when you play out of your winnings instead of buying from money you spend on day to day things. Now if you're a bad Poker player, as everyone is for the first couple hundred hours of play, you won't have to worry about managing a bankroll because you won't win that often. If you respect Poker as a game, it is a lifetime endeavor. You play a lot of Poker so you get good at it. Then the rest of your life is about managing your bankroll so it goes positive. Managing your bankroll is about never risking all of what you have in one tournament. Typically you don't want to risk more than 40x your bankroll in any one game of Poker. At very low stakes though some argue you don't have to stick with this rule. Imagine if you were 60% to win 2x your money at a game of Poker and 40% chance to lose. If you risked 100% of your bankroll each game, it won't be very long before you lose all your money. But if you risk 2.5% of your bankroll each game, you're statistically unlikely to ever go broke, and almost certain to get a great deal of money. If someone wants me to write a program that lets you do this, I can. Disrespecting your bankroll is a sin. It is a sin because if you lose your bankroll and go back to using money you live off of, you might over value your quality of your play(very easy), and spend more money on Poker than you would typically on entertainment. If you disrespect your bankroll and go into your real money, you might lose a great amount of money. Disrespecting your bankroll(to me) comes off as a sin. If you stick within your bankroll and respect it, no matter how high of stakes you get to, you never really have more invested in your game than your initial investment from real money. I personally started with $1.20 and I'm up to around $1200 now. I recommend everyone to start as low as they can until you put in a few hundred hours of game play.

        Leviticus 19:11 GNT "Do not steal or cheat or lie." Because Poker may have deception involved, there are many Poker players who think it acceptable to lie at the table. As a Christian, I feel lying should be avoided at all costs because the enemy Satan is the father of all lies. That is pretty huge to think that a little lie is rebelling against God and going with the enemy! Do not lie. Also do not cheat in a game of Poker, play it by the rules. Finally don't be a reject and try to steal someone's chips if no one is looking. There are parts of the game that involve plays that seem similar to these concepts, however in actuality you can play the game anyway you want and you're not stealing,cheating or lying.

        Let us look at the classic Poker play,"The Bluff". The Bluff is when you bet when you don't have anything hoping someone will fold. Unindoctrinated players may think this is a lie. It is not a lie because you want to win without showing cards. A lie would be if you bet some chips and told your opponent,"I'd fold because I have the best hand right now." When you bluff, you simply put the chips in and let what happens happen. Some players never bluff, and once you find a player that never bluffs, you can play counter to his style to basically know what their hand is! As such, never equate bluffing with lying for they are not the same thing. I recommend new players not to try to bluff until they've played a lot to know the game. It is possible to be profitable at low stakes without bluffing, but it is something that should be in every legit player's game. Bluffing does not mean you have more skill though, and playing ABC is typically the best until you've played hundreds of hours. Bluffing is not a lie, and as such, feel free to bluff :) PS: I recommend rarely showing a bluff because if someone knows you're a player who does sometimes bluff, they can read you too.

        Let us look at the next Poker play,"The Steal" Contrary to its name, it is not stealing in the classical sense of taking something off someone else. "The Steal" in Poker is making a big bet, usually an all in, that is there to take down the money in the pot with no callers. "The Steal" can be done with big cards or as a bluff and I recommend you use big cards. The reason it is not classically stealing is that you're in a game and people have options to counter your move. Don't let the name "Stealing the blinds" put you into some metal frame work that you might be breaking a Commandment.

        Finally let us examine "Acting". If you do not know how to play Poker, do not act. The best thing you can do when you play Poker when you're first starting out is to hide all emotion. Practice a stone wall face no matter if you're happy, down, sad, excited, or anything. A neutral face and silence is best unless you're some sort of super pro who knows how to get under people's skin with a song and a dance. Still, the best stonewall face cracks sometimes, and if people get into your cracking, they might get reads on you and make plays that counter yours. The best way to get people to stop reading you for small changes is to put on an acting show sometimes called "Hollywooding". If you have a great hand, crack a small frown or act dejected at the board. Don't do it all the time, just occasionally. It is meant to hide you from the times when you do give up reads. If someone falls for your acting once, they'll not know how to take your reads. In fact they'll be convinced you're trying to put one over on them, and they'll maybe think the second time you do it, you're acting again. At this point, you're playing Paper-Rock-Scissors with acting. Acting isn't something you should take to extremes, but it helps some people's games by breaking it out early, and then relaxing into a full session of stonewall face. If you think acting is a version of a lie, just don't do it, instead rely on full stonewall. I don't think it is a lie myself, I'll act occasionally to get people to stop trying to do face reads on me. This is a personal call if you think it is a sin or not.

        Greed is a sin. If you covet your opponents money and want to take it from them, you're breaking a Commandment too. However, if you become a Poker master and play correctly over the long term could result in you making money. I look to making money and putting it to use helping the poor. People generally automatically throw up alarms,"You're gambling to help the poor!?!" And this is an uneducated stance. I started with $1.20 and I have 1000x what I started with now. It really isn't gambling over the long run. You don't think casinos are gambling do you? They have the odds in their favor, so over the long run they win out. The same goes for poker players. They put the odds in their favor and let games play out over the long run, and they should be profitable. Count up 40 pennies or chips. Flip a coin, if it comes up heads, add a penny/chip. If not flip another coin, if it comes up tails, take away a penny/chip. The chance of going broke is infinitesimal. This is assuming your win is 50% and your loss is only 25%. It isn't gambling at this point as a matter of certainty to gain. Now is my initial $1.20 a wasteful spend? I waste more than this when I decide where I'm going to eat any individual day. It is sinful to be greedy for money for yourself to relax in luxuries. It is not sinful to be greedy for money to help others as long as you're not breaking moral codes set up by the Bible.

        There are many good aspects of Poker. It drives competitiveness. Competitiveness is a good thing to have in one's life sometimes. Also there is a great deal of strategy involved, and if you don't see that, it just means you're a bad player :P Almost anyone can eventually compete regardless of age or many disabilities. You can't pick up professional football in your forties, but you can become a professional poker player with enough time, work, and strategizing. You get to meet people at a Poker table, so you can even tell them the Good News of Jesus Christ. If you go from the angle that Poker is not a sin for most, they even might accept it when other people told them gambling is a sin. A surprise attack angle for preaching the Good News is nice to have.

        Remember the easiest way to abuse Poker is to use too much of your money you live on to play it. Respect a bankroll and you should be fine. If you start dipping into the money you live on, you might end up with many problems. God does not bless you with money so you can frivolously throw it away. Even if you have great odds to win more money, you should not put up more than 1/40th of your bankroll at a time. And if you have no bankroll, don't spend more on Poker than you would on your regular entertainment budget. My advice to new players who have less than 500 hours of practice time under them,"Play free Poker or penny Poker, don't play anything considerable stakes. You can make any amount of money once you get good, it doesn't matter that you start in really low stakes and work your way up. It is also a good feeling that you're not risking much except time. Then you need to budget your free time mainly and not actual money. Finally tell every table you get to,'God is love, Jesus is LORD' and you might get great heavenly rewards that no amount of money can buy."

-Jim Sager