Friday, June 27, 2014

Is Hustling At Pool The Same As Cheating?

Dear Tazi:

About six months ago, I started dating a man I will call “Stan”. Stan is a great guy, but a few months ago – through no fault of his own – he got laid off from his job. Stan hit the pavement immediately in search of work, but after a few weeks; several dozen job applications; and no phone calls Stan started to get quite discouraged.

One non-work-related talent that Stan has is that he is an amazing pool player. He could play on a professional circuit if he made the effort, but he claims he does not want to travel or search for sponsors or any of the many things involved with such a venture. Instead, Stan has started abusing his talent hustling pool.

I have to admit that Stan is making excellent money by feigning bad shots – he plays well enough to keep people from getting suspicious; but then will purposely miss a complicated trick shot that he has made dozens of times, at which point he will pretend to lose his confidence and let his game go downhill, losing that game and several more. When Stan offers his victim the opportunity to play for high stakes – a chance to win his money back, he tells the person, his opponent jumps at the chance and Stan ends up having just good enough a game to win. The offer is then double or nothing, which is when Stan ends up fleecing his victim.

The dishonesty of what Stan is doing bothers me enough, but it is the fear that he is going to be found out and take a physical beating that keeps me awake at night. I have begged him to stop, but he just laughs and tells me I worry too much; that he never hits the same place twice and that he is very careful not to be discovered. He considers himself a businessman, not a hustler, because he only plays well enough to win; not well enough to embarrass his opponents. Am I overreacting, Tazi? Or is Stan skating on thin ice?

Pool Lover’s Lady

Dear Pool Lover’s Lady:

I have to admire Stan’s class, since he only seeks to win big; not embarrass his opponents, but then I have to ask myself; how classy is it to deceive and hustle others? The answer is, it’s not. There are so many issues in play here; I will take them one by one:

To start, there is the matter of illegal gambling. If Stan is playing for high stakes, and he is winning large amounts of money, this constitutes fraud against his unemployment claim; which specifically asks if you have earned any income. Second, this is money that is not subject to taxation, something the State and Federal government would frown upon if they knew about it; and if Stan upsets the wrong person, the wrong people might find out about it!

Second are the ethical issues: When a person chooses to gamble, they are assuming a certain level of risk, figuring that they know the odds and whether or not those odds favor them. By hiding his talents, Stan is skewing the appearance of those odds in favor of his victim, while the true odds remain in his favor. Although this is not illegal, it is highly unethical and has me wondering just how “great” a guy Stan really is.

Third is the very real threat of physical harm befalling Stan over his choice to hustle pool. Stan may not hit the same place twice, but he is not taking into account the fact that not everyone frequents only one pub/bra/pool hall. All it will take is one person to recognize him and his gig is up. Stan is playing with fire, and the odds are that he will get burned.

You cannot control Stan’s behavior; all you can do is control how you react to it. You can explain to Stan all I have told you here, but I doubt that will make any difference. Therefore, the choice is yours: do you want to stay with Stan and continue to worry about how your near future will play out? Or do you feel the need to take a break until Stan decides which economic path is the right choice for him? I have to add, two weeks of looking for a job is hardly long enough to warrant discouragement to the point of giving up. I consider this reaction a huge red flag.


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