Sunday evening, Mrs. Zimba sat down to watch Masterpiece Theater's Mystery Inspector Lewis. It is very similar in feel to the earlier classic Inspector Morse series we enjoyed for years that captured the peculiar culture of Oxford. One common element found in most of the embroiled Oxford characters is a profound pain usually masked by their particular Oxford social niceties and eccentricities, but a remnant of prior decisions and regrets.
As I spent several hours Sunday reading the latest poker world cheating scandal surrounding Jose "Girah" Macedo and his backers Haseeb "Dogishead/InternetPokers" Quereshi and Daniel "jungleman12" Cates unfold on twoplustwo, I couldn't help but feel some similarity to the Oxford characters. For all of their talents and social niceties, these poker players are conflicted and troubled individuals. Their decisions reflect the constant struggle to navigate a poker world where trust and ethics battle against gaining an edge and winning big despite the inherent variance.
Observing some of their decisions and action in this latest cheating scandal, and some decisions made over the last couple years (e.g. being cheated themselves, big prop bets, multi-accounting) one might seriously question why these characters are repeatedly putting themselves in questionable situations that could and should be avoided.
For instance, if you randomly ask 10 people on the street why people cheat, they would likely blame it on greed. And while greed is certainly a core motivating force for cheating, deciding to cheat others often brings with it a wide range of motivations.
Focusing on the central character, Jose "Girah" Macedo, I'll speculate on some of the other possible motivations or scenarios for why he cheated others:
1) The motivation for cheating could have come from an insecurity surrounding his abilities in light of the fact that he played up his abilities so much.
2) The motivation for cheating could have come from the pressure he felt by being backed by two of the world's better poker players and falling behind over $50k in makeup.
3) The motivation for cheating could come from the maniacal desire to create more complexity and challenge, by trying to get away with that complexity, rather than winning at poker in a straight forward manner.
4) The motivation for cheating can and often comes from laziness. We prefer a short-cut to arrive at our goals, rather than deal with the sweat and uncertainty of doing it the honest way. It is that same laziness that allows us to be cheated too.
5) The motivation for cheating could be a bizarre manifestation from the shame one feels over prior dishonesty and actions taken.
6) The motivation for cheating could be a cry for help. If one feels helpless and powerless in the face of a daunting world, acting out can be a subconscious attempt to get others to help rescue us.
7) The motivation for cheating could come out of a sense of envy or resentment towards others luckier or more talented with better results.
Macedo's motivation for cheating are likely a combination of the above possibilities. Only he and his family know of his personal history and psychological makeup. For the poker public, Macedo was hyped in January and announced in March with much fanfare. "The Portuguese Prodigy" has been a youthful legend that emerged from the shadows only months ago. Many now suspect it was simply part of the grand scheme of manipulation.
One final option for his cheating is the one used repeatedly by Jose Macedo when confronted with his cheating, "I don't know." Despite his intelligence and charm, Macedo seems unable or unwilling to provide an answer himself. From his chat logs when dealing with his high stakes friends, he appears to lack the self-awareness to identify the inner motivations and demons with which he struggles.
Above all else, Macedo feared his crimes coming to light. The public light is intense and harsh. It can burn us badly. He feared the repercussions from friends, family, and for his reputation. He is not alone in his fear. We all have demons we would prefer to remain in the shadows. For many of us, that is motivation enough to prevent us from taking steps to cheat or harm others that would bring outside scrutiny to the darker parts of our personal worlds.
Macedo needs to learn that restitution is only one step in his recovery. Gaining insight into his motivations is key. He needs to gain awareness into the mystifying desire to want to take advantage of others when you have have previously suffered a similar torment. I am not without sympathy for the youthful indiscretions many of us make when temptation surrounds us. There are many temptations and gray areas that poker players have to navigate in the poker world and having a good moral compass with a keen appreciation for yourself within the greater community is essential.