A few months back, in November 2009, Luise Lee wrote an interesting article, which attempted to explain why some players resorted to cheating. She listed 6 possible answers which covered the following motives: the passionate desire to win, the notion that forbidden fruit tastes best, the fear of losing, greed, rebellious tendencies, and the lack of integrity.
Anyway, having already done a series of articles on the various categories and forms of cheating, I too want to address the issue as to why players choose to cheat at bridge. So with the help of my learned colleague, Professor Hu Chi Ku Chi, I have probed a little deeper into this interesting and fascinating topic.
In many instances, players don't know ,or don't realize, they are cheating. Their actions are born out of ignorance, or lack of a real understanding of the ethical standards of the game, the concepts of fair play and sportsmanship. Their cheating tends to be of the "soft" category, incidents in which opponents, with a similar level of ignorance, completely miss or fail to recognise.
But then we come onto that group of players whose arrogance beggars belief. They see themselves as always operating within the rules of the game, but not necessarily within the spirit of the game. They never perceive their actions as "cheating" because according to them they are doing nothing wrong. This reflects in essence a form of selective blindness, rather than straightforward ignorance. In some instances their arrogance stretches to a stubbornly held view that they are within their rights to capitalise on unsolicited gifts of " free information " , that fortuitously comes their way. Since they can not avoid seeing cards foolishly exposed by their opponents, or shut out the loud comments made about hands on other tables, the accuse those responsible for such aberrations as the wrongdoers..............refusing to acknowledge that by acting upon such unsolicited information, they too are in the wrong. " If players are that stupid to give away such information, then so be it " is often a statement they use to justify their good fortune.
In rare cases, the motive for some players to do a lot of peeking stems from an innate compulsion and desire to behave in such a way. It's as though the victims of this "disorder" are possessed by some uncontrollable habit or urge to be nosey. Perhaps born out of a natural instinct to be curious, observant, or mischievous, their cheating behaviour is not so much about a deliberate intent to cheat, but a weakness on their part to repress this despicable character trait.
Laziness can also be a strong motive in that some players see cheating as the easy way to win. No long arduous sessions working out a perfect bidding and signalling systems with partner. No hard thinking is required, even in the demanding arenas of top class tournaments, when simple but sophisticated coded messages can be communicated across the table in an effortless way.
Boredom and revenge provide two other motives, which lead many players to cheat. Certainly, cheating can offer a kind of thrill that is irresistible to some. Doing something that is naughty, in direct defiance of the rules, often generates excitement, not to mention the feel good factor which is experienced when " having got away with it ". Even the fear of getting caught can create a real buzz for these players. However, just like computer hackers. many players revel in the idea of beating "the system ", with all its detection and security measures. As for gaining revenge, this can be just as satisfying, because cheating on adversaries seems justified by the old adage : " All is fair in love and war ". For them, the rules of bridge, which preach morality and ethical standards, become insignificant. The imperative of getting their own back on other players takes priority, and in such circumstances these rules must be suspended.
And now we come onto the classic motive of them all. If the game is full of cheats, then one has to balance things up. Their arguments include " evening up the odds ", " if you can't beat them then join them ", or " I'm just part of the rat race ". For them, might is right. Moreover, it makes both common and religious sense to do unto others what they do unto you........to go with the flow......and just simply follow suit.
Yet my colleague and I maintain the view that society, and its institutions, have played a significant part in all this. Clearly, the culture of our times preaches the doctrine of " winning at all costs ", one of which includes the cost cheating. Players in every sport are taught that " winning isn't everything, it's the only thing ". This mantra convinces them that cheating is a risk worth taking if one wants to be a winner. Moreover, ruling bodies in bridge don't help the situation, by creating a system where status and top rankings can be bought. To those looking on, they see sponsors paying professionals to give them a helping hand. So what's the difference if less well off players get a helping hand by means of a tiny little peek at the opponents' cards ?
Yes, some cheating only occurs as something that is done after cold calculation. Sometimes it is a spontaneous impulse to succumb to an irresistible temptation. Others cheat because they are heavily swayed by distorted values of right and wrong, peer pressure, mood, and false images of themselves. But sometimes players cheat, claiming the actions were justified by a genuine sense of fairness. Paradoxically, one of the most powerful motives for cheating, according to research scholars who have been studying decision-making, is the desire for fairness. So for these players " two wrongs do make a right ". Indeed, they believe it is correct to play to their own set of rules, rather than abide by the inadequate ones imposed upon them..... which fail to address the unfairness that exists within the game .
So from our research, one conclusion stands out above all others : one-upmanship and gamesmanship have clearly taken over from sportsmanship.