Here is the situation. You are at a social event. People sip their drinks, bite their snacks, laugh at jokes. In this friendly environment, when meeting some new faces, there is always the question: What do you do? What is your profession?
The question usually leads to more questions, resulting in more exciting conversation topics. What you do with your free time, which movies do you like, which food, which vacation destinations.
But what happens when it comes to the topic of poker? What kind of reactions do you get from people?
I've had the most different reactions. Some people will immediately talk about gambling and addiction. They’ll remember something they heard of, or somebody they knew, who lost all his possessions, or committed fraud with somebody's credit card, or had to go under psychological treatment. Some will simply make a face of disapproving surprise “I didn't expect that of him” and quickly change the subject. And they might be right, in a way. This self destructive character they have in mind exists by the thousands and is right now shoving his QJo from UTG with 40 BB somewhere.
There is also the other side: people who will talk about the money. There is a lot of money involved right? Expecting you to either brag about your winnings or lament about your losses but somehow confirm their suspicion of you moving around large sums of money either to your account or away from it.
I have rarely encountered someone to talk about the mental sport. How about that? The mental effort you put in it, the hours of study? The difficulty of decisions? The knowledge of the situations and opponents you need to have in order to take those decisions? The fact it's a mental game of strategy and requires a lot of preparation?
And yes, it's about the money. I play poker for money, not for the nice and cozy social aspects, not to impress people, not just because I like it. And don't get me wrong, I love playing poker- but making money with it, whenever possible, is the main objective.
The media has presented over the years a classically bad image of a poker player, the losing one. It's the middle age, balding, out of shape bad father who has on top of all a drinking problem and a history of domestic violence. I've seen this character come back again and again in all different media productions.
This must have been imprinted somehow in the subconscious mind  of most people, before they actually get informed about the nature of the game.
What bothers me the most is the association of a gambler with dishonesty. One thing has nothing to do with the other. But somehow these dramatic characters in the media and their reality equivalents, have brought a bad image to playing poker which affects the image of whoever else gets involved with the game. Gamblers are not low life scoundrels who dedicate their lives to criminal activities.
Let me illustrate this, without trying to be moralistic or anything but just putting this honesty issue in perspective:
It's a fine sunny afternoon, I am biking though the city. I see a package on the floor, which at first I though to be one of those little bags with pencils school children carry around in their back packs. I pick it up and bike on, planning to check it later and see if I return it to the owner. As I arrive home, I see it's not a bag of pencils, it's full of cash instead, about 300 euro's, say 400 dollars. It is a wallet which also has a few bank cards, library cards and such of a young woman. I google her up, find a contact and give the wallet back with it's full content. She had just received her week's salary from waiting tables or something (she was a student) and was very grateful.
Now picture this situation: she's sitting at my table with 400 dollars and we're playing poker. I'll get he full contents of anything she's carrying! I'll happily bluff, talk her into making the moves I want her to make, lie and charm her around and finally get all her money. It's the same 400 dollars, but it's a completely different thing!