Do Friends Swindle Friends?

When I was a kid, I swindled a friend.

Magic: The Gathering was all the rage among my friends back then. We played for fun, and we didn’t know the value of the cards (some were worth more than others)…that is, until I bought a magazine that revealed the values of each card. I used that information to make an imbalanced trade.

For some reason I thought this would make me feel clever, but instead I instantly regretted it. It just didn’t feel good to treat a friend like that.

Flash forward to 2017. Now my friends and I play fantasy baseball. They’re all good guys (and one gal), but something happened recently that created some debate about the role of friendship in the league.

Two of the guys had been privately discussing a trade, and one of them–we’ll call him Sam–proposed the trade to the other guy (we’ll call him Tim). Tim accepted the trade.

The trade was, objectively, horribly lopsided in favor of Tim. He gained two top-10 players for two players ranked somewhere in the 200s or so.

I don’t usually speak up about trades, but Tim has a history of negotiating lopsided trades from Sam, and this one was so lopsided that I couldn’t remain quiet. On one hand, I was completely bewildered that Sam had proposed such a trade. But even more so, I was flabbergasted that Tim had accepted the trade. I suggested that Tim had taken advantage of his friendship with Sam, and that friends don’t do what he just did.

Here’s my take on it, which is probably influenced by how I felt after my swindle 20+ years ago: If a friend offered me a trade in fantasy baseball that was lopsided in my favor, I would discourage him from following through on the trade.

If a trade was heavily lopsided, I would straight-up reject it. It just wouldn’t feel right to do that to a friend, even if he proposed the trade. As a friend, I have some level of accountability for my friends’ bad decisions, especially if I’m an integral part of those decisions.

What do you think? Is friendship relevant when you’re playing games, or are all bets off?

7 thoughts on “Do Friends Swindle Friends?”

  1. If both players have access to equal information, then there isn’t a problem. Tim and Sam can both access tons of fantasy baseball information – that’s part of the game of fantasy baseball.

    In your youth, you used unequal information to exploit a friend. Tim isn’t doing that – Sam can easily visit ESPN fantasy rankings and see what the relative values are.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion. We have different perspectives on this. 🙂 I’m curious: Using that logic, say you were looking to buy your friend’s car. He offers you the car for $10k, but you know that the current market value is $25k. You both have access to that information, though it’s clear he doesn’t know about it. Do you still accept your friend’s offer?

      • No, you’d be a lousy friend for accepting an offer like that. But, we—uh, I mean, these guys aren’t even playing for money. So I don’t think Brim did anything wrong.

  2. Friendship is always relevant when playing games – unless it’s against Nils. Then, the overarching “screw with Nils” clause applies.

  3. It feels a bit like king-making, only it doesn’t stop at the single game in front of you, it continues throughout an entire season (or potentially seasons) in the fantasy baseball league.

    I think all players have a responsibility to attempt to win, within the rules of the game. Making obviously poor trades, in this case, goes counter to the players responsibility of trying to win.

    Games aren’t fun to win if people intentionally lose or hand the victory to you. I would feel the same way about this. “Farming” a friend for favorable trades is sort of gaming the system and future victories obtained would feel a bit hollow to me.

  4. Ah, the joys of Fantasy Sports. Perhaps there is more to this trade than meets the eye. Perhaps Tim offered a % of the winnings if the friend made the trade. Perhaps you are in a keeper league where the players in the 200’s have more long term value than the short term expiring top 10 contracts. Perhaps Tim is much more involved in baseball than his friend who is in a league just for fun or something to do. It is tough to balance things out and rules like commissioner must approve trades might prevent total lopsided trades with no real reason outside of dumping a season.

    But to your question of would I fleece a friend. No. I would present the info I have (value of a car, value of players in a trade, value of a Magic card, etc.). Now if they still want to go ahead there might be more to the offer/deal than I am aware of and I would not protest more than twice. 🙂

  5. I think there are lots of considerations to be made here, and politely voicing a concern sounds appropriate.
    I think ‘all bets are off’ never applies in friendships or in life. You don’t set aside your moral character for a game or anything else.
    I’m playing through Pandemic Legacy with my children (8, 11). Last night, we literally lost by one card. If the second player card I drew was anything other than the epidemic, my son would have competed our last objective on his turn. It was suggested that we could go ahead and let him take his turn and claim his victory, but I’m very proud of my daughter for rejecting that and saying it didn’t feel right!
    I’m hoping she has (develops) the strength to do that in all aspects of her life.


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