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The Poker Windfall and My Greedy Boss
Dear Emuna

The Poker Windfall and My Greedy Boss

My boss gave his seat to my husband at a charity poker event, and he won! Now he insists on splitting the pot.


Dear Emuna,

My husband’s boss, a very wealthy man, recently bought a seat at a charity poker tournament. He was going to be out of town the day the tournament so he offered my husband his seat at the table. Amazingly my husband actually won! The prize was a lot of money - $25,000! We were shocked, disbelieving, excited. That money will make a big difference to our lives. Of course my husband was grateful to his boss for giving him the opportunity and offered him a nice cut of the winnings. But his boss wasn’t satisfied.

Although no arrangement was made ahead of time (no one thought my husband would actually win), his boss is now insisting on splitting the pot. We don’t know what to do. On the one hand, the money makes a much bigger difference to us than it does to him. On the other hand, my husband doesn’t want to have a bad relationship with his boss. We’re a little frustrated and disappointed and unsure how to move forward. Do you have any suggestions?

Winners or Losers

Dear Winners,

I certainly hear your dilemma. Since there was nothing discussed ahead of time and nothing in writing, I don’t think your husband has a contractual obligation to his boss. In fact I don’t think he has any obligation at all. But I think there are possibly some practical considerations and some character considerations to weigh here.

On the practical side, since he is your husband’s boss, it doesn’t seem to be worth risking his job over or even worth creating bad feelings with his boss over this. Secondly, since your husband didn’t pay to participate in the tournament and he wasn’t planning to participate until that last minute request came from his boss, I think you could look at all the money as a completely unexpected and unwarranted gift. Under those circumstances, whatever you get is more than you had the day before. $12,500 is still a lot of money that only “cost” a few hours of your husband’s time.

In terms of character, I think it’s appropriate to be grateful to your boss for giving you the opportunity to play and that gratitude could be expressed in a more generous attitude with your winnings. Additionally, you should be grateful to the Almighty for facilitating this win and putting this money in your pocket so to speak. Instead of focusing on what you’re not getting, focus on what you are getting – on a completely unexpected windfall. No one really “deserves” this money, so take the high road. And don’t forget to give a tenth to charity…

Night Owl and Early Riser

Dear Emuna,

My husband is a night owl, up until about 2:30 in the morning, reading, surfing the web, doing a little work, you name it. I’m an “early to bed, early to rise” person. I’m exhausted by 8 at night but very energized and productive at 5:30 a.m. This is starting to take a toll on our marriage. I am asleep long before he comes into our room and I am out and on my third cup of coffee long before he’s ready for his first sip. We are finding it difficult to make time for each other given the disparity in our schedules and we don’t really know how to resolve it since it seems to be connected to our hard wiring. Any suggestions?

Mismatched Schedules

Dear Mismatched,

Obviously something (i.e. someone) has to give. This state of affairs can’t continue much longer without your marriage seriously suffering. It should go without saying that if you don’t have time to spend with each other, to relax together, to catch up, to have conversations, that you are not building a relationship.

While neither of you can change your natures, there is certainly room for a little flexibility. Let’s start with you, the letter writer. I understand that you get up early and are therefore tired by 8 at night. I am also a morning person so I can relate. But, even for an early riser, 8 o’clock seems awfully early to go to sleep. Could you push that off for at least ½ hour on a regular basis (maybe even at hour?) so you can spend that time with your husband in the evening?

I assume that if you do that, he will be on board since he’s up and about anyway. Perhaps you could alternate evenings. Some nights you could actually be a little more active and other nights perhaps he could spend time reading and talking with you in the bedroom until you go to sleep and then he could resume his other activities.

This doesn’t seem like an irresolvable problem but it is a problem that needs to be resolved soon if you don’t want your marriage to suffer. Maybe you could begin by taking the first step. Since prayer is always a part of our efforts, you can ask the Almighty to give you the extra energy needed to stay up a little later and bond with your husband.

May 7, 2018

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Visitor Comments: 11

(5) Anonymous, May 10, 2018 6:24 PM

The employee needs to consult with a competent dayan

These scenarios happen all the time in halacha. I would say that the employee should give back the full amount to the boss. The boss was simply using the employee as a stand-in - he was a shaliach for the boss. Nothing was said - and that's the point, he was simply standing in for the boss, who would have been there had he not had other commitments. So the money might rightfully belong to the boss. That being said, it might belong not to the boss, nor the employee but to the company - since perhaps the company was invited to the event and not an individual. These are details for a posek to decide the halacha.

Anonymous, May 11, 2018 10:08 PM

The Boss seems to be a greedy person

1) without a "kinyan" -- it is not at all obvious that the boss or the Company is owed anything. It appears that the boss bought this for himself and then had a conflict so he wanted someone else to "be there". Who was actually putting moeny down on this "game of chance"? It seems that the boss dimply wants to "break in"... Indeed, if the Employee had LOST money, it does not appear at all obvious that the Boss would share in the loss... clearly, this can not be "one sided".
A more pertinent matter might be: how does the boss treat this fellow otherwise? How is the salary How about time off for various reasons? What are other benefits like? If those are all positive then I would agree that even though it is likely that the boss really does NOT have a share in the winnings -- split this anyway... But if the boss is not so nice, maybe this will provide a good "Reason" to look elsewhere...

(4) Yisroel, May 10, 2018 6:14 PM

The game of poker

As an aside to the question about poker, I realize it is a game but it focuses on the ability to bluff your opponent. I've noticed on a personal level that there are poker players who also enjoy bluffing in their personal lives. So, beware of the poker-face it can be very deceiving!

(3) M. Leftinik, May 10, 2018 3:08 PM

What about taxes

While I agree that it isn't worth the bad feelings between employer and employee, the employee will be liable for taxes on the entire amount. They should deduct the taxes and then split the net.

(2) Anonymous, May 7, 2018 12:21 PM

Re: Letter #1

I agree that doing what the boss requests would be the right way to go. Yes, it would have been generous for the boss to let his employee keep the entire $25,000 but is it worth damaging the relationship? With that said, I disagree about the 1/10 donation. IMO, people need to donate an amount of money they are comfortable giving. If they give more than that, they will feel resentful.

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