It would be great it playing fair were enough, but in many cases it just doesn't produce great results. I had similar experiences in the first few years of running my games business, running into a lot of dishonorable behavior and seeing it rewarded. I couldn't betray my values to make a buck, so I ended up going broke instead.
I eventually figured out that I wasn't here to play fair. I was here to play to win, but it took me a long time to figure out what winning meant. I at least knew it didn't mean betraying my values to get ahead.
When I tried to win for myself, I was always disappointed. We often fool ourselves into thinking we're trying to win for others, while we're really wrapped up in our own concerns. For example, while you obviously care about your kids, it's the shame and embarrassment of failure that you're focused on, meaning that you're still trapped in ego-identification.
Life really began flowing for me when I finally let go of that ego junk, pride, and feelings of doubt and said to myself, "I'm just going to focus on making the best contribution I can. If I go broke doing that, I go broke. My fears and worries are just not that important compared to the difference I could make if I really gave this life my very best. If I'm here to make a contribution, then the universe had better back me up."
To this day I find that whenever I keep my focus on helping others, I attract far more abundance than I need. Extra money just falls out of the sky -- it's almost ridiculous how easy it is. But whenever I start sinking back into my ego and thinking "me, me, me," my results begin to decline, and I start attracting more problems.
One of the hardest things to do is to focus on helping others when you don't even feel your own needs are adequately met. But as tough as it is, that's the solution. That's what gets us out of our egos and into a higher level of consciousness. That's what activates the Law of Attraction. When we stop worrying about ourselves and focus all our last drop of energy on contribution, almost like magic we find our problems simply vanish.
Try taking a couple bucks and giving them to a homeless person with a few words of kindness, and see what effect that has on your perspective. That money will have no impact on your finances, but to someone else it's a meal.
A similar suggestion would be to spend some time helping other people in these forums who are in a worse situation than you are. Even if you don't have specific advice, just offer some words of encouragement. Try doing that for an hour, and notice what it does to your level of thinking.