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Online Gambling: Good Fun or just plain Addiction?

By Charles Moffat - March 2008.

Some people just love to play games. I am no exception. I play Counter-Strike, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons Online (and with pen/paper) and I play a mean game of Tetris, Diplomacy and RISK. I also love car racing games, first person shooters and occasionally playing Free Cell, Solitaire and Hearts.

Therefore I am a bit of an outsider when it comes to playing poker, but I am not an outsider to gaming addiction. I've gone on gaming binges that last weeks or months.

For me however I always get bored with the game and move on. There is only so many times I can shoot someone while playing Counter-Strike before getting bored with it. For me it is about having fun, and occasionally cheering myself up if I am depressed.

For gambling addicts however it isn't fun anymore. It is work, and they see gambling as a career rather than a way to simply enjoy yourself.

I also worked for racetracks as a mutuel (the teller who takes bets) for 5 years so I've seen and met literally tens of thousands of gamblers over the years. They are all looking for the easy way out and they all think that someday, somehow, they are going to get lucky and win big.

But it doesn't work that way. Imagine you are sitting at a poker table with 6 people. There is an approx. 83% chance that you will leave the table a loser. You may think you're smart enough and/or lucky enough to be that top 17%, but so do the other 5 people or else they wouldn't be there. They all think that they are somehow more lucky or smarter.

And if they lose, well then the other person just got lucky, right? Wrong.

Yes, they were lucky enough to win now, but they will lose later anyway. Every gambler eventually goes through a losing streak. You could play six games with six different groups of people, and lose all six of them. Or play 20 games and lose all 20. It doesn't matter. There is always going to be way more losers than winners.

So where does the money go if a very small percentage of people are winning all or most of the time?

Like most gamblers poker is not their only game of choice. Some also go to the racetrack, bet on horses, greyhounds, sports events, and even go to casinos to play Black Jack and roulette. They lose their money at the casinos and the racetrack and wherever else they are betting. The money ends up eventually in the pockets of the casino/racetrack industry, and the bookies.

The Dealer Always Wins

There is a theory about playing Black Jack that if you simply double your bet every time you lose that you will win the lost amount back eventually.

But this theory ignores the fatal flaw of all gambling situations: A losing streak.

Lets say you have $500 to bet on Black Jack. You are making $5 bets and you win a bunch of times and you lose a bunch of times, basically holding steady at $500.

Then you lose a round and you double the bet to $10.

You lose again and you double to $20.

You lose again and you double to $40.

You lose again and you double to $80.

You lose again and you double to $160.

You lose again and you only have $185 left so you bet it all. You figure, hey, I've already lost 6 times in a row. What is the chance of losing a 7th time?

Answer? 50 / 50. Your chance of winning a round never goes up just because you already lost a bunch of times in a row. Your losing streak could go on for another 5, 10 or 20 rounds. By that time you will have mortgaged your house, sold your car and lost everything you own.

It also doesn't matter what strategy you use. You could triple your bet, or double it and add $5, a losing streak is still a losing streak. You will simply lose more and more.

There is a reason why the dealer always wins. The only way for the gambler to win is if they actually have a winning streak and then abruptly STOP gambling.

Winning and then stopping is a difficult thing to do, especially for an addict. It doesn't matter if its a video game or playing poker, the sense of joy and excitement at winning is still there. It creates a false sense of security to know that you've won and you start taking chances and being cocky.

Sex and Poker

Part of the allure of gambling is the pop culture myths that surround winners. Suddenly they have women hanging off their arms, performing sexual favours for money, fast cars, fancy apartments and more. But these myths are both created and perpetuated by the industry. If someone manages to win big (and is smart enough to know when to stop) the industry steps in and basically hires them as a spokesperson to attract more losers to visit their casinos and hotels.

And hot sex with a "poker bunny" is a very big motivator for some men, hence why so many young men are being drawn in by the promises of wealth, a life of luxury and bikini clad poker bunnies. After all, what single male wouldn't want to play strip poker with a poker bunny?

Many of the online poker games are even designed with nude or semi-nude women as part of the graphics. The idea again is to create this sense of sexual excitement with the gambling experience so that the gambler will be convinced that there is more than just monetary rewards if they manage to win in Vegas.

There is also the celebrity factor. The industry has been very aggressive in recent years in inviting celebrities to play in televised events, giving them free spending money and a free hotel room just to show their face at the events and lose gracefully. They are paid to lose and like it, the idea being that gamblers will draw on this idea and not get so upset about losing $50,000 in a poker game.

The online poker industry is HUGE. It is comprised of approx. 25 million individual websites and has profits estimated in the billions (exact figures are unknown because many online poker companies operate across international borders). They can certainly afford to advertise themselves with highly sexualized graphics and celebrities.

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