Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Not addicted?

Gambling is something I enjoy. A lot.

In 2002, whilst a student, I went to Las Vegas on my 22nd birthday and gambled for the first time. After four days I came out $100 on top, and walked out of the casinos after 4 days a very happy boy.

In 2004, as a doctor, I returned to Vegas. This time I lost $2000 over four days but made $2500 back, a nice profit of $500.

Both trips to Vegas have involved blackjack. Then I started reading about poker. The idea of winning money from other people seems much more attractive than taking a few dollars from a casino dealer who doesn't care either way (in fact, most dealers in Vegas help you if you tip regularly).

I've been to casinos outside Vegas but have left quickly as I told myself the way to contain my potential addiction would be to only gamble in Las Vegas and nowhere else.

I have always had the idea of going back there with $5000 to gamble. Luckily no-one I know has been stupid enough to join me yet. As I get older and priorities start to change, I've been thinking about spending that money on a house/car/etc. Although given that I have gradually saved the $5000 with the aim of gambling it, knowing full well I may lose it all over 3-4 days (but have a bloody good time doing it) is it really that harmful? I don't smoke or do drugs, I don't drink much (most of the time) and have no other real vices. So maybe it's OK to save a few thousand dollars over 2-3 years and then blow it in a week if I enjoy it and don't mind losing it? It is my money and I have worked hard to get it. But then does that make me even more stupid if I gamble it?

Today I had a day off work and was very bored at home. I played on-line poker for the first time. I invested $200 and they gave me an extra $50 as a way of saying 'hello'. Three hours later I had lost the lot, but had enjoyed playing.

So what next? I am tempted to put in another $200 and try to get my money back. I will be annoyed if I lose that money as well, but it won't be the end of the world. But this is how gambling problems start. The only way to control this is to set myself rules i.e. only gamble in Las Vegas, only gamble once a year, only gamble in real casinos, etc. Otherwise it will get out of hand.

That leads me to question why I enjoy gambling. Part of it might be because I am lazy and enjoy getting money without having to work for it, but that isn't the only reason. I get a buzz from playing with money that I can only just afford to lose. That's why I only gambled $100 as a student but then $2000 as a doctor. If it was the game itself that I enjoyed (poker, blackjack, whatever) I would be happy playing for pennies.

I have 2 golden rules when gambling:
1) When you lose, have the cahunas to put more money in and stay in the game
2) When you are up and have reached your pre-determined target, walk away

It is hard to pluck up the courage to put more money into a losing situation, and it is even harder to walk away from a winning situation. If I want to win $200 back now, I'm going to have to go back in with around $500 to give myself a good chance.

I just found this on the internet and it is very worrying indeed:

Robert Custer identified the progression of gambling addiction as including three phases:

During the winning phase, gamblers experience a big win ­ or a series of wins ­ that leaves them with unreasonable optimism that their winning will continue. This leads them to feel great excitement when gambling, and they begin increasing the amounts of their bets.

During the losing phase, gamblers often begin bragging about wins they've had, start gambling alone, think more about gambling and borrow money ­ legally or illegally. They start lying to family and friends and become more irritable and withdrawn. Their home life becomes more unhappy, and they are unable to pay off debts. They begin to "chase" their losses, believing they must return as soon as possible to win back their losses.

During the desperation phase, there is a marked increase in the time spent gambling. This is accompanied by remorse, blaming others and alienating family and friends. Eventually, the gamblers may engage in illegal acts to finance their gambling. They may experience hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and attempts, arrests, divorce, alcohol and/or other drug abuse, or an emotional breakdown.

My gambling experiences so far have exhibited many of the features of the winning and then today the losing phase. If I sign back in to the on-line poker room will I officially be addicted? Where is the distinction between an expensive hobby and an addiction?


Kate said...

I dunno about saving it all for Vegas, but might be a good idea to save it for the REAL casinos? You never quite know what shit is going on behind the scenes over the 'net. Hell, I could be a 57-year old man with a fetish for young, 20-something doctors for all you know (I'm not, for what it's worth).

I think it's when you start lying and covering shit up that you've got a problem. Take care.

Zook said...

If you stick to your rules, it is not an addiction. Even the bit about adding real casinos outside Vegas will be ok, as long as you stick to limits on how often and how much mony you spend. Go online, and the slippery slope gets much more greasy.

I love gambling too, and stick to blackjack mainly, but I steer clear of online gambling like the plague because I know that the easy access will mean I play more and I am smart enough to know that I cannot beat the odds long term.

I am a member of a couple of casinos, and go a couple of times a year when I am out in London anyway, and, usually, with someone who wants to join me.

I am a prime candidate for becomeong addicted to gambling, but this discilpline has kept me solvent for 15 years after a rocky start when I lived too near a casino. Luckily I was a student at the time, and didn't have access to enough money to get into trouble.

Keep off the net and you should be fine.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I find that I just enjoy playing the game but the problem with poker is that it just doesn't work without the money side of things!


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Some of the experiences you highlight, like the buzz and the thrill, can be addiction symptoms. If you can have the fun and it not be destructive (financially, personally, etc) you are in the clear. The line between addiction and thrill-seeking fun in thin. But as Kate and Zook say, as long as you are not lying, backpeddling or hiding issues, than what's the harm?

Anonymous said...

Vegas, if you fancy practising and at the same time giving me lots of your money. Join me at my next poker evening.


I'm bored of playing with Ben and the others as they have trouble betting more than £10 at a time...

That's a waste of my time!

I'm probably going to organise something in the new year if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Stuart has an interesting system where he keeps playing till everyone gets bored and just lose to end the game :)

superstar said...

good picture

Anonymous said...

If you're playing for a mighty £10 and people play conservativly I have every right to get frustrated. I can't remember the amount of times where one of you has gone up by £2 and then tried to stop playing.

Note: I'm not talking about Ian. H never wins a round, let alone an evening.


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The Venial Sinner said...

My God, you're all weirdos! Who'd want to give away the best part of their money to some faceless organisation in exchange for nothing but a few transient hours of pleasure? What's wrong with sticking to booze and drugs like the rest of us?! ;o)

By the way, Vegas, have you heard Not An Addict by K's Choice? I used to like it a lot.

Kate said...

Ohmigod, "Not An Addict" is such a great song. It was my theme song my first few years of uni, basically.

The Lotus said...

would you classify aribatta as an addiction, and now we're just trying to fill the void...

Vegas said...

Venial Sinner and Kate - I haven't heard that song but I will make sure I do. The title of this entry was from The Streets song f the same name which is pretty good too.

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Anonymous said...

I feel that online gambling is a much better bet if you can find a reputable casinos. I've won way more online than I ever have at a land-based casino because the betting is much lower, you can play at your own pace, no smoker or other issues.

Play Texas Holdem said...

yeah, gambling is very entertaining, but i think some people are so addicted to gambling i dunno why :D