Monday, May 29, 2006

Addiction

I read a fair amount of poker content, and it seems to me that the topic of gambling addiction is studiously avoided.

We all love poker. We all like winning. But it's undeniable that the addictive qualities of gambling are at worst life-destroying, and at best a challenge to playing an optimal game.

The seed of addiction is created by the positive mental stimulus created by a win. The bigger the win, the more powerful the feelings of happiness. But as with any stimulant, successive uses result in ever-smaller emotional rewards, feeding the need for bigger and better wins to produce the same result.

This cycle is unavoidable except through self-discipline. Even then, it's a constant challenge to avoid tilt, desperation bets, crying calls and irrational all-ins as a way to try to replicate the feelings of self-satisfaction generated from a remembered victory.

Everyone eventually loses it to some extent. Winning players are able to control their self-destructive impulses by taking time off, playing lower limits, trying a new game and staying within their bankroll. Losing players keep playing until they're broke.

As poker players, we would like to pretend that we could cash out and walk away at any time. Some of us could; some of us couldn't. But few of us would do so unless we had good reason to, and even then it would be a challenge to stay away.

Winning poker players don't get a free pass here. It would be easy to say, "Well, because I'm able to consistently make a small profit, I'm in the clear." It doesn't work that way. Winners face a similar danger of gambling compulsion as losing players. The fact that a winner can show a profit just makes it easier to rationalize.

Poker players and bloggers should make an effort to come to terms with the addictive nature of the game. We need to be more constructive in our conversations about hands, bad beats, game selection, bankroll requirements and paranoia instead of constantly patting ourselves on the back and saying, "It's just variance."

That means being more honest with ourselves and each other, not only so we can improve our poker games, but so that we can ensure poker stays fun.

1 comment:

Victor_Enriq said...

Here you make a true great statement. Poker needs to stay fun. And it is. It is a game after all.

Making money is fun, but losing it is not. I find this untrue. People lose money every day, and for the most different reasons. Addicts? Certainly. Its the gift of capitalism (I'm certainly no commie). We are addicts. Some of us shop like there's no tomorrow, these are the ones that are depressed when they dont have the latest car, cellphone, tv or whatever. Some of us are drinkers or drug addicts. These happy bunch will drink theirselves to death even. Some of us are sex addicts, workaholics and so on.

For every pleasure in life, there lays a danger, sometimes its very grave. Sometimes you need luck, be it in the shape of counseling, advice from your family or friends, lucky breaks, religion, etcetera.

After thinking a lot I realize no one is able to tell with cristal clarity what's good or bad for you. They can only estimate roughly. Only you can tell for sure... and if you cant well, then things werent going your way, and this just wasnt your life. Just like in a tourney.