Recovering poker addict misses the rush but not the
By Matt Lenio
October 16, 2006 | On any given weekend, the phrase
"I will raise you 10, no wait... 25," followed by the
quick reply, "I'm all in," can be heard at college apartments
across the country. Often, those playing will claim
that they are more than capable to stop gambling at
any time. Many of those same students, however, find
themselves spending rent, food, and even tuition money
to stay in the game.
The college gambling craze has been sweeping the nation,
fueled by the advent of Internet gambling sites and
popular television shows like ESPN's World Series Poker.
A recent study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy
Center showed that 57 percent of the young men surveyed
reported that they gamble at least once a month. The
study also showed that monthly card-game gambling among
youth is up 20 percent from the year before.
"About one college student in 20 has a gambling problem,
but it's an issue that's very much under the radar,"
Jeff Marotta, problem-gambling services manager for
the Oregon state human resources agency, said according
to an ABC news report. "Most colleges seem to view student
gambling as a harmless extracurricular activity, yet
we know that for a certain percentage of student gamblers
it can lead to serious problems."
The Internet has given minors easy access to the world
of gambling, causing a potential addiction at a younger
age. Because there are few reliable methods of verifying
age, young people are able to participate in the gambling
craze. This error allows minors to start gambling at
an age when they are vulnerable to ways of the world
that adults are more capable to comprehend.
Henry Lesieur, Ph.D, and Durand Jacobs, Ph.D, have
conducted studies revealing evidence that adolescents
are roughly three times more likely than adults to become
problem gamblers. A recent study showed that of 37 online
gambling sites, 30 allowed minors to register, pay,
and play. Shortly after the study was conducted, Senator
Charles Schumer of New York said, "These online gambling
sites think they have really hit the jackpot by targeting
I believe that most Internet gambling sites depend
largely on the youth who have found a way to participate
in the gambling scene. The money made off of an actual
35-year-old or a 15-year-old who claims to be 35 years
of age, still spends the same.
Although it is relatively difficult to measure the
total amount of money spent in online gambling, collected
statistics have further proven the increase in popularity.
A recent study showed that online gambling earnings
in 2002 accumulated to $4.1 billion, and increased to
$5.5 billion in 2003. The numbers have continued to
soar year to year as the craze grows.
A year and a half ago, I found myself sacrificing
a countless number of hours that should have been used
for homework and sleep to play Texas Hold 'Em with a
group of fellow students. At first, it was a just a
chance to eat chips and salsa, drink Rockstar energy
drinks, and hang out with the guys. Soon, however, the
intentions changed from having a relaxing "guys night
out," to the thrill of pulling in an arm full of poker
chips that had me believing that if I just kept playing,
one night I would take home the entire pot of winnings.
I told myself that poker was based 100 percent off
of skill, and that if I could outsmart the other poker
addicts that sat around the green felt poker table,
I could have a little extra spending money -- often
as much as $100 -- for the week. This thought consumed
my mind, and that's where my poker addiction began.
In all honesty, skill does have a lot to do with winning
in a poker game, although luck is most definitely also
a factor. There is only so long that a player can continue
to win without being dealt the right cards at the right
time, no matter how wise his strategies on how to win
The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery has
stated that roughly 5 percent of those who gamble become
compulsive gamblers. That small percentage represents
a mass of people who have an addiction as severe as
alcoholism or drug addiction. Although the addiction
may not be physically harming to the individual, the
sensation of winning a bet has consumed their lives
to the extent of causing an addiction.
For five months, I played poker as often as three
times a week, regardless of how much homework I had
to do, how much spending money I had at my disposal,
or what other activities were available. We kept a paper
form detailing how much money the regular players owed
each other, but as some of their debts started to reach
$200, it became obvious that they would be unable to
continue playing poker. As college students, we have
a minimal income that already only allows many of us
a diet of ramen noodle soup, hotdogs, and Kraft macaroni
and cheese. When you factor in debts of nearly $200,
one begins to recognize that somewhere along the path,
an error was committed.
As it became apparent that poker was hurting our grades,
and our friendships, we banned the game from the apartment.
Grades in our classes immediately improved, we as a
group were better rested, and our money was soon spent
on things of real personal importance. I do, however,
still miss the loud roar that erupts from a group of
guys watching their money being taken by another in
a good hand of poker. I miss the stories and jokes re-told
from around the table. As funny as it may sound, I even
miss cleaning up the broken chips and pretzels off of
the tile floor the morning after our weekly casino night.
Although what I don't miss at all, is having complete
control of how my time and money is spent.