Gambling Problems: Poker vs. Other Casino Games

By George Epstein
November 13, 2019

In a recent issue of the OLAM magazine published by the Jewish Press, a letter writer asked a very pertinent question that relates to the game of poker: “Is a Gambling Game Affecting Your Life?” With a photo at the top showing a hoodied poker player at work, the letter suggests that poker is a gambling game that may well have an effect on players’ lives in a negative way. This caught my eye, and gave me cause for concern regarding our world of poker.

gambling loss

Image used for illustrative purposes only

Gambling is risking something of value (such as money or poker chips) upon the outcome of a contest of chance, not under the player’s control or influence, with the understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. As Slots Adviser could tell you, poker and slots are very different games.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “for many people, gambling is harmless fun, but it can become a problem. This type of compulsive behavior is often called “problem gambling.” It can become “progressively addicting, resulting in many negative psychological, physical, and social repercussions.”

Problem gambling has steadily increased in the U.S. According to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction, about 10 million people in the U.S. struggle with gambling habits.

Indeed, we all know that there is bound to be an element of gambling where something of value (e.g., money) is involved. It’s 100 percent “gambling” when you fully trust to luck (pure chance) – like tossing a coin into the air: heads you win, tails you lose. Many games are in that category, like the aforementioned slots as well as table games. In those games, the odds are set to give the casino an advantage; that’s “pure gambling.” On the other hand, learning poker skills serves to mitigate the luck factor; so those who study and play the game do so with more of a mind of making a sound investment as contrasted with tossing a coin.

Since you can never completely eliminate chance (luck), there is always a degree of gambling. The same applies to making investments, playing competitive sports, and perhaps even walking across a busy road in the dark (the driver could be distracted).

Unlike “pure gambling,” in many respects, poker can affect our lives for the good. Most people play the game of poker for recreation – just as they might participate in golf, checkers and other challenging games. We all need some recreational activities. We also gain from the social interaction, and thoroughly enjoy the mental challenge.

Treating it as strictly as a recreational activity helps to avoid becoming addicted. Nevertheless, addiction is always a possibility. Help to prevent addiction is readily available (such as Gamblers Anonymous).

Yes, money management is important – just as it is in all parts of our lives. What’s more, for seniors, the mental challenge while playing poker, may very well help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In this regard, in his recent book Play Poker; Stay Young, the world’s leading poker psychologist, Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker, quotes my observations based on our seniors poker group experience.

Bottom Line: Poker is different from other games. It encourages becoming skilled to minimize gambling (where one trusts only to luck). Plus, it offers some wonderful benefits, including mental well-being – no more Alzheimer’s!

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]


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