When is a pastime a pathology?

May 16, 2005 3:08 AM

Recently, I read an article in a Las Vegas publication attempting to explain what it takes to be classified as a "pathological" gambler. Having been there in my early gambling years, I read the information with great interest, and then compared what was written to my own personal experiences about the subject.

My initial thought on the subject is that no form of gambling is exempt from becoming a problem, but it is the game of video poker — with its constant interaction between machine and player along with the obvious very personal nature of the game — which makes it the number one casino culprit when it comes to addiction.

Case in point: How many times have we picked up the paper or opened the Internet to a story of someone letting their gaming get far out of control? Women leave children in hot cars for too long a period of time, players slip out of work with the company’s petty cash and feed the hungry machines, and so forth.

When it comes to this very touchy subject, one things for sure: People would rather sit in the dentist chair for consecutive two-hour root canals than to talk about how they’ve succumbed to the lure of the machines. And it’s because want no one to know of their secret weakness.

I’ve said this many times before: The only bigger liars than fishermen are gamblers; and for good reason. How much humiliation can one take anyway?

I regularly knock so-called "advantage" players because of how they go about playing video poker while dissing my winning play strategies without understanding any of them. This pack of pawns are constantly led into casinos by special deals and promotions.

Many of those who play the game and are able to create feel-good positions about why they play far too much for their own good, belong to one of the various video poker forums on the Internet. A quick scan of some of the major ones always finds that, although there are sometimes thousands who belong, whenever a member posts about a fabulous winning trip, it’s very rare for a comment to post in congratulations.

Why is this? Because losers are a jealous lot, as I’ve found time and again when I used to post my trips. They’d rather post about complaints with the slot clubs, the annoying players sitting next to them, or why their favorite nickel machine was moved. True winners are happy to see others taking casino money home with them. We don’t duck issues, post meaningless ramble or change the subject to anything other than winning players.

Every now and then we read in the Las Vegas papers and elsewhere, about how problem gambling is becoming more and more a problem for those who live around town.

When I was in that type of miserable rut up through 1996, I felt I was the most secretive, most creative individual on the planet. No one knew anything, and there certainly wasn’t anyone like me telling it to them in the media

I remember I played exactly how the math experts told me to in all that I purchased from them. I also remember losing every spare dime I had, time after time. Royals were nothing more than intermittent gratification, and their value never lasted.

And that’s exactly the way it is for anyone who claims to be an advantage player. The only advantage is the one the casino holds in the long term. But some players never learn. Some players are constantly fooled by others and what they talk about or sell. Most of these are video poker players who lose, and will keep on losing until the finally wake up like I did. It feels good not to have the problem any longer.