How much is too much poker?

Aug 6, 2002 7:16 AM

About 10 years ago a very close friend of mine asked me this question: "You go to Nevada to play video poker at least once every time you come home from a trip (which was about 15 times a year)." He continued, "Don’t you think you’re playing a little too often and a little too much?" If the player is winning, you’ll get a qualified yes. If the player is losing, you’ll always get a firm no. By answering "No" you’re giving the impression you have an endless bankroll, and that you are all what others think you are and more.

The above scenario was me from 1990 to the start of 1997. Even though I did not live in Nevada and was away from the USA for much of the time, I played entirely too much. But you would have never, ever heard me admit to this back then. Gamblers are very sensitive when you hit that compulsive nerve, and even though that very creative defensive screen suddenly pops into place, there is nothing to keep you from being exposed to yourself. This is how I came to better understand what I was doing, and why I decided it was time to learn to control the game that was invading my life ”” rather than continue to let it control me.

If you stroll through the local casinos in LV every day, you’ll soon begin to spot the regulars. Retirees, casino workers, unemployed, the leisure class, and more. Do these people play too often? Everyone has a different story and everyone has a different situation. I do know that I would never live there, simply because if you’re a video poker enthusiast, the temptation to play far more than you plan to or should play is capable of ruining my day, and I will never let that happen again. What about the hundreds of thousands of local players who face this dilemma every day? Well, the casinos are not closing down, their numbers are growing, and the older ones continue to remodel. Is it beginning to add up yet?

But what does "playing too often" really mean? Let’s eliminate the semi-annual vacationers and tourists first. Even though many of these players might be doing a lot more with their time in a town that offers so much, it’s hard to argue with someone who dreams of playing for many months and who plays more than 12 hours a day while there. That’s not too much in my book (although it may be to the person they came with). The next group is made up of those who come to town at least once a month ”” some more than that ”” mostly from the nearby states. It is very likely that everyone in this group is responding to the RFB and comp offers they constantly receive through the mail. There is no question here: these people play too much. Whether they can afford it or not, someday it will come out to bite them, and they really should be addressing the problem instead of feeding it.

How do I know? I was a member of this group for nearly seven years. I didn’t lose anything I didn’t have, but I lost an awful lot. What these people are basically fighting is the temptation to come and stay at one of the fabulous resorts along the Strip, eat and drink for free, see spectacular shows, and be treated like special VIP’s the whole time. At what cost? Hey, they may believe some of the famous names when it’s called "free," but there’ll come a time when they’ll realize that they were paying at least 10 times the value of everything they were showered with, and it was all due to those irresistible slot club marketing promotions. Have you ever heard of the JUST SAY NO campaign against drugs? For many people, it’s just as much a challenge with gambling.

Now let’s get back to the locals. Those who play nearly every day obviously play too much, and there’s absolutely no doubt they struggle with their habit in one way or another. A good barometer for the rest who play the game would be to ask yourself what you think about above all else if you ever go out of town for any reason. Some locals dislike it when I bring these innermost points out, but then again, even they realize the fact that their living in Las Vegas does not automatically equate to the freedom to withdraw money at will from the casinos.

The final tally says that everyone should have a view of his or her own limitations. Unfortunately, casinos are masters at clouding ”” and indeed, changing ”” that vision. And those who run around town willy nilly broadcasting that everything is free, only make their job of picking our pockets that much easier. I combat this nonsense by knowing the truth, telling everyone the truth, and living that truth with my short-term, goal-oriented Play Strategy. Nothing is as effective in gambling as doing just the opposite. When everyone learns to not use a slot club card, or to use it only to their advantage, no one will ever be playing too much.