Online Poker Addiction — Is Online Poker Addictive?

Poker is a fun game, but it can also be fraught with peril. One of the biggest dangers is developing an addiction, or becoming a problem gambler.

Addiction is an emotional state. The addict seeks to achieve this "high" through a certain behavior. Gambling, drug use, drinking, sex, compulsive shopping, even texting, can all become addictive activities if not checked.

Online Poker Addiction — Is Online Poker Addictive?
Gambling In The Blood
Gambling In The Blood

Some people develop an addiction due to genes. Studies have shown that children of alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics. Stress is a major external factor that can lead to addiction, and the presence of other mental disorders can also increase an individual's likelihood to develop an addiction.

A gambling compulsion is similar to drug or alcohol addictions in that the problem gambler gets the same "high" from gambling as a substance abuser does when using drugs or alcohol.

When this high is achieved, the addict builds a tolerance. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the addictive behavior, as it takes more of the experience - whether it is gambling, drinking or taking illicit drugs - to achieve the same emotional high.

The downward spiral into addiction has begun.

Instant Gratification Can Be Harmful

If you have an addictive personality, proceed with caution if you decide to play poker or participate in any other risk-reward type of gambling activity (e.g. playing the lottery or betting on sporting events). Signs of addictive personalities are people who act impulsively, constantly seek new thrills or are considered non-conformists.

The fast feedback that occurs in a gambling setting can quickly turn a pastime into a compulsive pursuit of reward, where one can't voluntarily disengage from the activity and harmful consequences occur — from losing large amounts of money to disruption of relationships.

An article in Psychology Today said that gambling, in particular, can lead to addiction because of the rapid pace of play. "The fast feedback that occurs in a gambling setting can quickly turn a pastime into a compulsive pursuit of reward, where one can't voluntarily disengage from the activity and harmful consequences occur — from losing large amounts of money to disruption of relationships."

Online poker, which allows players to play multiple tables at once, resulting in almost constant action, is a fertile ground for developing addiction. Some sites allow a player to open as many as eight tables at a time, and the speed of play is three times as fast as live poker.

A hand of Texas Hold 'em online can take as little as 40 seconds to play, and that includes hands that go to showdown. In live poker, a hand will take at least two minutes to play, even with automatic shufflers, and hands that go to showdown can sometimes take as many as five minutes.

This isn't to say that you can't become addicted to live poker vs. online poker. It just means that the element of instant gratification might not be as prevalent. Many of the other factors that cause addiction are still present in live poker.

How Do I Know If I'm Addicted To Poker?
How Do I Know If I'm Addicted To Poker?

The National Council on Problem Gambling defines gambling addiction as "all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits."The NCPG definition includes several essential features: increasing preoccupation with gambling; a need to raise the stakes; irritability when attempting to stop; trying to make up for losses by wagering even more; and the inability to stop the behavior in spite of increasing negative consequences.

Do you frequently choose to play poker instead of spending time with your family or loved ones?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may be on the verge of developing a poker addiction or have already become addicted.

Are you spending more on poker than you can afford?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may be on the verge of developing a poker addiction or have already become addicted.

When you lose, do you feel compelled to drop more money on the site and play higher stakes in an attempt to win it all back soon?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may be on the verge of developing a poker addiction or have already become addicted.

Have you tried to quit several times?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may be on the verge of developing a poker addiction or have already become addicted.

Where can I go for help?

The first step is to identify if you have a problem. There are many online resources that can help you. Visit gamblingselfchange.org and take their free assessment to see if you are at risk for becoming a problem gambler.

If you do have a problem, you are not alone. The NCPG estimates that as many as eight million adults in the United States are problem gamblers, with as many as two million that would be classified as pathological gamblers.

The good news is that addiction is a treatable condition.

The good news is that addiction is a treatable condition. Behavioral therapy and counseling can help someone overcome an addiction. Others are able to stop the activity "cold turkey" without any outside help.

It has been said that the best way to resist temptation is to avoid it altogether.

Online resources
Gamblers Anonymous
Gamblers Anonymous www.gamblersanonymous.org
A free support community for problem gamblers, GA operates gambling hotlines in many states and boasts a 12-step program to stop gambling.
Division on Addiction
Division on Addiction www.divisiononaddiction.org
The Division on Addiction is sponsored by the Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School. The site offers many online resources.
National Council on Problem Gambling
National Council on Problem Gambling www.ncpgambling.org
Serves as the national advocate for programs and services to assist problem gamblers and their families.