Poker is often not talked about much in the area of gambling harm. Whilst for the majority, poker is enjoyed as a social event, particularly between groups of friends, online poker, like most online gambling, can become less of a social event and become an addictive and isolated activity. Loss-chasing can easily occur as a direct consequence of a near-miss scenario therefore putting two high risk harm markers together in an instant. A good poker player could have built up winnings over a period of time, only to lose it all in a matter of minutes. It’s therefore easy to see how Poker could lead to disordered gambling. If these high risk instances then become merged with the other known harm markers associated to gambling disorder, then it is easy to see how Poker can became a destructive form of gambling for some.
There is also an irony that many disordered gamblers, due to their nature, see themselves as being ‘good’ at playing poker and this is often true. A known trait within disordered gamblers is that they are highly completive. Therefore, this breeds a desire to win and with poker combining skill with luck there’s no doubt that many people’s enjoyment of the game begins to step into the realms of high losses due to their belief that they are good at the game and will be able to recoup their losses through their skill. However, as loss-chasing increases, some will begin to rely less on their skill of the game and stake higher stakes irrationally and relying on luck over skill to give them a quicker chance of winning and returning to profit. This can then exacerbate and speed-up the loss-chasing behaviour.
It can then often be the case that the player themselves begins to realise that this form of gambling is becoming illogical or not in their favour. They begin to comprehend that they’re losing money based on luck and shortening odds (for example, staking on cards that have a low percentage of winning), yet they feel. unable to control themselves. It’s fair to accept that many would then naturally convert to other forms of gambling which remove the element of skill and relies totally on luck. Many would also remain in this cycle with poker alone being their only vice, whilst fitting into the criteria of being a disordered gambler.
We would like to highlight that poker can therefore be seen as potentially as harmful as other forms of gambling and indeed become a gateway to high losses and more high risk forms of gambling, such as roulette and electronic gaming machines.