MORE ON POKER — BY ARNIE WEXLER

In the 42 years that we have been helping compulsive gamblers, we have never seen anything explode like poker has. Poker is sweeping the nation and the world. It is the hottest thing on college campuses. It is easier to play poker then it is to buy cigarettes or a can of beer on campuses all over the country. We have spoken to college students who play poker day and night. They even play during class. According to a Harvard study a few years ago, 4.67% of young people have a gambling problem. Experts tell us that the earlier a person starts to gamble, the greater the risk of them becoming a compulsive gambler. In another survey, 96% of adult male recovering gamblers’ stated that they started gambling before the age of 14. With this poker explosion, the average age of people seeking help for a gambling problems is now much younger then even just a few years ago .

You can’t surf the TV without seeing some kind of poker tournament being televised, and you can’t be on your computer without seeing a pop up about poker or receiving an email inviting you to come to a poker site to play.

Some of the people (both youngsters and adults) are becoming addicted to poker. Not everyone who plays, will develop a compulsive gambling problem, but there are those who will get caught up in the craze and then cross that invisible line which will lead to destruction.

It is very easy for someone to get “hooked” on poker. It is readily available (24 hours a day). In some cases (via the internet) you never have to leave your home or office. You don’t even need to get dressed. The game of poker is quick and socially acceptable.

It is the kind of gambling experience that fits very well with someone who has an impulse disorder like compulsive gambling. It holds a special danger for those who are already at risk, or compulsive gamblers in recovery. We have seen recovering gamblers relapse into their addiction as the result of being tempted by the poker craze.

Almost every day, we get emails ( aswexler@aol.com) or hot line calls (888- LAST BET) from people asking for help about their poker addiction. Some of the requests come from parents of youngsters (as young as 14). Others vary from teens to seniors, men and women as well.

The American Psychiatric Association describes Pathological Gambling as an impulse disorder. The criteria they use to diagnose this disorder is as follows:

Persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as indicated by at least five of the following:

1. is preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)

2. needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement

3. has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling

4. is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling

5. gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression.

6. after losing money gambling, often returns another day in order to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)

7. lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling

8. has committed illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement, in order to finance gambling

9. has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling

10.relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling

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