Are You a Poker Junkie?

By Ashley Adams | July 30, 2009

Gambling compulsion is a serious subject. I’ve seen players ruin their lives with compulsive, addicted poker play. During my recent trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker I sat with a player at the Sahara who played terribly, in two hours lost about $1,200 (none of it to me, unfortunately) in a $1/2 no limit hold’em game, and seemed miserable while doing it. There is nothing funny about such a self destructive addiction. If you think you may actually be a compulsive gambler, please refer to my immediately prior column – Gamblers Anonymous.

On the other hand, I find that it’s possible to be obsessed with poker without that obsession rising to the level of a disease or something harmful. With that in mind, here is my list of the top ten signs that your poker game may be taking over your life. Lest you get too depressed from the observations, you’ll see from my comments that there’s something positive about each of these experiences.

1. You go to a bank and ask the teller to “color up” your five $20 bills into a $100.

Mistaking a bank teller for a casino cashier is a sign of a serious obsession. But, on the other hand, you actually have five $20s, meaning you aren’t flat broke. This incident also shows that you’re smart enough to do simple arithmetic.

2. You’re eating at a restaurant with three of your buddies. When the check comes you say to everyone, “Let’s chop it!”

There’s a silver lining here. Although you use a poker phrase unintentionally, once again, while partaking in a non-poker related activity, you demonstrate that you still have friends – and that you’re at least doing well enough to eat out. And though you are probably not a huge winner, not having offered to pick up the entire tab yourself, at least you’re not so destitute from playing poker that you’re bumming meals off your friends.

3. You come home from work, have dinner with your lovely wife, go on the computer to check your email, sign into an online cash game while you’re there. You continue to play poker as your wife comes up behind you, starts to rub your neck and shoulders, whispers in your ear, “the kids are staying over at their friend’s tonight dear” as she kisses you softly. You reply, “There’s a $10 tourney starting in a few minutes; maybe when it’s over …”

This is almost entirely a bad thing. There is one positive note, however. In spite of your obsession with poker, you are still married and your wife is still interested in you. Unfortunately, given your tepid response to her amorous ovations, you may soon find yourself with only a computer mouse to play around with.

4. Your wife calls you to dinner while you’re playing $.25/.50 no limit online. You yell back “Roll me over dear”.

While it’s generally good for a poker player to feel at home in a casino, it is not a good idea to confuse your home for the casino. On the other hand, your wife is still cooking you dinner and is still willing to have you eat it with her.

5. You come home from a weekend of playing poker, get greeted at the door by your beautiful twelve year old daughter – who then runs away screaming, “Mommy, a stranger’s breaking into our house!”

It’s truly a bad sign when your own children don’t recognize you any more because of your frequent poker-related absences. But, look on the bright side. At least you recognized her.

6. When, on your girl friend’s birthday, you scroll down the web address list on your computer to find the web site for that great Italian restaurant you went to a while back, all you see are poker sites, online casinos, and poker discussion groups.

There are two positive points to be made about this. There’s something to be said for wanting to go out to eat with your girlfriend instead of playing poker. And, perhaps most important, even though you’re away playing poker much of the time, you still remembered your girlfriend’s birthday.

7. You stop going to church because you don’t want it to interfere with the Sunday Million Tournament.

Though you’ve had to sacrifice your spiritual side in the interest of your passion for poker, it’s good to reaffirm that you don’t believe in that superstitious notion that praying to God in church is necessary for you to win. Plus, there’s the added bonus of not having to diminish your bankroll by dropping anything into the collection plate.

8. You categorize all of your friends as “loose”, “tight”, “aggressive”, and “passive”.

Well, at least you’re not hanging out with only maniacs and rocks – and you still have friends.

9. Your poker losses have been so big lately that your rent no longer accounts for most of the money you spend each month.

It’s comforting to know that by cutting back on the hours you play or by turning around your game you can afford a much nicer apartment or maybe a mortgage on a place you own.

10. You keep a toothbrush and a razor by the computer so you don’t ever have to miss a hand.

Your poker playing hasn’t interfered with your desire to be well groomed. And you’re coordinated and dexterous enough to multi-task in this way.

If even one of these ten items rings true for you, you are probably a poker junkie. But if you are, don’t despair. Misery loves company. And there are tens of millions of us.

By Ashley Adams

Ashley Adams lives in Boston, Massachusetts and has been playing poker for decades. He is the author of two poker books and his specialty is 7-card stud and no-limit hold'em.


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