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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Online gaming leads to gambling addiction for some

    Online gaming leads to gambling addiction for some

    When Derek Norman, a psychology senior, started playing online poker, he couldn’t stop. Soon he found himself playing eight to 10 hours a day, neglecting school work and finally losing over $2,000 in a roller coaster of highs and lows, Norman said.

    Despite being a “”terrible poker player,”” Norman was encouraged by big wins and started to look at poker “”more as a career than a hobby,”” he said.

    As poker’s popularity among college students continues to rise, so does the number of students who develop bad gambling habits that can lead to a pathological gambling addiction later in life, said Jeff Friedman, a therapist at Cottonwood de Tucson.

    An article published in the New York Times magazine stated that in 2005 an estimated 1.6 million out of 17 million U.S. college students gambled online – mostly on poker.

    Poker, particularly Texas Hold ‘Em, owes most of its increasing popularity to its presence on cable TV.

    The escalating presence of poker in mainstream media has created an atmosphere of acceptability, said Rick Pyper, director of the Arizona Office of Problem Gambling.

    “”Poker is different from most forms of gambling because the player has the ability to make many more decisions and exert more control over the game. This is why poker attracts action gamblers while compulsive gamblers, who play to escape their problems, prefer to play games of pure chance like roulette or slots,”” Pyper said.

    The element of skill is what initially attracted Norman to the game and, after walking away from poker for several months, he realized this is exactly what he had lacked.

    Norman began picking up poker books and reading online forums.

    Soon after turning 21, Norman went to Las Vegas and played in person for the first time and won $2,000 in three days.

    Now Norman believes he’s a good player but acknowledges that at first he had “”no idea how to play the game or manage his finances.””

    Mike Gelfund, a 22-year-old former UA student, agrees managing money is critical to being a successful poker player and actually has a separate bank account for his poker money.

    “”You can’t risk money for things you really need like rent or food,”” Gelfund said. “”If you are afraid to lose your money, you won’t be able to put all the chips out there when you need to,”” he said.

    Gelfund is very aware of gambling addictions and has seen many of his friends “”go on tilt”” and lose large amounts of money.

    One of his friends lost $5,000 in 15 minutes while on the way to Las Vegas because they decided to play blackjack.

    When he goes on tilt, Gelfund likes to take a break, breathe deeply and “”try not to throw over the poker table,”” he laughed.

    A successful poker player is someone who consistently wins, not someone who wins big once or twice, he said.

    Gelfund and Norman agree poker is getting much more popular among students at the UA.

    A study done by the Annenberg Public Policy Center concluded that the number of college males who reported gambling online once a week or more doubled in 2005.

    Friedman has also seen an increase in the number of pathological gamblers that come into Cottonwood de Tucson, but attributes this mostly to the fact that there are more opportunities to gamble.

    Most college students that report gambling problems come for treatment of a substance abuse problem and don’t meet the criteria for pathological gambling because they don’t have enough money, Friedman said.

    If you have a problem with gambling or know someone who does, Friedman recommends you call Gambler’s Anonymous at (520) 570-7879 or go to their website, www.gamblersanonymous.org/mtgdirAZ.html to see their meeting times.

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