Poker and Problem Gambling
Jeremy Stryker

At forty four short pages, this piece of work is more of an essay on the subject than a book, and it took me just thirty five minutes during a lunch break recently to get through the lot. That was the first disappointment.

Notwithstanding its brevity, is it any good? Regrettably not. That was the second. Although the author has focussed on some thought-provoking points, overall it's poorly written, riddled with gramatical and construction errors (despite English not being the author's mother tongue, just how did " . . . your loved one can still got problems from playing poker." ever find its way into the finished product?) and contains little in the way of substance to underpin his assertions that the vast majority of people who regularly play online poker have a gambling problem.

Why does he take this stance? Largely, it seems, as a result of his own experience. Despite winning a few bob over two years he came to the conclusion that the time and effort he was expending on the game came at a price - degrading performance at work and not achieving the returns he thought he would, with his winnings equating to below the minimum wage when divided by the total number of hours he played. From what I read I got the impression that he'd picked up on the possibility that he might have a gambling problem, and therefore has assumed that just about everyone else who has trodden the same path has one too.

Probably the high point within the text is the example of a betting proposition with a mathematical advantage (a bit like my bag with ten black and white balls in it), as opposed to having a degenerate punt on a random event, and the fact that because good poker players can identify when the odds of winning a hand are in their favour there's a common view that if you become proficient playing the game you're not really gambling. Basically the old chestnut of just where a line should be drawn between the skill and chance elements of the game. Unfortunately with Poker and Problem Gambling, there isn't much in the way of discussion of this thorny question, just the author's view that playing poker is still gambling, and if you have someone close who plays regularly they more than likely have a gambling problem. I must keep an eye on Mrs UK, as that tenner she blows every two months or so, from playing most evenings of the week, looks to be the thin end of the wedge. Well, possibly if I believed everything Mr S has written. Towards the end of his "book" he writes ". . . First of all, if someone just recreationally play, that obviously doesn't count" - so she doesn't have a problem then?

Overall this is a pretty dismal effort at examining the subject and does no more than promotes the author's subjective views and skims over the points he raises. Since publishing Poker and Problem Gambling, Jeremy Stryker has published three further titles relating to his time playing poker, the longest of which is Why I Quit Poker at 116 pages, and which is of an autobiographical nature. The index of this title shows there's a chapter entitled My therapist, Dr S, which does make me wonder if writing these books is part of a wider effort by Mr S to address his own addictive behaviour? Regardless of whether this is in fact the case or not I think I'll be giving his other titles a miss.

If you are interested in reading more on the subject of online gaming addiction, then I'd suggest you look to pick up something more rounded and robust than this one is.

October 2015.


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