Problem gambling in poker: Money, rationality and control in a skill-based social game

Abstract

The article explores problem gambling in poker. The distinctions between chance and skill and between bank games and social games are applied to demonstrate how poker is structurally different from most other gambling games. Bank games are organised around a central actor such as the house, the casino or the bookmaker. In social games, players compete against each other on equal statistical footing. Poker is a skill-based social game where players with superior skills may be expected to win even in the long run. Fourteen poker playing problem gamblers were recruited through a treatment program and 15 professional and recreational poker players were recruited through snowball sampling {(N} = 29). Through qualitative interviews, the paper shows that the particular structural composition of poker has implications for the ways problem gambling arises in poker players. It is argued that poker challenges existing theoretical conceptions about problem gambling relating to money, rationality and control. The article explores problem gambling in poker. The distinctions between chance and skill and between bank games and social games are applied to demonstrate how poker is structurally different from most other gambling games. Bank games are organised around a central actor such as the house, the casino or the bookmaker. In social games, players compete against each other on equal statistical footing. Poker is a skill-based social game where players with superior skills may be expected to win even in the long run. Fourteen poker playing problem gamblers were recruited through a treatment program and 15 professional and recreational poker players were recruited through snowball sampling {(N} = 29). Through qualitative interviews, the paper shows that the particular structural composition of poker has implications for the ways problem gambling arises in poker players. It is argued that poker challenges existing theoretical conceptions about problem gambling relating to money, rationality and control.

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