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I've heard several stories of poker PROs and semi-PROs that developped issues related to gambling addiction. However, most of those often came related to other casino games like roulette.

I'd like to know how common it is for serious, disciplined Internet winning grinders to develop such problems

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Most winning, disciplined grinders do not get involved in gambling in other games like roulette because they are disciplined. They are winning players because they understand the math behind poker and how to ensure that they have a winning edge over their opponents. Understanding the math behind poker will help them understand that playing games like roulette and slots is basically throwing money away.

This is not to say that no poker pros or winning poker players struggle with gambling addiction, which has to do with psychology and how the brain works.

I would make a rather safe assumption, thought, that winning poker pros are very unlikely to be gambling addicts. Poker pros would not be winning players if they had gambling problems. Winning in poker involves making decisions which have positive expected value in the long run, something that people with gambling problems would have a hard time doing.

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I'm completing the book Hooked; how to build habit-forming products. Its claimed that roughly 1% of people who engage in a habit-forming activity, such as gambling, develop an addiction.

Alexander Fitzgerald, a professional poker player who has worked with many casino gaming companies that involve poker says that according to the data from those companies about 5-15% of players are actually making money from this game. The rest are losers.

I don't have any data to back up my next point but I don't think that more than 10% of winning poker players are fully professional, at least not at a given point. Most people don't dare relying on poker as a full time income, despite being winning players. They use it as a side income or a fun slightly profitable hobby.

Having an addiction means that you don't have control over yourself. Being a professional poker player requires discipline and a long term growth mindset. While there's a chance that we have seen and will see some pro poker players who are addicts the chances of them lasting more than a couple of years are very low.

I think it's a safe assumption that the majority of poker pros who make it more than a couple of years are not addicted or they've developed a system that allows them to manage their addiction within a strict defined scope of rules, but its unlikely because addiction sadly doesn't care much about rules.

It would be interesting to see a proper research on this.

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I am predicating my answer on a definition of “gambling disease” as meaning your referring to professional players that could not pass the 20 questions from the gamblers anonymous test or could be clinically diagnosed as compulsive gamblers. It has been almost 35 years since I played my firsthand of poker and had my first job in a casino, I base my answer on this experience.

My estimate of how common gambling disease is with PPP (professional poker players) is 99.5% give or take half a point. This is not to say by any means becoming a PPP is a terrible thing for everyone, or even the majority of people that give it a shot. For a few it is the best thing that could ever happen to them. For most they go broke or they just decide it is not for them. Some exit the game via a 20th floor window or some other hideous manner. There are really as many stories as there are players. Some good, some bad, most way inside the extremes of the spectrum.

IMHO the one thing all PPP have is an addiction to the game of poker. They are compulsive about it. I do not believe you can stay competitive at the game at a worthwhile level unless you are compulsive and addicted to the game. Few successful PPP players I know would pass a GA test, or fare to well with a professional clinical evaluation of their gambling habits. It is not necessarily degenerate gambling, but it is the one common behavior that I have seen in every PPP player that I have come across in the past three decades or so. This compulsive behavior is not uncommon in most other professions. Indeed, most people whom are compulsive about their profession have the drive and focus to rise to the top and poker is no exception to this.

You need the compulsion to motivate you to get out of bed to play, to help you stay focused during long tournament sessions, to keep your game competitive and all those other things. For any PPP it is a fine line to stay in the zone over the years. Nobody is perfect about staying the things that make you excel over other players. Being addicted and compulsive with our game is like riding a bull, its easy to fall off. If we're really addicted, we really do not have a lot of control over it. Ironically most of us are not really addicted and compulsive enough to keep us competitive enough to make a living with poker. Unfortunately, some of us can’t handle the demon and become degenerate… And of course, some people are just to stupid to be PPP. At any rate I have never met a PPP that is not addicted to the game.

  • I've seen the test, but I see a problem with applying it to professional poker players. If you substitute "gambling" (it's not clear whether a poker PRO is indeed gambling in the first place) for "working", every single person who has a job would be diagnosed as addicted – David Nov 7 at 8:05
  • I see that problem also. Here is the thing, if you say compulsive gambling, people insert or associate it with degenerate behavior. You know degenerate, addict, compulsive gambler all seem to go together and people cannot disassociate the terms. I used the word degenerate once in that was in hope of disassociating compulsive and degenerate behavior. As far as PPP not gambling , they are and they like it. Poker after all as a business really sucks, as far as I can see those who make it, are doing a business of passion, not so much as one that is the smartest way to go. . – Jon Nov 8 at 12:26

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