My sophomore year of college in the fraternity was completely insane, so I became a hermit with Faryar in our apartment for my junior year. I tried out several somewhat addictive activities, but by far the most addicting was online poker. I became pretty good and won a lot, but always ended up losing it all after 14 hour bouts of playing. I’m not certain of how the physiology works, but poker has to be one of the most addictive activities around. Poker combines the excitement of gambling with the semi-illusion of skill being involved.
Most people think that only drugs or alcohol or tobacco can be physically addictive. However, gambling causes the release of chemicals in your brain that are very powerful and make you want to feel them again. I have done a lot of things and explored like many university students do, but I have not experienced the same kind of powerful habit forming pressure anywhere else. Most of the time in college I set up my class schedule so I wouldn’t have to get up till 2pm, but when I got into poker, I would start playing as early as 6 or 7 am (this is akin to most folks getting up at 1am to play).
I managed to break free of the hold online poker had grabbed on me after several months, though I had a couple of short relapses later that year. It took extensive research on the game and study of the advanced math that goes into odds calculation and probability for me to finally figure out that I was most likely going to continue to lose money, as well as my growing suspicions that collusion (players working together to cheat) was rampant for me to stop. I still play poker once in a while in person with friends, but that is limited to small pots and is just for fun and gets boring quickly.
Online gambling is extraordinarily dangerous because you don’t have to leave your home to play. If you get a whim in the middle of the night to play, you just walk out in your boxers and log on and get your heroin mainlined straight into your bloodstream. Many computer gaming companies have begun to observe this effect and are including aspects in their games to play upon it. I think World of Warcraft is the best example so far; it involves the jolts of adrenaline when you are fighting, “happy chemicals” are released if you win and most importantly, you can also lose quite often. People have actually died because they can’t stand up to leave their computers while playing and I personally know two people who have spent at least 2/3 of their free time when not working for the last 4 years playing that game. Thousands of hours. Wives and children neglected. Same as poker.
I think that online gambling (and especially poker) is highly addictive and should be taxed heavily enough by the government that it’s not really fun to play anymore. Places like Vegas are okay, because generally people just visit them once every few years- you have to plan it all out and get plane tickets, hotel rooms, babysitters, etc.
Just remember: Party Poker, Pacific Poker and all of those other damned poker rooms are the devil!