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HomeNewsHealthy Gambling: What It Looks Like

Healthy Gambling: What It Looks Like

Being passionate about gambling and poker isn’t always a bad thing. Besides many real-life players who make a living from poker and don’t show any unhealthy gambling habits, there’s scientific evidence that healthy gambling can actually improve your life. We’ll show you signs to gauge how “healthy” your love for the game is, along with other helpful information about safe gambling.

Important! This information is designed to help players understand and manage social pressure when it comes to healthy gambling and poker. If, while reading, you notice that you:

  • Strongly deviate from healthy patterns
  • Try to stretch the signs of healthy gambling to fit your own excessive involvement
  • Can’t confidently relate the signs to your behavior
  • Feel internal discomfort – fear, anxiety, worry, an irrational desire to stop reading and find evidence to the contrary

Please reach out to a psychologist or psychotherapist!

Why Do People Play Games Like Poker?

The Office of Problem Gambling (OPG) at the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services highlights the following reasons for healthy gambling:

The Need for Social Activity

For some players, casino tables and slot machines, poker rooms, sports betting forums, and other gambling venues provide a place to socialize freely with various people without forming strong social connections. The unique aspect of gambling as a form of social activity is that it allows for a lot of interaction in a short period, provides support from others in case of failure, and shares the joy of victory.

Getting “Easy” Money

Most gamblers don’t see gambling, especially poker, as a skill-based activity. It requires minimal effort – pressing buttons and levers, choosing cards or colors, and relying on luck – but can ultimately bring in a substantial profit.

The desire for “easy” money typically involves several components:

  • Belief in luck that will bring you a jackpot or other big win someday
  • Hope for an easy solution to financial problems – winning a large sum through lucky circumstances seems easier than earning it
  • Reluctance to work a regular job or unwillingness to tolerate an unsuitable job in the absence of alternatives

Seeking a Way to Quickly Feel Satisfaction

This complex phrase hides the need for a quick shot of dopamine and endorphin to lower overall stress levels.

According to Loretta Graciano-Browning, a professor emerita at the University of California, dopamine is responsible for feelings of joy when receiving something you need, while endorphin brings about feelings of ease and euphoria. They are produced for different purposes.

When someone wins, they get a dose of dopamine from the win – to reinforce the link between winning and pleasure.

When someone loses, the brain releases a dose of endorphin to reduce the stress of losing, which in turn lowers the body’s overall stress levels.

In conclusion, if a person is generally healthy, gambling can help them receive additional positive emotions and essentially reduce their overall stress levels. This mechanism lies at the heart of recreational gambling – participating in gambling and poker games for leisure.

Seeking Safe Adrenaline

People who enjoy risk don’t always want to climb mountains, skydive, or drive fast cars on highways. Some of them still maintain a fairly high level of need for safety – in which case, gambling becomes a way for them to get adrenaline without posing a direct threat to their health.

The fact is that when participating in gambling and poker, a person makes financially risky decisions in conditions of uncertainty – and this gives them a small adrenaline rush.

Healthy gambling involves risking funds that can be lost without harming one’s financial well-being. By engaging in it, thrill-seekers ensure they get the adrenaline they need in safe conditions.

Cheap Self-Esteem Boost

Winning a bet, a tournament, a casino game, or slots, drawing a good hand, predicting an opponent’s combination, and other moments of success in gambling typically have a positive impact on a person’s self-esteem. Although no one likes to lose, even losing can be a moment of confidence building for healthy people if it happens in circumstances that objectively or subjectively place them in a position worthy of pride. Moreover, gambling allows you to get such a boost faster than any method of self-realization – because it often doesn’t require a person to make any real serious effort.

5 Signs of Healthy Gambling

According to an article by the UK’s Mental Health Foundation titled “Gambling and Mental Health,” based on studies of gambling and poker behavior, the following signs can be distinguished for healthy gambling:

#1 Awareness of Risks and Avoiding Them

The main sign of a healthy gambling habit is awareness of potential risks and avoidance of decisions that lead to them. If a person ignores warnings, convinces themselves that they need to take more risks than necessary, or doesn’t realize what their decisions in the game could lead to – this is a sign of problem gambling.

This also includes honesty with oneself and loved ones about one’s gambling habit and financial expenditures on it. A healthy gambler doesn’t downplay expenses, doesn’t lie about the amount of gambling, and doesn’t deceive loved ones for the sake of the game.

#2 Lack of Need to Play

A healthy gambler only plays in their free time and can easily give it up for other things. They never prioritize gambling over work, family, or other activities, and they don’t play while performing important tasks. In professional gaming, a healthy gambler chooses it because it brings them satisfaction, income, and a sense of self-realization – not because they crave the game.

#3 Absence of Acute Painful Reactions to Gambling

Healthy gambling or poker isn’t accompanied by aggression, rage, tears, apathy in case of failures, or entering an ecstatic state in case of success. This doesn’t mean that a healthy gambler is unemotional – they just don’t react to the results of the game as if their life depends on them.

Unlike problem gamblers, healthy ones don’t get caught up in obsessive thoughts about their wins and losses, easily switch from the emotions they get from them to others, and don’t experience emotional swings when discussing their own or someone else’s game and its results.

#4 Using the Game for Entertainment or Controlled Earnings

A healthy gambler doesn’t escape into gambling or poker from their problems. For them, it’s not a coping mechanism – a strategy for dealing with unpleasant emotions or trauma – but a way to relieve stress, entertain themselves, or earn extra money. With a sober attitude toward the game, a person doesn’t rely on it as the sole source of income at the moment – they plan their finances clearly and try to have a safety cushion for unforeseen circumstances.

#5 Spending Money on the Game That You’re Willing to Lose

As mentioned in the point about adrenaline, healthy gambling implies spending only amounts whose loss won’t harm a person’s budget.

For recreational players, financial planning for the game in this case is similar to choosing other leisure activities – going to a restaurant or entertainment center, going to the cinema or the court, buying a video game or a board game. People usually spend on such activities what they don’t mind spending – and the situation with a healthy approach to gambling is similar.

For professional players, this means adhering to bankroll management.

What if My Gambling Doesn’t Look Healthy?

First, take a break from all forms of gambling and poker for at least a week. Don’t read news about them, don’t talk to other players. And closely monitor your well-being. If you notice:

  • Increased negative emotions and the intensity of reactions
  • Increased irritability and anxiety
  • An intense desire to play
  • Obsessive thoughts about gambling
  • Inability to fill your free time with anything else
  • Counting down the time until your self-imposed restriction expires
  • Sleep disruption

As well as other strange or difficult-to-identify uncomfortable sensations – consult a psychotherapist or psychologist to be diagnosed and understand the cause.

The method of interrupting the game should be used regularly to track your feelings and prevent the transition of gambling from healthy to problematic.