Harvard does Online Gambling Study...

It's an interesting study done by the addiction specialists at the Ivy League school that is probably a little behind Yale (Alex Jacob, Vanessa Selbst) in producing top flight pros of late that I wanted to comment on from a couple of different angles.

The first is that study to me raises a question, is an online compulsive/addicted gambler the same as a live one? In poker, opinion is pretty strong in the disimiliarities between the two groups of players. The good live players are usually, tactically a little different than the good online players (with of course both being proficient in poker fundalmentals and sharing common core skils), and it's my experience as a mediocre player that there seems to be a gulf in style between the two groups at the mediocre level. IE mediocre players are mediocre online for slightly different reasons than mediocre or average live players are medicore.

That being said it's becomming less and less common for a player to not have played both and the line is blurring. The exception and the biggest difference in styles is in live settings the older crowd might have dabbled in the internet and has had their fill of the wide open styles and quit or never played. I find older mediocre live players make different mistakes then mediocre online players. The younger mediocre players are generally as apt to play spewing live and online.

So with that group you see the same mistakes online as in the live card rooms. It's also my experience that bad players are bad in a brick and mortar casino the same as they are in an online one. Perhaps, there is a little more variation in being bad, as there are only so many ways to make mistakes and wrong decisions often. I don't want to label bad players as more likely to be compulsive or addicted gamblers as it appears some of the very best may share their degeneracy but their poker skills keep them afloat. Though it's odd how many times you hear about a live tournament player crush a real world tournament only to flush it away onine.

So perhaps, there are few differences in compulsion as both groups are probably the same or very similar. Maybe an online gambler has a more ready corrollary in a slot machine or video poker machine where it's button pushing. Chips feel slightly more like gambling real money--but I'm just speculating. Unfortunately, the study doesn't necessarily delve into that too much, it just focuses on ways to identify and help people that are online with problems.

The second aspect of this study that gave me pause was after all those truth ads, and as the facts about Tobacco funded studies in the 50s and 60s have slowly come to light, it's nice to see the motives behind these studies appear to be altruistic. Bwin is Harvard's partner in the study of online poker and Pokernews reported this:

Dr. Howard Shaffer, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School where he is
currently the Director of the Division on Addictions, spoke highly of the online
gaming company's commitment both to its customers' welfare and to the advance of
medical research into gaming behaviors. "Through its relationship with the
Division on Addictions," says Shaffer, "bwin has supported numerous scientific
inquiries, including the first ever scientific longitudinal study of actual
internet gaming behavior."

Shaffer, who has written extensively on addictive behaviors and the nature of addiction, as well as served as past editor of The Journal of Gambling Studies, lauded bwin for having "integrated responsible gaming efforts into its business practices and made empirically-supported self-help resources available to its subscribers."

Here Harvard is saying bwin is using the information to help their clients and to ensure those with problems get help. That's great. As much as I enjoy a player who sits down and spews his chips, I'd want to win from somebody that can afford to lose. If they got deep pockets and a loss means nothing to them awesome. If they don't. Terrible.

Casinos and poker players in a way are like parasites. We live off the resources of customers. They bring their hard earned money to the table and we seek to take it from them. Parasites survive longest by helping their hosts survive. You burn through your host too quickly and you have to find another one and another one and so on. Eventually, you run out of hosts and the parasite dies. Casinos should realize for every compulsive gambler that burns through their life savings another cautionary tale is told and less people will set foot in there. It's okay for somebody to come in every week and lose a little, but don't lose your house in a sitting.

Limits and responsible gaming are good for everybody. The worst is when a casual player sets foot tentatively in a poker game, and good players don't welcome the guy with open arms. Be greatful here's there merely to donate. If he wins, great... he'll be back. Rather than berate the guy for getting lucky, ensuring he might not return, bare your bad beat and try and smile. You want that guy to come back.

I know I was little all over the place with that post but the message is simply this: the harvard/bwin study is good for the game. The casino is making a responsible decision which is good for the long term success of their site by helping the people that shouldn't be playing. There is a sound economic reason to do this and let's hope there is also a benevolent one too.



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