Online Poker and Gambling

Online Poker and Gambling

Online poker is a card game played over the internet with real money. Players wager a sum of money called chips and the player with the highest value hand wins the pot. This form of gambling has been legalized in some states and is considered a skill-based game. In the United States, it is currently possible to play regulated online poker games in four states. To do so, you must register with an online poker site, provide identification documents, agree to the terms and conditions of the site, and fund your account using a payment method that is accepted by the online poker site. Some popular poker sites offer a number of ways to deposit and withdraw funds, including credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets, and bank transfers.

The most involved 1% of participants devoted an order of magnitude more time to online poker than the remaining 99% (Mann-Whitney U-tests, p values below 0.001). These more involved players also made higher amounts of money in each session than did other participants, and the average amount spent per session was an order of magnitude larger for the most involved 1% compared to the remainder of the sample. This high level of involvement reflected an investment in developing expertise at poker, which parallels findings from the literature on disordered gambling and decision-making.

For some players, this level of engagement resulted in harm. One participant, interviewed for this study, incurred significant financial and personal damage from playing poker and received treatment for gambling disorder before regaining control of his life. Although the patterns seen in this study accord with some previous research on impulsivity and gambling, further work on a quantitative correlational design among a larger sample of professional online poker players is needed to fully evaluate risk factors and identify those that are unique to this group.

Players typically start by depositing small amounts of money to their online poker accounts, which they then use to play poker for real money. They may then deposit additional amounts if they are profitable in cash games, or win prizes in tournaments, or both. Many of the participants were able to smoothly grow their initial small deposits into life-changing amounts, either through profitable poker sessions or prize winnings, or a combination of both.

Despite the increased popularity of the game, it wasn’t until 2017 that the fourth state to regulate online poker launched its first virtual hands. The Keystone State joins Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada in offering regulated poker to its residents. However, it may take a while before the first hand is dealt in West Virginia, which has passed legislation authorizing the game but is still awaiting approval to launch its own regulated site. This delay is largely the result of a complex web of federal and state laws that has to be negotiated in order for regulated poker to become a reality. Nevertheless, the momentum of legalized poker is growing, and it seems likely that many states will be adding this popular pastime to their roster of available casino games in the near future.