Online poker : loss of control and gambling disorder

Thursday, 24 October, 2019 - 17:45 to 18:00
Networking zone 1 (N1)


Background:Online poker includes an element of skill that sometimes influences the outcome of the game. According to current international studies, 8 to 30 percent of online poker players show risky behaviour while gambling, andonline poker players are considered at high risk of developing gambling disorder.Many variables are known to influence gambling behaviours, like for instance, irrational beliefs, anxiety, depression and impulsivity. “Tilt” is a term used by poker players to describe an episode during which they can no longer control their actionsby using rational decisions. It leads to a loss of control during the game, a loss of emotional regulation, more irrational beliefs and a loss of money. Managing tilt is difficult and it is a skill one would like to have when playing poker. Our hypothesis is that tilt, experienced bymost players, could be the gateway to excessive gambling. This study aimed to assess a predictive model of online gambling disorder, that includes frequency of episodes of tilt, irrational beliefs, anxiety, depression and impulsivity.

Method:Our sample is composed of 292 French(46% of the sample) and French-Canadianonline poker players(92% males, n = 272). Mean age is 33.8 years (SD = 10.6) and 72% (n = 211) of the sample play online poker more than once a week. Participants completed an online self-assessment questionnaire that consists of an anamnestic response questionnaire and scales measuring the frequency of episodes of tilt (Online Poker Tilt Scale), irrational beliefs (GRCS), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale), impulsivity (Impulsive Behavior Scale UPPS) and excessive gambling (Problem Gambling Severity Index).

Result: Results indicate that the frequency of episodes of tilt and irrational beliefs are the only significant predictors of excessive online gambling, with 45% of explained variance. The main predictor of the model is the frequency of episodes of tilt, with a strong link of .64 (irrational beliefs .18). Significant associations were found between tilt frequency and irrational beliefs (.63), anxiety (.39), depression (.25) and impulsivity (.28).

Conclusion:This study indicates that the frequency of episodes of tilt is a strong predictor of excessive gambling in this sample of online poker players. Moreover, these episodes are linked to irrational beliefs, impulsivity, anxiety and depression. Tilt episodes, which most poker players experience, could be a way to predict excessive gambling. Prevention programs aimed at identifying and regulating tilt, as well as irrational beliefs should be investigated because they could be efficient with poker players. Tilt, which has rarely been studied to date, could improve our understanding of the special characteristics of this particularly vulnerable population of gamblers. It could be a new means of identifying gamblers most at risk, and thus implementing preventive measures specifically adapted to this population.


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