When you’re in the middle of a hot streak at the casino, it can feel like you’re genuinely on top of the world.

Your pockets are flush with cash that you didn’t have when you came. Your beating the house in games expressly designed to tilt the odds in their favor. And with the bright lights, noise, and steady stream of strangers flowing by, the whole experience can feel something straight out of Hollywood.

There’s a reason so many gamblers talk about feeling the “rush,” or riding the “wave” during a prolonged winning streak. Your brain is being continually flooded with endorphins, and like any activity that produces a spike of the pleasure receptor dopamine, the whole deal can become quite intoxicating.

Casinos want you to feel that way too, if only for a short while. When your mind is still buzzing from that blackjack heater, or a big bluff at the poker tables, it can be all too easy to confuse short-term variance with sustainable success.

And that’s when it all comes crashing down. A winning streak is just that, a streak, and all streaks must come to an end at some point. When they do, many casino gamblers – including poker players and sports bettors – can’t seem to find the eject button and bring their ride to an end.

They’ll keep playing, chasing losses in the hopes of getting even, or simply playing out the string until their previously swollen pockets are turned out and empty.

This cycle can repeat itself over and over again, and to a dangerous degree for a significant swath of players worldwide. Australia is currently in the throes of a long battle with gambling addiction, while the U.K. and other European nations are taking proactive steps to combat problem gambling head on.

It’s no different here in America, other than the fact that compulsive gamblers still face the same sort of stigmas that plagued alcoholics, substance abusers, and other addicts over the last century. Rather than viewing problem gambling as a health issue, a mental malady that can be treated and coped with, society tends to ascribe a moral failing to folks who get in over their head while gambling.

To help reverse that trend, this page details 7 reasons why anybody should consider taking a break from gambling. And you don’t have to consider yourself a problem gambler to make use of these tips either. For many players, the reasons to quit are actually net positives, such as a growing family or newly earned professional duties.

Whatever your reasons happen to be, figuring out when and how to walk away from the tables is an essential step toward enjoying gambling games for what they should be – a source of entertainment and enjoyment.

1 – You Can’t Seem to Stop Yourself

It’s important to tackle the most dangerous reason to quit gambling right from the jump, so here goes.

Problem gambling – also known as compulsive gambling or gambling addiction – has always been a serious threat to stable society. When men and women are taking their paychecks straight from work to the casino, cashing them in and losing the lot before the night’s up, everybody involves suffers to some extent.

The player’s children aren’t being provided for, their families are making do with a meager income, and for the player, guilt and shame are part and parcel of their gambling lifestyle.

According to the latest data compiled by the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help (NAFGAH), more than 10 million Americans suffer from some form of gambling addiction.

Here’s how the NAFGAH data breaks down according to age and gender:

  • 16-24 – (1.4 percent)
  • 25-34 – (0.8 percent)
  • 35-44 – (1.1%)
  • 45-55 and older –(0.3 percent)
  • Men – 1.2 percent
  • Women – 0.1 percent

As it turns out, younger men aged 16 through 24 are the most susceptible to compulsive gambling, with 1.3 percent of that demographic considered to be gambling addicts. And when you take a tour of any poker room or table game pit in America, you can bet your bottom dollar – which isn’t advisable if you’re reading this page – that the bulk of players will be twenty-something men. At that age, risk-taking is still a primal instinct, while risk assessment is as yet an underdeveloped skill. Put those factors together, and combine them with the house’s inherent edge, and it’s no wonder why so many young men are having issues coping with their gambling habit.

One player who fits that description is Lee Davy, a poker writer and part-time player who revealed his own struggles with compulsive play in a piece published by PokerListings. In the article, Davy describes his emotional turmoil after setting a loss limit of $300, only to blow his entire stack of cash before making the “walk of shame” to the nearest ATM machine.

That dilemma – knowing you want to quit the game but finding yourself utterly incapable of walking away – is all too common among gamblers, especially young men.

Davy consulted with Stephen Pfleiderer – who works as acertified interventionist, addiction specialist, and recovery coachafter studying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – about his problematic poker habits.

And per Pfleiderer, the mind’s ability to remove preset limits and let loose while gambling is only natural:

“There is a lot going on under the radar here. What is going on happens very quickly and it’s a spiral where you go from 0-100 and think, ‘how the hell did I get here?’

You need to develop a more realistic approach to the game and this allows you to detach from the outcome.

The statement: ‘I need to win,’ is driving the whole system. If I have a need that needs to be met by this game I am in a vulnerable position. If I can detach from the outcome, the tension goes away.”

Fortunately, according to Pfleiderer’s advice, players who feel pulled back to the tables even when they no longer want to play can retrain their brains. You can read more about his research, but for a crib notes version, try to think consciously about the unconscious processes rolling through your brain during a gambling session. Removing the expectation of winning is the first step, followed by focusing on how you played and not your results. From there, it can definitely get easier to apply discipline to your gambling behavior.

On that note, if you recognize any of the tendencies described above, or you simply want to explore ways to avoid addiction, please take a moment to visit the Gambler’s Anonymous (GA) website. The 12-step approach to addiction relief isn’t for everybody, but the GA site offers a wealth of additional resources and information for anybody looking to curb their casino habits.

2 – Other Responsibilities Are More Important

We should all be so lucky as Jason Mercier.

A five-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet winner, Mercier has amassed more than $18 million in live tournament earnings – and he’s only 31 years young. During his storied career, Mercier became known for his dogged work ethic, what they call the “degen gene” among poker circles.

Put another way, this guy would play all the games, at all times, against all comers. Marathon sessions of 48 hours or more in the biggest cash games in the world were no problem, and at one point during the 2016 WSOP, he won two bracelets with a runner-up finish in between within the span of a week.

So why has Mercier become a veritable ghost along the tourney circuit these days? Well, after marrying fellow poker pro and longtime girlfriend Natasha Barbour in November of 2016, the Merciers welcomed their first son into the world less than one year later.

And just like that, Jason Mercier – a longtime member of PokerStars Team Pro and one of the game’s brightest stars – took his leave from full-time poker.

After retiring from his sponsored role with PokerStars, and retreating home to Florida to enjoy fatherhood, Mercier told PokerCentral about his sabbatical from the circuit:

“Dad life from poker life is very different. My daily routine when I’m not playing over is completely different than when I am, and I haven’t played much poker over the last 11 months.

Since the World Series of Poker last year, I probably played a few events in Florida. I came to Vegas once for three days to play cash and did no other trips.

I just want to be able to spend time with my son. There have been so many times where I’ve had bets on the line and I’ve busted tournaments and just wanted to go to bed, and I can’t imagine not going back to see my kid over entering some $1,500 Stud event after busting a 10k.”

All of us have real life responsibilities and obligations that should matter much more than gambling. And if you don’t have them now, you certainly will at some point down the road.

When you get a big promotion at work, or a new bundle of joy arrives, it’s important to take some time to stop and smell the roses. You can’t do that at the craps table, so take a step back to savor the moment when life’s unexpected rewards come your way.

3- The Game Isn’t Making You Happy

Lack of fulfillment can plague gamblers on every level, from recreational slot spinners to the world’s best poker pros.

When you first begin playing casino games, the thrills tend to grab your attention. Celebrating wins, commiserating over losses, and generally riding the roller coaster known as variance – what’s not to love?

Eventually, however, the shine wears off for most gamblers. Maybe you’ve mastered basic strategy at blackjack, turning a fun gut-based guessing game into a math puzzle waiting to be solved. Or perhaps the same old selection of slot games at your local casino leaves you bored and restless.

In any event, gambling always offers the promise of easy entertainment, but in many cases the activity fails to deliver. Losing is the first culprit, of course, as nobody likes to see their money scooped up by the house.

But even winning players – folks who have the power to take millions off the table when they’re on their game – can find themselves disillusioned with the gambling lifestyle.

That was the case for Ben Wilinofsky, who most poker fans know better as “NeverScaredB” from his days terrorizing the high-stakes tables on PokerStars. During the latter stages of the poker boom, Wilinofsky won millions of dollars grinding online, and another million or so through just a handful of live tournament scores. His poker career looked to be entering the next stages of success, where lives can be changed forever for the better with the right run of cards.

Instead of making the leap to high roller tournaments like many of his peers, Wilinofsky suddenly retired from poker altogether in 2015.

The decision seemed like a mistake from the outside looking in, but as Wilinofsky revealed in an interview with PokerListings, he left poker to preserve his own mental health. Wilinofsky realized at some point that poker success wasn’t producing happiness or contentment. After coming to terms with his clinical depression, Wilinofsky came to the conclusion that poker wasn’t conducive to improving his well being.

Here’s how he described that epiphany in the aforementioned interview:

“Poker’s not the problem but it’s not part of the solution either. My energy is really limited. On my bad days I get six hours out of bed. And those six hours are precious and I can’t be spending it on something that’s not part of the solution.

Poker is the easy solution to the wrong problem and I don’t want to do that anymore. So I just have to not do it anymore, is the simple answer.

I have to go start on the bottom of something else and I have to dig in and keep going with it until I either hit a wall and realize this isn’t the thing, or I get through the wall and see what’s on the other side.”

If you find yourself, for any reason at all, gambling out of sheer force of habit, chances are good you’re no longer happy playing. And if that’s the case, taking a step back to reset is the best way to bring enjoyment back into your casino hobby.

4 – Money Is Getting Low

This one should be a matter of common sense, but you’d be surprised to see how many gamblers don’t stop even after going broke.

Credit card advances, loans from fellow gamblers, friends, or family, and even criminal acts like theft can all be used to fuel a busted gambler’s spiral out of control. And in many cases, the gambler justifies these decisions by convincing themselves that they can get even.

Poker players are notorious for going into “make up,” a term used to describe the debt many pros owe their backers. After exhausting their own funds, these players can’t will themselves to take a break, so they go into hawk using a backer to pay their buy-ins.

In the table game pits, some players have no reservations about asking winners for a handout. These folks have long since gone belly up with their own bankroll, so they try to scrounge up loans to get back on the tables.

Casinos were built on one basic foundation – winning money from the player. In the end, the house edge ensures you’ll always be a long-term loser. Gambling should always be limited to expendable income, and viewed as an entertainment expense.

If you win, that’s great and congratulations on the good fortune. But when you lose, the best play is to chalk the expenditure up and move on to a more inexpensive pastime.


Gambling can be a great way to spend an evening out on the town, and for many players, it becomes a lifelong love. But the flip side to that coin is a compulsive gambling habit that can consume everything it encounters. Whether you gambler purely for fun and have no problems, or you suspect the game is getting the better of you, it’s essential to take the occasional break to clear your head.

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