Today we have two different sets of questions used to diagnose a 'gambling problem.' I have tweaked the questions to apply to poker and have followed each set of questions with some comments of my own.
Test #1: Twenty Questions (Count the "yes" answers)
1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to poker?
2. Has playing poker ever made your home life unhappy?
3. Does poker playing affect your reputation?
4. Have you ever felt remorse after playing?
5. Do you ever play poker to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
6. Does poker ever cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
9. Do you often play poker until your last dollar was gone?
10. Do you ever borrow to finance your bankroll?
11. Have you ever sold anything to finance your poker playing?
12. Are you reluctant to use your "poker bankroll" for normal expenditures?
13. Does poker ever make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
14. Do you ever stay at the table longer than you had planned?
15. Have you ever played poker to escape worry or trouble?
16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance your bankroll?
17. Does poker playing or thinking about poker cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to play?
19. Do you ever have an urge to celebrate any non-poker good fortune by playing a few hours of poker?
20. Have you ever considered self destruction or suicide as a result of your poker playing?
Seven "yes" answers is considered a problem, quite frankly one "yes" to #20 is enough. On the other hand, some of these fairly standard questions are double-edged swords. Take #12, for example: if you keep your poker bankroll separate from your living expenses then keeping them separate, except in a family emergency, actually makes good financial sense. Number #14: Yes sometimes you do stay at a lucrative table longer than you had planned, as long as you are not missing your kid's birthday party (or birth)…. Well you get the picture; if you said "No" to all of these then you probably don't actually play poker. But if you or someone you know does hit the seven or eight "yes" answer threshold; it may be time to reconsider the game.
Here is another list that is a bit more reflective. The questions are not so easily answered "yes or no" but consider the "squirm factor" as you read the questions. The more uncomfortable you feel with each question, the more time you should take to answer honestly and thoroughly.
Test #2: "Problem" behavior as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Preoccupation with poker (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past poker experiences, planning the next game, or thinking of ways to get money for your bankroll exclusively);
2. Need to play poker with increasing limits, buy-ins or stakes to increase the excitement;
3. Having made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop playing;
4. Being restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop playing;
5. Playing poker to escape from problems or of relieving a "down" mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression);
6. After losing money at the table, returning to get even (chasing one's losses);
7. Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with poker (whether winning or losing);
8. Has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance bankroll;
9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of poker ("they just don't understand");
10. Relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by losses;
This second list is a bit tougher to wiggle away from. The essential factor to any diagnosis comes down to the basics: Is poker (a game) interfering with your life (not a game).
Next week, after the diagnosis of Problem Poker, there is treatment.