Starting Over: My Quest to Conquer a Gambling Addiction
By Corndog

 

Caution: There is some strong language in this article

Due to some personal issues I've been pretty silent on here lately. I had kept the source of these issues personal for a long time, but finally realized that speaking out about them might be the best way to help myself.

I'd like to share something I recently posted on a message board that I frequent. I know there are a lot of aspiring young internet poker players looking to go pro, probably even some of you that are reading this right now. I've thought about it a time or two myself. If you feel like you are gifted with the talent to do so best of luck to you and I hope you tear them up. But please, make sure your head is in the right spot. Being a professional poker player takes an insane amount of discipline and I have recently found that I just do not have it right now. Luckily I didn't put all my eggs in one basket so to speak, and the best advice I can give is to always have a fallback plan. If you were to ask me the number one piece of advice to give someone wanting to go pro, it is to expect the unexpected. Regardless of how good you are, have some way to take care of yourself and your family, if applicable, if something goes wrong. If you are working on getting your education stick with it. You can go part-time if you need to make sure you get enough table hours in. Keep an up-to-date resume. Keep a rainy-day fund somewhere where you don't have immediate access to it, don't try to go above and beyond your limits, and find constructive outputs for tilt.
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Before I start I want to warn you that this is going to be long. Probably really long. I don't care if you read it. I need something to promote personal accountability and hopefully this post will help. If you read it, I don't care about having sympathy and I don't care if you make fun of me or call me a dumbass. I completely deserve it. I haven't really talked much about any of this before except to a limited amount to one or two friends. Some may have suspected it too, I don't know. Here we go:

Texter showed me an interesting link the other day to a blog entitled "How I ruined my life" or something like that. I read that blog word for word. At first I felt sorry for but then realized it was his own damn fault for being a dumbass. And then I got scared.

I have never really needed money to be happy. I grew up in a middle class family, but with 8 kids we were always tight on money. I learned how to live cheap but happy by watching my Mom and I think it is one of the best lessons I have learned in life. I don't care about having new cars. I don't get steak when I go out to eat. I love good beer but will often only keep Keystone at the house. In general, I go through my every day expenditures trying to find places to cut costs without sacrificing enjoyment. This isn't to say that I don't like money. I like *having* money, but whether I have $10 or $1000 in my wallet I usually don't let it influence my decisions because I am a cheap person by nature.

Except when it comes to gambling.

I have always liked gambling. When we had off-campus lunch in high school we would go drink beer and play dice or cards a few times a week at my brother's house that I had a key to. I worked my ass off in high school and had a decent amount of my own money, and while it would kill me to spend more than 5 bucks in a meal for some reason it wouldn't faze me to turn over $100-$200 over lunch to my buddies (although I won often enough to keep it in balance).
I came to Texas A&M with a full ride, but laziness and apathy towards school managed to change that after the first year. I got my act together and worked my way through school the rest of the time and made pretty damn good grades my junior and senior year. I had to take out a few loans along the way, but they were Stafford subsidized which aren't bad at all since interest doesn't accumulate until after you graduate and the rate is still pretty low even then.
After I turned 21 I would head to Shreveport or Las Vegas a few times a year. I had plenty of gamble in me, but was able to limit my losses and even won a few times. I don't think during this period I had a problem, but the same thing still applied where if I let $300 bucks go I didn't look at it as a rent payment or 6 weeks of food even though I was a pretty poor college student.
I don't really consider poker gambling. I feel that I am pretty good at it and over the long run will make money. For the past 12 months I am in five-figure profit from poker which isn't too shabby. The following will detail the winning of this money and the subsequent losing of it in other venues.

A little less than a year ago I first heard about Bodog. I liked their bonus and deposited $500, which was quite a bit more than I had ever bought into an online poker site for. I did pretty good awhile playing 3-6 and got up to around $800 after a couple of weeks. I headed to their sports book one day looking to make a college football bet and decided to just see what the casino was like while I was at it. I put $50 in craps and played with it for awhile but wound up losing it all. Then I tried another $100. Then another. I got down to about $150, put it all in, and luck-bagged my way back up to around $900. After about another week I was up to around $1200 off more poker and a small amount of craps. I moved up to 5/10 and was still doing good, and kept mixing a craps game here or there and luckily was winning on them. When I got to $2000 I moved to 10/20. Still doing good I tried 20/40 after another few hundred bucks. Hit a sorry streak of cards at 20/40 that knocked me back down to around $1500. This is the first time I turned to craps after on tilt. I found a betting system I like in craps (not a "system" in the true sense of gambling systems, basically just a betting pattern that I use when on hot streaks) and had a crazy roll to get up to a little over $3k. I decided to try out video poker to play with the excess over $3k that I had. Playing $1 with maximum credits of $5, so $5 a roll, I wound up hitting 4 deuces on deuces wild which paid off $1k. At $4000 I started playing 20/40 and 30/60 limit exclusively on bodog, and kept the craps going while still having my hot streak. By the end of December my bankroll was near $11000.

Doing some recent reading I found that for most problem gamblers, the "problem" part doesn't set in until after they have had a big score. Man were they right.

Fed up with the lack of selection of big games on Bodog, I decided to move my poker efforts to PokerStars in January. I had moved $1500 I think into PokerStars, cashed out about $5000, and kept the mix of the remaining amount I had in a mixture of Bodog and Neteller. Some early results in the 30/60 can be found on a previous post by me on this board, but in short I did pretty good for awhile. I found I really enjoyed 30/60 short handed and was doing great heads up. One day I hit a shitty run of cards on PokerStars and got my ass reamed in a 30/60 heads up game against a phenomenal player. I lost 2 buy-ins (about $3k) to him and that pretty much decimated my PokerStars bankroll to a point where I couldn't play the 30/60 without reloading (which I didn't do at the time). I took my tilt to the craps table and lost all of my Bodog money in the same day.

No problem, I still had $5000 in the bank. A sensible person probably would call it quits here, but thinking of all the big hits I had on Bodog I decided to deposit more. I started depositing, and losing, my money in $500 increments. Didn't take long to hit the $2k max cap at Bodog. Once you do $2000 from your checking account, they won't let you deposit any more from it for two weeks. I went to Sportsbook.com and for the first time used my credit card. I quickly capped their $1000 max buy-in/24hr rule and lost that. Found two other sites in the Sportsbook.com family and did the same on those. Within a week I had lost all of my winnings and told my self to settle down a bit. It would be the first time of many that I went from huge bankrolls to broke this year.

I played some poker off and on, but I kept getting the itch for the craps again. Sometime in February I got back onto bodog and started depositing in sets of $100. I was $900 in the hole and on pretty much the last $100 that I could afford when I hit another hot streak. Within a week I was at over $15k. Good times. I broke my habit of being cheap and booked a spring break vacation for my girlfriend and I to London and Edinburgh. Things were looking great and I continued making a little money. About a week before we left I went out with some friends and got shit-faced. I came home and started playing some craps. From 2am till about 7am I played and burned through $14k. Oh shit. Here I am about a week from going on the biggest vacation of my life and I am just about broke again. The trip was already paid for, but I had pretty much no spending money. I did the only thing I could think of: Play some more. Bodog gives really good cash comps when you play a lot of money on their online casino and they hit a day or two after you stop playing. Knowing that I had probably a large amount of money coming, I used Neteller instacash to buy some more to try to make up some of the money I lost with the thought that I could cash out of Bodog in time for the London trip. I got into a huge clusterfuck this time. The way the situation turned out was: I received $1300 in comps from Bodog and immediately ordered a cashout to Neteller. Neteller gave me an insufficient funds from my bank on the additional money I pulled to gamble. I find all this out after I have landed in London. I have to wait for a few days for Neteller to release any of the money while the NSF is cleared up. I run out of cash pretty quickly in London, and have to bum off of my g/f, but thought it would be okay because I can use my Neteller debit card as soon as they let me have the money. Halfway through the trip the stuff with Neteller is cleared up, and they just take the NSF amount away from the $1300. Then I find out that I can't use my Neteller debit card in the US. FUCK. Thanks for making that clear during the sign up process, Neteller, when you say the debit card can be used inter-fucking-nationally.

I dabbled in some online poker some more on a low bankroll over the next few weeks. By the end of the spring semester I figured that I had enough money to try my luck at craps again. Hit another hot streak, and made another $11k or so. I said that this time I would make a serious concentration on poker again. I started scoring pretty big. I won over $6k in multi-table tournaments in June and July and some extra on cash games. I was having a good time. I paid off my credit card debt with the excess money and things were looking bright. I played a little craps on sportsbook.com and related sites and was off in on with no bad streaks or good streaks.
I found the site www.galaxiworld.com. They have a single deck blackjack game that has about a 0.3% player advantage if you play optimal strategy. I put some money in there just to play blackjack on the side a little bit. In a shocking move, I decided to try out their craps table too. I lost a lot of money. A LOT. Instead of calling it quits, I kept going. Down to my last $1000 in my online stuff I was playing large bets on the table. Next thing I know I am at $25k. I book a Vegas trip and life is good for a day, until I manage to lose the $25k playing 100 bets with 200 odds. No problem, as I had stored enough away in my bank account to still let me go to vegas and some in my poker accounts too. I started using my credit card again on sportsbook.com and related sites and no luck. I take $1000 out of my Paradise poker account, transfer to Neteller, and transfer that to Galaxiworld. I figured that since I had won $25k once there, why not again? Sure enough, I got up to $30k. Then $45k. Then $70k.

That is a shitload of money. I started making all kinds of big plans. I was going to wire money to the rio and play in a few WSOP events. I was going to take another vacation before school started to some other place I've dreamed of going. I order my cashout to Galaxiworld, and they kindly tell me that I need to fax a ton of verification info to them. I fax the required stuff, and call them to make sure they received it. They said they had, and would start issuing my payout in one week at $4k increments per week. Most people would be satisfied making $4k a week for 19 weeks. Not me. I couldn't shake my itch. While I did a good job of waiting about 4 days before playing, over a 3-day period (including 17 hours straight at the end) I lost it all. $70k. Plus my remaining poker funds. Put quite a bummer on the Vegas trip the next week. After I got back, I lost a little more as well.

So, now I am very broke and have to live off of my measly paychecks for the slave labor I do at school. Being a poor student I get lots of low-interest Stafford loans, so I only have to be dirt-poor for about a month until the loans come in around August 25. Luckily, I didn't have much money to begin with. If there is one positive here it is that it happened to me when it did. If this would have happened to me when I was 30 I could have easily gambled away my life savings up to that point. The vast majority of what I lost was the house's money, but mainly because of the limits of what money of my own that was available. Now, I am just a poor college student which isn't too far away from what I was a year ago.

Being poor and not being able to play poker or craps has allowed me plenty of time to think lately, and I have come up with the following conclusions:

1) I have a gambling problem, and probably a very serious one.
2) In retrospect, the amount of productivity I have lost this year has been astounding because of the number of 10 hour+ binges I have gone on.
3) I need to make some changes.

First, I need sources of personal accountability. Just telling myself to do something else isn't enough. I have tried that many times. By putting my dirty laundry on display here I hope that it will help me be good. If I do any gambling online from now on, I am putting it on this thread for everyone to see how pathetic I am. Since I don't want to feel pathetic, hopefully that will help influence me. Being open with this stuff should help me since it is a very embarrassing thing for people to know.

Second, I need to get myself in an okay spot financially. I have decided that I am going to turn over my finances to my girlfriend (she doesn't know this yet) starting when I get my loan money in August. I am taking out the maximum amount of Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans possible from what they are offering, which is about $4250 each. I also have a little scholarship money coming in, so after school expenses I should get a refund of around $7750. Thank god that since I am a TA my tuition is paid for and I only have to worry about fees. I hate revolving debt, but I think using this money to pay off my credit card is the best option I have at this time. If I'm going to have an extra few thousand in debt, I would rather it be at 5% than at 18%.

I am going to cancel my credit card. I will retain a $1500 partition of my savings for emergency use only.

I am going to give my ATM card to my girlfriend and allow her to withdrawal rent & bills directly from it. I am setting up automatic bill pay for my other bills. If I need money, I have to go to the bank and get cash. In addition, I will make no excessive expenditures and will return to my cheap ways when buying food and stuff for myself, but will spend more money and time on my girlfriend than I have lately. She has been good to me and deserves better than what I've given her.

I am canceling my Neteller and Firepay accounts, along with all other non-poker internet gaming accounts.

I am not playing poker until the end of August, except for freerolls and frequent player point tourneys.

As I said earlier, I consider myself a decent poker player and so far a winning one. If I feel that I can meet the above requirements, I am going to deposit $500 into party poker, unless a 50% reload bonus is going on at FullTiltPoker. After this, I am setting my PartyPoker deposit limit to zero. While it is possible to change this setting in the future, it takes 24 hours which is usually enough to outlast any tilt. I will also set my deposit limits to zero on the other remaining poker websites. If I am to play for money on any others, it will only be under the condition that someone will transfer money to me for whatever place it is after I have transferred an equivalent amount of money to them on PartyPoker. I am interested in trying out WPEX and may look into it in the future.

I am limiting my play with this $500 to maximums of: $10+1 SnGs, $10+1 MTT, $2/$4 limit, $25 NL. I can also play the Party Poker step and/or mini-step challenges if I buy into round 1 only. I will be blogging my play to help encourage me to stick to my limits and also because I really liked Skran's $50 to $500 blog. I will keep the blog here, or if PokerLizard has any interest I can do it there.
If I make it to $750 I will allow myself to play up to 3/6 limit. At $1000 I can play 4/8 limit, $20+2 SnGs and MTT, and $50 NL. If I am losing money I will scale down my limits as needed.
I will take out 25% of any profits I make on a monthly basis.
If I lose, I am not allowed to redeposit until I get a real job.
I am setting the home page of my browser to this post, so that I am forced to look at it if I get the itch to gamble. If the urges continue, I will seek counseling options for such issues.
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Over the past year I have placed well over $1,000,000 in wagers. Considering as a student I have been living on an annual budget of $15k or less the past few years that is an astounding number. Fortunately I have the benefit of student loans to get myself afloat for now. Not a great fallback plan to say the least, but it is at least something. Had I dropped out of school I would probably be looking at bankruptcy and/or working my ass off in minimum-wage jobs desperately trying to make enough dough to pay the bills. I am getting a second chance and obviously have some real work for myself. I'm sure the severity of my gambling problem is high compared to most that will read this post, but I really do hope that you will still take my recommendations on a fallback plan into consideration.

If you ever feel that you might have a gambling problem then you probably do. Be open with your friends and family, I promise it will help. I have had a ton of support from my friends and this is one of the major reasons I am optimistic about my future in regards to poker and other gaming, but I am pretty sure that going pro will never be a good idea for me. If you feel uncomfortable sharing this kind of information with those you know I would be more than happy to discuss it with you, although there is an abundance of help-lines available that are probably better suited for it. Good luck, and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you as I combat this problem while trying to maintain a semi-serious poker game.

If you feel you may have a gambling problem please check out Gamblers Anonymous

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