Common Types of Gamblers. What Makes Us Like to Gamble?

August 28, 2020 by

Betting can be great fun – we all know that otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it! But, like any recreational activity, the fun can sometimes turn into something damaging.

That’s why it’s good to look at personality types and see where you fit in.

Many types of behaviour can be detrimental to mental health as well as to physical, social, and financial well-being, and gambling is just like any other leisure activity. Like alcohol, when a social drink can enhance time spent relaxing, having a bet and putting a bit of money on a game can be a great way to have some fun – but it can become addictive. And, like drinking, in moderation, it doesn’t become a problem for most people.

But if it does, then the impact on the brain’s reward centers is similar to drink and drugs. That’s likely why the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) categorizes gambling alongside substance abuse diagnoses.

Next time you’re going to a casino, maybe take a few minutes before hitting the slots or the table games. Look around, and you’ll see the types of gamblers described here. And if you prefer the world of the online casino, asking yourself which type you fit can be helpful, too: you might improve your play, and you also might avoid some problems.

So, arming ourselves with categories identified by Dr. Robert L Custer, who opened his clinic in 1974, let’s take a look at those six types of gamblers in more detail.

Type 1: The Professional Gambler

A man is playing poker and smoking a cigarette

Of the six types of gamblers, the professional is probably the easiest to categorize. Whether they’re playing table games or card games, at online casinos or in brick-and-mortar venues, this person doesn’t even consider it a game of chance as they’ll tend to avoid the concept of luck. For them, it’s a job, and they wouldn’t consider themselves to have an addiction. Psychologically speaking, the professional gambler exhibits personality traits, including:

  • Patience
  • Stability
  • Self-control
  • Intelligence

They’re well-versed in statistics, calculating the odds and keeping up-to-date on all the latest casino rumors and news. They understand the risks, knowing that the inevitable losses can be put down as poor performance on a quarterly report, rather than seeing it as a devastating example of their lack of worth. The professional gambler is unlikely to drink alcohol while playing – this is work, after all. And it can be very demanding work, so a lot of professional gamblers will, eventually, tire of the inevitable round of risk and loss and gravitate towards a more social or casual approach.

A word of warning if you’re thinking of becoming a professional gambler – meticulous record-keeping is critical, as is a realistic assessment of your capabilities.

As Kevin O’Neill, then deputy director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey remarked in a New York Times feature on the unlikely-named professional gambler Mr. Banker:

``Gamblers are like athletes. The pro gamblers are like the major leaguers, but there are a lot more AA players out there who think they're in the big leagues.``

Type 2: The Casual Social Gambler

Beautiful and young woman with a group of people playing in a casino

As the title suggests, this is someone for whom a bit of a flutter and a bit of a gamble is fun and just one of many hobbies and leisure activities. Casual social gamblers will rarely develop a problem – in fact; they might even look down on gamblers who can’t keep a check on themselves, those who chase their losses and end up in trouble. If the casual social gambler does develop an addiction, it will most likely be as a result of some unassociated traumatic event, or sometimes because of a big win.

But generally, social gamblers can be spotted by a few obvious habits:

  • Maybe combining casino games with a meal or drink, to enhance the social experience
  • Playing with friends and family, enjoying the thrill of the game as part of a day or night out – perhaps visiting the local casino when on vacation
  • Choosing more social casino games, both off- and online, like roulette, craps or a Friday night poker game

The casual social gambler is like the social drinker, and playing cards or playing the tables for them is a great way to de-stress, meet new people and enjoy the thrill of maybe winning a few dollars.

Interestingly, one Canadian study found that the social aspect can be a very positive experience for older people with benefits, including:

  • Social interaction
  • Reduced loneliness
  • Relief from boredom
  • Improved memory
  • Better hand-eye coordination

Type 3: The Serious Social Gambler

A young poker player is holding casino chips in the casino

There are two distinct strands of thought on the serious social gambler:

  • whether they sit between the professional and the casual social gambler
  • or whether they sit pretty much on the divide between fun and addiction potential.

Whichever option, the real deciding factor seems to be whether the serious social gambler can keep a check on their winnings or losses. As well as keeping their habit in check – and maintaining a healthy balance between time spent in either land-based or online casinos and time spent on all the other aspects of life.

While the casual gambler will likely gamble infrequently and have lots of other hobbies, the serious social gambler turns to gamble as their sole entertainment form. As a coping strategy, the casual social gambler has many avenues open to help relieve stress, but the serious social gambler will always turn to the casino to help them cope.

Most of the time, this type of gambler can control their habits, but a traumatic event, work stress, or relationships problems can disable their normal inhibitions and lead to problems. And sometimes, even if the player themself doesn’t see a problem, their family and friends may perceive them as an addict, due to the long hours spent on casino games.

Type 4: The Antisocial Gambler

A man wearing a black shirt is sitting on the poker table in a casino

Also known as “personality gamblers,” these players operate on the illegal side of betting and playing, whether in land-based or online casinos. They’re unlikely to be found playing slots, table games, or card games, at least not in the traditional sense. While antisocial gamblers may not necessarily have a problem with addiction to gambling, per se, they may often have an antisocial personality disorder and a history of unlawful behaviour. The antisocial gambler spends their time fixing sporting events, such as soccer matches or horse races, and can also be found conducting private poker games where marked cards and sleight of hand are a common feature.

Anything illegal that'll make them some money – that's the antisocial gambler's game of choice.

This person may not have or develop a gambling addiction, but their general personality traits mean they have some severe problems, such as:

  • Deceptiveness
  • Manipulation
  • Aggression
  • Impulsiveness
  • Superficial charm
  • Lack of remorse
  • Irritability

This is probably one type of gambler you’ll most likely want to steer well clear of.

Type 5: The Relief and Escape Gambler

A tired and depressed player put his head on the poker table in a casino

This type of gambler uses games of luck or maybe games of strategy to fulfill an emotional need, as other vulnerable people might use alcohol or drugs – to deal with issues they aren’t equipped to verbalize. To them, the game has a therapeutic effect – or so it seems.

They’ll turn to the casino to try and cope with anxiety, depression, loneliness or other problems in their personal or professional lives. Their emotional turmoil means they’ll probably have a poor judgement, which, in turn, can lead to greater problems when “chasing” – an indication of a potential slide into compulsion.

The escape gambler self-medicates, literally to “escape” from psychological and emotional pain, usually playing luck games such as bingo, lottery, slots or keno machines. The Division of Problem Gambling in Arizona offers a helpful and detailed guide to four phases of problem gambling. The first two of these are highly relevant to the relief and escape gambler, including such symptoms as those listed below:

 Introductory phase
  • Several small – or even large – winning episodes
  • Emotional escape whilst betting
  • Possible feelings of excitement and living on the edge
 Losing / Chasing phase
  • Losses rationalized as bad luck with a “big win” around the corner
  • The cycle of winning, losing and breaking even begins
  • Wagers increase
  • Hiding gambling activity
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop or limit gambling
  • Playing til the last dollar is gone
  • Angry when confronted about behaviour
  • Feels remorse after playing
  • Receives bailouts

This sort of gambler will often quit once they’ve sorted out the emotional issues that led to unhealthy betting in the first place.

Type 6: The Compulsive Gambler

A young woman is feeling emotional and upset after losing in the casino

As the name suggests, this type of gambler has lost all control over their betting habits, prioritizing spending time in the casino over everything else in life: work, family, friends, the personal and the professional. These gamblers are classified as having a pathological disorder, and their whole self-worth is tied up with winning and losing.

Requiring professional treatment to overcome their addiction, Dr. Custer, in his study of gambling types, defined compulsive gamblers as people who:

``play to relieve some kind of psychotic pain `{`regardless of`}` wins or loses `{`because`}` just being in action relives the pain.``

The Arizona study goes on to itemize the phases that differentiate the compulsive gambler from other types, with symptoms, including:

Desperation phase
  • Obsessed with gambling
  • Neglects physical wellbeing
  • Loses reputation, friends or family
  • Commits illegal acts related to their habit – including embezzlement, theft, bad checks, insurance or credit card fraud
Hopeless phase
  • Risks possible incarceration
  • Approaches emotional breakdown
  • Faces financial ruin
  • Attempts suicide

Whatever symptoms and behaviour this type of gambler exhibits, they are the group who really need professional help and treatment, and the emotional support of family and friends to recover from addiction and resume a healthy and fulfilling life.

Gamble Responsibly – that’s the key takeaway from this article.

The good news is that, according to the Responsible Gambling Council, the prevalence of problem gambling in Canada is between 1% and 2%, so most people will enjoy a bet, and a maybe win or lose a few dollars along the way.

If you’re one of the social types of gamblers – but most definitely not the antisocial type – you should enjoy the thrill of casino games, whether that’s slots, table games, or card games both land-based and in the online casino.

Playing at the table or slots – whether land-based or at online casinos – should be fun, but there is help available if it feels like it’s becoming a problem.

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