What Differentiates Professional Poker Players from Recreational Poker Players? A Qualitative Interview Study
The popularity of poker (and in particular online poker) has increasingly grown worldwide in recent years. This increase in the popularity of poker has led to the increased incidence of the ‘professional poker player’. However, very little empirical research has been carried out into this relatively new group of gamblers. The aim was to determine how professional poker players are able to make a living from playing poker and what differentiates them from recreational poker players. This research comprised a grounded theory study involving the analysis of data from three professional poker players, one semi-professional poker player and five recreational poker players. Using a process of open coding, focused coding and theoretical sampling, in addition to constant comparison of the data, a number of themes and categories emerged. The central theme as to what distinguishes professional poker players from recreational players was that professional poker players were much more disciplined in their gambling behaviour. They treated their poker playing as work, and as such were more likely to be logical and controlled in their behaviour, took less risks, and were less likely to chase losses. Recreational players were more likely to engage in chasing behaviour, showed signs of lack of control, took more risks, and engaged in gambling while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also of importance was the number of games and time spent playing online. Recreational players only played one or two games at a time, whereas professional poker players were much more likely to engage in multi-table poker online, and played longer sessions, thus increasing the potential amount of winnings. Playing poker for a living is very possible for a minority of players but it takes a combination of talent, dedication, patience, discipline and disposition to succeed.
KeywordsPoker Gambling Professional poker Skill
- American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
- Brunson, D. (2003). Super system: A course in power poker (3rd ed.). Las Vegas: Cardoza.Google Scholar
- Burns. K. (2004). Heads-up face-off: On style and skill in the game of poker. In Style and Meaning in Language, Art, Music and Design: Papers from the 2004 Fall Symposium, pp 15–22, Menlo Park, California, 2004. American Association for Artificial Intelligence Press.Google Scholar
- Charmaz, K. (2003). Grounded Theory. In J. A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (pp. 81–110). London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Dreef, M., Borm, P., & van der Genugten, B. (2003). Measuring skill in games: several approaches discussed. Mathematical methods of operations Research, 59(3), 375–391.Google Scholar
- Ferris, J., & Wynne, H. (2001). The Canadian problem gambling index: Final report. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.Google Scholar
- Griffiths, M. (2003). Problem gambling. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 16, 582–584.Google Scholar
- Griffiths, M. D., Parke, A., Wood, R. T. A., & Parke, J. (2006). Internet gambling: an overview of psychosocial impacts. Gaming Research and Review Journal, 27(1), 27–39.Google Scholar
- Griffiths, M., Parke, J., Wood, R.., Rigbye, J. (2009). Online poker gambling in University students: Further findings from an online survey. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.Google Scholar
- Henn, M., Weinstein, M., & Foard, N. (2009). A critical introduction to social research, 2nd edn. Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Hilger, M. (2008). Playing too many starting poker hands. Located at http://www.readybetgo.com/poker/strategy/starting-poker-hands-1612.html (Last accessed 22 March 2010).
- King, N. Jr. (2007). Harvard ponders just what it takes to excel at poker. The Wall Street Journal, May 3, p.14.Google Scholar
- Lee, J. (2004). Prize and risk-taking strategy in tournaments: evidence from professional poker players. The Institute for the Study of Labor. Discussion Paper No. 1345. 1–23.Google Scholar
- Multi-table (2010). Located at http://www.aintluck.com/strategy/online/multi-table/ (Last accessed 23 March 2010).
- Parke, A., Griffiths, M., & Parke, J. (2005). Can playing poker be good for you? Poker as a transferable skill. Journal of Gambling Issues, 14. Located at: http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue14/jgi_14_parke.html (Last accessed 10 February 2010).
- Poker Pages (2010). Poker tournament results. Located at: http://www.pokerpages.com/tournament/result20307.htm (Last accessed 19 March 2010).
- Rugle, L. (2004). Chasing—It’s not just about the money: Clinical reflections. Journal of Gambling Issues, 10. Located at: http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue10/ejgi_10_rugle.html (Last accessed 10 February 2010).
- Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. London: Sage.Google Scholar