Gambling perhaps can be regarded as the second oldest profession known to mankind. Apart from the primitive urges that drove the apes throughout in their evolution routine, an innate desire to take risks and emerge out a champion among their folks was the one quality that curtailed the herd psyche and made Homo sapiens the front runners in the battle of survival. This attraction towards unknown and stuff whose outcome was beyond the controls of physical and mental prowess laid the foundation of our science, religion, mythology, theology and most of the knowledge that went on to become hallmark of our species. After all weren’t Adam and Eve gambling with destiny and order of Lord when they took the bite of the forbidden fruit? Behold! The way their gamble has paid off…
The attraction towards the game of chance is thus something that has been hard-wired in our psyche. The reasons for it can be attributed to our ancestors, right up there in pre-historic era, who were always fighting some odd or the other. Their beating these odds was the key to their survival and that of their race. Cut to the 21st century. Gambling today is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on the passion and addiction of a modern day gambler who is always “nearly missing” hitting the ever-elusive jackpot. What compels a hard-nosed business man or an executive with fancy degrees; a testimony to the intelligence and rationale that has guided them in all aspects of their lives; to blow away their hard earned money in a single night in an obscene casino, makes for an interesting study shedding light on the motives and desires of a mind that always lives on the edge.
First of all we should understand that all gamblers do not fit into stereotype images that other non-gamblers have of them. Here we are referring to both the stereotypes that sit on the opposite end of the spectrum. One is of a suave, sophisticated, ladies man, who knows his wine and always has three aces up his sleeve: an image that is reinforced through James Bond like characters that make gambling oh-so-glamorous and sexed up. On the other end exists the poor cousin of this good-looking-devil. He is a social rot -famished, on drugs, stealing, fighting; all for the sake of gambling. He has gotten so addicted to it that his existence is endangered and he is a menace to his society and family. Thankfully our real life gambler is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
In real life the gambling fraternity can be divided into three broad classes each having their own sets of motives and reasons. These are:
1) Casual Gamblers or Low Risk Gamblers:
This is a category of persons who take gambling for what it is, a sport. These are the people who will play a card game on special occasions, bet on horse races as part of a social event, and place a wager with their cousins who are equally passionate about the outcome of Euro Cup. For them gambling is just one of the skills that are necessary to establish that they are persons of the world. Since their societal circle demands this or they get thrills out of this they indulge in gambling. The most important thing though is that they always play with the surplus they are having and know when to draw the line as to when to get up and go on with life.
2) Habitual Gamblers or Problem Gamblers:
This category consists of people for whom gambling has graduated from being a time pass activity to serious business. For them it has become a habit that can not be kicked off easily for they indulge in gambling for the sake of gambling. The reason why habitual gamblers are categorized as problem gambler because gambling as a habit per se is surely a serious issue for any individual unless he is on a continuous winning streak.
3) Pathological Gamblers:
This is the category that probably consists of the persons who are reasons for the second stereotype mentioned above. Pathological is defined in psychological parlance as a compulsion characterized by an ability to resist overwhelming and irrational desires. Thus pathological gamblers are those who are irrationally attracted to gambling and have lost the power of judgment as to when its time for them to call it a day. Just like a drug addict gambling becomes the centre of their existence overriding any moral, ethical, economical or social arguments against it. They often have other behavior disorders afflicting their personality – a situation termed as Co-morbidity. People falling in this category need strong help to drive them out of this nadir.
This was the classification of gamblers with their reasons for what they are. Now let us try and understand how a person moves about in these stages. What actually initiates an individual in the world of gambling? As stated earlier, for our ancestors avoiding risks was altogether a big risk that they can not afford to take. Considering from where we stand today, going into dark forests with only stone tools to hunt down a beast was a perilous gamble most will not indulge in today. But for them it was a way of life. So slowly but surely this risk taking ability has boiled down in all of us. For a novice the risk of gambling is so minuscule and reward so high that for him it makes sheer common sense to go on with it. Add to it the glamour and high life associated with the profession it becomes a Herculean task to resist the bait. These games are often built in such a format that the gambler thinks that his skills are improving and he is closer then ever to winning. This, if not checked eventually moves on to become a habit and then an addiction. Basically gambling plays on two universal emotions the desire to win huge without actually slogging for it and the difficulty of giving up that dream no matter how high the stakes are.