Going All In

Televised poker events often give a false sense that the odds are in the players’ favor. In reality though, they definitely are not.

Texas Hold ‘Em has become the most popular poker game in the United States thanks mostly in part to the televised World Series of Poker tour and its largest annual tournament, the “Main Event.”

It takes years of training, studying and practice to truly master the game of poker. Like any other casino game, it is a game of chance. Professional players are able to calculate their odds based on the cards in their hand and on the table, but there is almost always a “chance” of losing.

Professionals such as Phil Ivey, Joe Hachem, and Daniel Negreanu have all played poker for years and have a tremendous knowledge of the game. It is easy to watch them lay down a losing straight or flush, but for the average online or casino gambler, it’s not such a simple task.

Online poker involving real money has been around since only the mid 1990s, according to the gambling addiction section of the University of California-Berkeley website (www.ocf.berkeley.edu). According to the site, $75 million was wagered in poker rooms every hour in 2005. I can’t even imagine what that number is today.

The biggest spike in online poker came in 2003 and 2004 when Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, amateur online players, each won the Main Event in back-to-back years. Since then, online poker websites such as PokerStars.net and PartyPoker.com have pitched the idea that since those guys won the Main Event, you can too.

Sure, the best players in the world can make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year but that is their job and they are the best in the business. There were some professionals in the World Series of Poker tour who made less than $15,000 during 2009 – yes, professionals.

Casinos and online poker websites are a business, and big ones at that. Most online gambling websites are run from offshore locations. According to the American Gaming Association, offshore companies generated an estimated $5.9 billion from players in the U.S. and $21 billion from players worldwide in 2008.

Gambling addiction is an enormous problem in this country and around the world. Most addicted gamblers are not wealthy millionaires, but rather middle-class Americans who really can’t afford to waste their money by gambling it away.

Playing poker online does not mean that a person is addicted, but continuously playing poker online and losing can be very dangerous. The people that “play to win their money back” are the ones that end up in serious financial trouble in the long run.

I love poker, but don’t get to play all that much. I usually just play with my friends and never for more than five or 10 dollars. I have never played poker online for money or tried to make it big in a casino. I know that despite how easy casinos and television programs make it appear, my odds of hitting the jackpot are closer to none than slim.