Taking chances

Deborah Pritchard

In three years, some might spend $10,000 to $15,000 on vacations. Others may save their money to buy a car. Junior finance major Ryan Gierke chose to spend the same amount of money on gambling with the chance of winning or losing it all. As gambling becomes more prevalent on college campuses, Gierke is not alone.

Gierke created a Kent State poker group for those who enjoy gambling to come together and play.

The group meets at Gierke’s house every Sunday for four to five hours at 8 p.m. Twelve to 20 people attend “The Official Kent State Poker League” each night, and each person spends $12 for the tournament.

Gierke also created a Facebook group – “2006-2007 KSU Poker Series (Fall/Spring Semesters)” – for the tournaments.

Money management

Gierke said he spends about $100 a week on poker. Each month he either breaks even or makes $200 to $300 extra.

He also enjoys going to casinos in Atlantic City, Windsor and Detroit. He normally plays $100 to $200 on random chance gambling.

Gierke picked up poker online, where he said he lost a substantial amount of money. He now plays poker three nights a week in various leagues, though he doesn’t normally play online anymore.

Gierke said he mainly plays poker for the competitive nature of the game and because he thinks of it as a part-time job. He estimates that after spending $10,000 to $15,000 on gambling during the past three years, he has broken even in the past year and a half.

Gierke said a downfall beginning poker players often experience is poor bankroll management, playing with money they don’t have or spending money budgeted for necessities such as groceries and rent. He said he plays with money that is set aside for poker.

He said at first he was too consumed with online gaming to do homework, but now has his life balanced.

“People get wrapped up online,” Gierke said. “I don’t see how they could study.”

Brian Gnezda, sophomore flight technology major, said a friend introduced him to gambling through online poker.

“I refuse to play online anymore because it takes all your money and is rigged,” he said.

Gnezda, who has been playing poker for five months, plays twice a week, spending $10 a day. His primary reason for playing is to make money. He said his playing doesn’t affect his grades or finances because he only uses money set aside for poker.

Overall, Gnezda said he lost $200, but is starting to earn the money back.

Sophomore zoology major Amanda Berkey said gambling can be great entertainment as long as one does it every once in a while and not every day.

“It’s a way to have fun, but not to the point where you’re putting yourself in debt,” said Berkey, who has gambled once in Canada.

She said people should stop and realize there is a problem when “it’s not an extra activity – it’s their life.”

When gambling becomes a problem

Seven to 8 percent of young people ages 16 to 25 have the potential to experience problematic gambling at an early stage of life, said Lynn Purkey, licensed chemical dependency counselor and compulsive gambler specialist from Meridian Services.

Gambling resources

• National Council on Problem Gambling

(800) 522-4700 – 24 hour confidential national helpline


• Meridian Services Problem Gambling Treatment

(330) 797-0070


• Gamblers Anonymous

(213) 386-8789 – International Service Office

(330) 849-0619 – Akron’s hotline


• Gam-Anon – provides help and support for loved ones of compulsive gamblers


(718) 352-1671 – International Service Office

Gambling is normally a social activity, but if it becomes the “can’t wait to the next time, next bet,” then it is problem gambling, said Purkey, adding that the first indication that a person’s gambling activities are out of control is when he or she spends more money than he or she has.

He said people may start borrowing money, running up credit cards, selling things or draining college funds.

The urgency to win money back is called “chasing,” meaning chasing the loss, he said. People end up betting even more in chase to make the “big win.” It becomes an obsession.

“It’s almost like being in love,” he said. “You can’t think of anything else.”

Gambling on the college campus

In college, students generally participate in sports betting, online gambling and betting with a bookie or a dorm pool, Purkey said. Another popular form of gambling on campus is card playing, such as poker and blackjack. Students are also part of the online gambling computer generation.

College students don’t often participate in bingo, the lottery or slot machines because they are interested in a more action-oriented, competitive type of gambling, he said.

There is compulsiveness about young people, he said, who say, “It looks like a good thing, let’s try it!” He said there is not a lot of practicality behind it, and the damage doesn’t occur to people until after they lose.

Negative effects of gambling

Purkey said there is a potential for a person’s compulsion toward gambling to transfer to relationship problems, drugs, alcohol and behaviors such as a buying addiction.

To win back money, students have to donate an increasing amount of time to gambling, which can affect their grades, Purkey said.

Do you have a gambling problem?

The following 20 questions were copied from Gamblers Anonymous’ Web site. Most compulsive gamblers answer ‘yes’ to seven or more of these questions. The National Council of Problem Gambling also has a problem gambling self test on its Web site.

1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

3. Did gambling affect your reputation?

4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?

6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?

8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?

10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?

13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?

16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

The person becomes dishonest and doesn’t want to disclose his or her problems to other people, he said.

Compulsive gamblers often think their life is hopeless, which is related to losses of money as well as family, possession, integrity and trust in oneself, he said. They often suffer from depression, which can lead to suicidal tendencies.

In addition, people who are addicted to things such as drugs and alcohol often end up wanting to try something different and become addicted to gambling.

How to treat problem gambling

If a person develops compulsive behaviors, he or she should learn to balance components of his or her life at an early age, Purkey said. The key to recovering from gambling is to balance one’s life between “mind, body and spirit.”

The first thing a person has to do is assign someone else to take care of his or her finances until he or she is taught to be responsible with money, Purkey said.

“To recover, they have to overcome their gambling problems by being honest with themselves,” Purkey said.

Purkey recommends a combination of family counseling, membership in Gamblers Anonymous and addiction counseling.

He said since gambling is becoming a more popular activity among high school and college age groups, there is a need for more education on the college campus about the negative consequences of being addicted to gambling.

Contact student life reporter Deborah Pritchard at [email protected].