Sitting at the virtual poker table: results from first ever epidemiological study of actual internet poker gaming behavior, in press

April 22, 2009 by Dan Brown in Poker

The results from the first ever epidemiological analysis of the actual gaming behavior evidenced by a large sample of 3,445 online poker players over the span of 2 years are about to be published. The study was conducted by the Division on Addictions, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate. This collaboration reflects the longstanding partnership with bwin, the world’s leading online gaming provider.

The partnership between bwin and the Division on Addictions was established in 2005 to provide a scientific basis for the assessment of conspicuous gaming behavior and its consequences for responsible gaming. Two key findings beginning to emerge from the research initiative are:

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1) The myth of online gaming as a powerful seductive force has been empirically refuted. Online gaming has no greater problem potential than offline gaming.

2) Responsible gaming measures show effect.

The current research, which analyzes the behavior of  Poker players over the course of two years, is the world’s largest longitudinal and the first ever epidemiological study of its kind.

Individuals exhibit rational behavior

“In this research we provide additional evidence in support of our previous research showing that most subscribers who gamble on the Internet do so moderately. In fact, correlation analyses indicated that as Percent Lost increased, Duration, Total Gambling Sessions, and Total Amount Wagered all decreased, suggesting that individuals moderated their behavior based on their wins and their losses – exhibiting “rational” betting behavior.” says Howard Shaffer, PH.D., Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, Director, Division on Addictions, The Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

  • The average age of the cohort (sample) was 27.9 years and almost 95% were male. The typical Poker player was an active poker player for a median duration of six and a half months and participated in a median of one poker session every three days. The median Euros per session gambled was €13 and the median cost of playing poker was €1.80 per session.
  • The gaming behaviors of the most involved poker players show that this group, representing 5% of all players, was active for a duration of 18.5 months and participated in ten sessions per week.
  • This 5% subgroup had a smaller percentage lost than the sample majority, suggesting that skill is a factor in poker play and that players are able to improve their performance compared with chance.
  • When examining the most involved poker players who devoted more time and money to this activity, the study found that like the rest of the sample, they reduced Euros per session and reduced Total Wagered as Percent Loss increased.

“In our intention to replace speculation with scientific evidence, this study takes us a big step closer towards understanding the behavior of online poker players. Ultimately we are interested in developing algorithms capable of identifying behavioral patterns or identifying risk patterns associated with disordered gaming.” says Manfred Bodner, Co-CEO of bwin.

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