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Gambling is a profession in which all different types of approaches can result in monetary success. The daily life of the professional gambler is generally defined by calculated risks, money management practices, and overall time spent playing the game in which they are profitable in. This will be explained more in depth throughout the contents of this paper by shedding insight from first-hand experience in this subculture and by analyzing multiple academic journals. This is a significant topic to examine from an anthropological standpoint because the characteristics which make this group a subculture are great in numbers as well as how many individuals can be accurately classified as professional gamblers. I am a poker player myself who is actively involved in an online community of poker players which will greatly help me give some perspective about this subculture throughout this paper. A professional gambler requires many skill sets to be successful, many of these skills require extreme discipline such as money management, or “bankroll management”. A bankroll is essentially all the funds to which a professional gambler has designated solely for the purpose of making bets with. Most successful professional gamblers separate their bankroll from their other finances, although not everyone has the luxury or funds to do that. The ideal road to monetary success through the eyes of a poker player is starting off with a low bankroll and then climbing to the higher stakes games while applying simple formula's to how they manage their money. These formula's follow a general rule with few exceptions, which is how much of their bankroll or what portion of their bankroll they will allow themselves to bet at any specific time. For example, a professional poker player who plays

Hafer 2 tournaments for a living, might make the rule to never use more than 1% of their bankroll at a time for a tournament buy-in. This percentage is relative so the actual dollar amount will increase or decrease as the bankroll will naturally fluctuate throughout the player's career. This money management rule is set in place to virtually eliminate the possibility of a player losing their entire bankroll. There are many different approaches in how people apply bankroll management to their own respective bankroll. This is generally always circumstantial and will greatly vary depending on the individual and their attitude towards their money. Player's who use a more aggressive bankroll management strategy leave themselves more vulnerable to what is called variance. Variance can simply be described as “luck”. To give an example of variance and how it applies to this, we will examine one simplified scenario. In a poker game of Texas Hold 'Em, player's X and Y are both dealt separate hands. Player X gets dealt the better hand which will win 80% of the time after the community cards are dealt, while player Y gets dealt the lesser of the two hands which will only be the winning hand 20% of the time. So in theory, player X will win four out of five times. When the situation arises that player X's hand gets beaten by player Y's hand, this is what is described as variance in the poker community. Player X would perceive this as “negative variance” while player Y would perceive this as “positive variance”. The reasons an aggressive bankroll management strategy leaves the individual using it more vulnerable to variance is because they have a larger percentage of their bankroll invested in any given game they have bought themselves into. So if the player experiences negative variance while having invested 10% of their bankroll into a poker game, they are going

Hafer 3 to be that much more affected compared to the player who experiences the same negative variance but only having invested 1% of their bankroll. But since variance works in both ways, this more aggressive money management strategy can also yield positive results and a much faster way of building a bankroll. Many players find this concept appealing and will opt to try it out, while more disciplined players do not mind taking the more passive approach to money management. Variance, along with many other probability and statistic theories, are concepts understood by virtually all of the professional poker playing community. This speaks greatly about how important a basic understanding of mathematics is throughout the subculture of professional gamblers. This understanding and application of these mathematical concepts is one of the variables which makes the distinction between recreational players/gamblers and professionals. The heavy emphasis on applying basic math skill sets is more prevalent in the poker community as opposed to the professional gambler who makes a living off of playing casino table games. This is because there very few table games in which an individual has the ability to manipulate the game to bring the odds of winning bets in their favor. This is something to be expected as table games are the player versus the casino whereas poker games are the player versus another player. Table games are designed to make the casino money, with some games having slightly better or worse statistical odds than others. There are games which can be manipulated to have the odds heavily favor the player, such as blackjack. This is achieved through various practices, one of which being counting cards. However, the casino reserves the right to ask a

Hafer 4 player to leave for any given reason at any given time which makes this a much harder game to make a living in comparison to poker. The casino has a security team as well as experts who watch over the cameras throughout the entire pit room to specifically identify players who are employing such tactics at table games. This creates a dynamic amongst professional blackjack players in which they try to make themselves appear as a recreational player when actually employing profitable tactics at the tables. Another strategy utilized by some gamblers and poker players which is arguably unethical, is something called collusion. This is the act of the working with other players or individuals to give yourself an unfair advantage in a poker game or at a table game. Poker professionals have to worry about this all the time at private games and casinos alike, whereas casino employees have to worry about this in multiple games with blackjack being the most evident. If someone is found out to be cheating or to have cheated in a poker game, the poker community usually takes action to actively tarnish their reputation and pursue any action they can. Before Howard Hughes began buying hotel casinos and the arrival of corporations in Las Vegas, the mafia had a heavy influence and even controlled the gambling industry to a certain degree. With many of the casinos being ran behind the scenes by criminals, there were many unlawful things which took place. One of these practices is something known within the professional gambling community as being “86'd”. This term was coined after the common practice before the 1960's in Las Vegas in which mobsters caught cheaters at the casinos which they owned. It is now a common term for being thrown out or barred from an establishment, but back then it signified being driven eight (8) miles out of the city and being put six (6) feet into

Hafer 5 the ground (86'd). This heavily emphasizes the general attitude towards cheaters in the culture which is gambling, although these practices are obviously not commonplace anymore, similar events can and do take place when a person or group of persons is found to be cheating. With the exponential growth of the internet over the past decade, naturally online gaming has become increasingly more possible and popular among the poker community. Online poker sites who provided a software platform in which individuals could play against each other at virtual tables began to arise in the early 2000's and the industry really took off after the summer of 2003. This is the year that Chris Moneymaker won the main event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. He won his seat in the $10,000 buy-in event off of an online tournament called a “satellite”. A satellite is a poker tournament in which the prize given to the winners is most commonly a seat to a higher buy-in tournament. Often times there will be a series of satellite tournaments, sometimes referred to as a “super satellite”. Winning this satellite tournament allowed Chris Moneymaker to obtain an entry into the WSOP main event in 2003 for $39. The WSOP main event has an entry fee of $10,000, so you can see the benefit of taking a chance at a satellite tournament. After Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP main event, it inspired many young people all around the world at his unbelievable story. It was the first year in many years that the person to win the most prestigious tournament in the poker world was not a professional player. The era which followed his win is commonly referred to as the “poker boom”, and this is when the sport saw an absolutely enormous influx of new players picking up the game. With the newly developing industry of online poker and how it played an integral

Hafer 6 part in how Chris Moneymaker was able to win the prestigious tournament, many people began going to their computers and learning the game immediately from the convenience of their own home. It is a shared mentality amongst modern day poker players that this was the most profitable time to be a professional poker player because of the huge amount of recreational players. Large sums of money were accumulated in short amounts of time by college students in their young twenties and this only added to the dream that so many aspiring professional poker players shared. However, as the game progressed, so did the level of play which is commonly referred to as the meta-game. This means there is less easy money, or “dead money”, to be made at the tables as more people bring their understanding of the game to new levels. Following this rapid evolution of poker and the highly technical ideas which online players have applied to their game, the industry took a huge hit in April of 2011. On April 15th of 2011, he United States Department of Justice (DOJ) seized three of the largest online poker sites offering their service to U.S. customers. This day is referred to as “black Friday” amongst the online poker community and greatly affected poker players worldwide. Without going into too much detail, many players lost their money on some of the sites because one of the aforementioned businesses had became insolvent but still proceeded to process payments only further putting them into the hole. This virtually made it extremely difficult to be a successful online poker player in the US after this date, and continues to make players who reside within the U.S. struggle with their career. After the unfortunate events of black friday, some of the sites which weren't involved in criminal activity and running a scam came back online and began servicing the rest

Hafer 7 of the world outside of the U.S. for online poker play. With these events taking place, the online poker player pool within the U.S. became extremely small in comparison to how many players there are worldwide. Very small sites began to serve the U.S., however breaking many laws in the process of doing so which makes it very risky for players to put money on these sites. The effect this had on the dynamics within poker games was immense. In the U.S., it is hard to find an online game without a professional player sitting at the table. This is because it is generally only people who rely on poker for a living who are willing to take the risk to still play for a living on these shady sites within the U.S. However, many American players have since moved out of the country entirely to pursue online poker as a career in countries where it is not yet regulated so that online play on the bigger sites with bigger player pools are legal to play on. This makes it more profitable for them since with a larger player pool and a non-abysmal state of online poker legality within the rest of the world, this means more recreational can be found at the tables. This in-turn creates more easy money, or “dead money” as I referred to earlier, to be found within the tables online. Most American players have favored Canada as a country to move to after the events of black Friday took place, many obvious reasons factoring into this decision. Online poker is still completely legal in Canada as opposed to the U.S. in which it technically became illegal for businesses to operate within the country after 2006. This is because of a piece of United States legislation called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) which came into effect in 2006.