What I’ve learned about me with online gambling

How my curiosity and my love for one game drove me to discover that some things in my mind may be deeper than I thought they were

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Disclaimer: I’m not an expert in medicine or psychology and my experience with gambling wasn’t a controlled experiment using a scientific method. This is only my personal report to share what I’ve learned.

I deal with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Through a long time, I actually didn’t know that it was actually anxiety that caused me to behave like I did and suffer for the things that I suffered. I could only grasp a brighter picture of the situation when I was 23 years old, was having therapy sessions for over 3 years and finally overcame depression. From that time on, I knew that I could name what I had and I started to notice how it really affects me and what activities help me deal with it.

In the same way, games are a part of me. They always were my favorite hobby and how I would have fun. It all started when I was 3 years old and my sister got her Nintendo 64. Counter-Strike came years later when I was 10. My cousins used to go to an internet cafe (or a LAN house like we call it in Brazil) to play games and invited me to join them. Some guys were playing GTA: Vice City, others were playing MU Online and most of them were playing Counter-Strike 1.6. I quickly learned how to play it and had lots of fun. Unfortunately, the PC that my family had at the time could not run it. It wasn’t until one year and a half later that we bought a new one and I could finally play it for as long as I wanted.

Times passed, Counter-Strike Source came out and, thanks to some friends at school, I got back to play it. Then Global Offensive came out and introduced me to competitive matchmaking which hooked me instantly. I never got to play it seriously and, once I got into college, ended up not having so much time available to play it like I wanted.

It was only last year (almost 6 years later) that I decided to dig my way back into CS:GO. I started playing the game at night before going to bed. At the same time, I started watching tournaments and, basically, got hooked like never before.

That was when I got closer with gambling websites. Esports matches and gambling go hand in hand and you can see real time odds everywhere. Some companies sponsor some teams. I actually knew them from way before that because it’s been a while since TV ads that try to make people bet on soccer are common in Brazil. However, this time I really got curious about it.

After I spent some time learning about how bets work and checking out different platforms, my curiosity got the best of me. Even though I tried not to for a couple of weeks, I decided to give it a shot. I would create an account, deposit a small amount of money so that it wouldn’t be such a risk and start betting on some teams that were playing in the tournaments I was watching. I set up three rules:

  1. I could not bet on a match that I would watch that involved a Brazilian team. This was set up so I would not ruin my experience watching. This way, I could fondly support the Brazilian team because I wanted, not because I’d win money. Also, in case of a loss, I wouldn’t be angry about it.
  2. I could only bet on CS:GO matches. Being the only game that I follow the professional scene, it was the one which I could bet reasonably on who would win.
  3. I could only bet on teams that I knew. This was also set in order to bet reasonably. If I don’t follow some particular scene and so have no way of guessing who’d win, it didn’t make sense to bet.

I’ve got to say that I also set up these rules because I had a little bit of fear. I knew that gambling can be dangerous and so tried to protect myself with discipline which is something that works for me in order areas of my life. Finally, with everything set I was ready to start.

In the first 3 days, everything was going well. I protected my losses and won a little bit of money and I even discovered and employed some tactics that I thought would let me bet in a smarter way. I didn’t have a lot to do at work, so I could check on the matches of the day early, think and decide what to do. After the first week, I started noticing some things that were happening: I had to check the results constantly in order to know if I would win or not so I could calm myself a little bit, I couldn’t start my day at working without betting first, I wanted to bet more and more including violating my rules, I just wanted to bet more money so I could win an amount that I thought was “decent”, I would get really frustrated if I lost one bet (in a way that it’d ruin the rest of my day). Finally, I started having troubles with my sleep. I would wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking about matches to bet on. I wanted to grab my phone, log in and check the online platform. It’d be difficult to get back to sleep and when I woke up the next morning, bets were the first thoughts on my head.

I also broke some of the rules I set. One day, I’d check the matches and couldn’t find any that I was feeling comfortable putting my money into. But that was giving me a feeling of emptiness. Some kind of discomfort. Starting the day without gambling just wasn’t the same thing. I had to do something. Anything. So I checked Dota 2 matches and bet on some matches solely based on the odds. At first, I thought that it’d be something isolated, but I found myself doing the same thing the next day (even when I gambled on CS:GO).

And then I couldn’t find a Dota 2 match. Suddenly, the universe that was presented to me through the screen was so amazing that I was looking just so I could see everything that it had to offer. That was when I bet on Russian volleyball for no reason at all. Less than a week later, I was watching TV and saw the ad regarding the final match of the Brazilian’s women soccer championship. Instantly I thought “This one is easy. I just had to bet on this one”. And I did. Just after the bet was confirmed, I lost control and bet on a match of the men’s tournament just because I saw it there and was feeling kind of “in the groove”. It was kind of awkward because I regretted it just after I confirmed it (and I lost that one).

Feeling that I was losing a little bit of control with this, I kept myself to CS, but started betting on teams that I didn’t know anything about just so I could have one bet (or even more) on the day. Curiously, I started losing more money when I was doing these things and, with less money available for gambling, I decided on respecting my rules and going solely for that “trusted” match of the day. And so, after just two weeks, I’d broken 2 out of 3 rules.

This got me going one more week. Then, after just 21 days, my experience was over in curious fashion. There was this one match (a semi-final) that I felt a huge impulse on betting. I held myself for quite some time. I wasn’t sure about who’d win. I was feeling that, even if I went with the team that I thought would win, the other one was in such good momentum that they could win as well. But I wasn’t so sure about it. I thought dozens of times “This happened before this month. When you’re feeling like this, just don’t do it. You’ve done it before and you saw what happened. Also, you just know that the final is going to be easier to bet on so sit out of this one”. What happened next was strange: I just hit the button, confirmed the bet and closed the browser. I put everything I had on that one match that I wasn’t sure about and I also wasn’t feeling good either. Just like it was a lesson, I lost the bet.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about putting more money into my account. I just felt so ashamed about what I’ve done even when I was 100% conscious when I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I don’t mean “ashamed” by betting, but regarding that, more than once, I stopped, thought clearly, knew that I shouldn’t bet and did it anyway. It was just hard to realize that you knew what was happening and was conscious about the situation but let go because of an impulse.

I also thought about what was going on with my sleep. I considered doing it again only in a specific tournament but, after a session with my psychologist, I considered quitting. I just think it’s going to be the best for me. Gambling hit my anxiety in such a way that I’d never seen before: I lost discipline over my own decisions, I was being controlled by impulsive actions, I had terrible times when things had gone wrong and the lack of dopamine was hitting me hard causing me to act this way. I saw that the best I could do was put it all in words and consider what a nice experiment it was, how I could learn from it and just simply say: “All right, it’s fun, but it’s just better for me to stay away”. Right now, I’m further considering my plans of studying and entering the stock market and that’s ok.

I’ve got to say that I now I know what gambling is about. I really see that is something interesting and I can clearly see how excited you can get about it. Also, it’s perfectly fine if you study in order to bet safely and win some money. Just do it in a responsible way and be aware of yourself. I don’t think it should be something illegal. There’s a lot to be won with regulations and is not different from drinking or smoking. Everything just has to be set up correctly and we have to know our limits. Just like a lot of things in life, you’ve got to know yourself in order to know the time and moment to say no to something.

I.T. consultant 9-5, trying to be a better version of me all the time