JENNY BROCKIE: Welcome everybody, good to have you here tonight. Michael, you're 19 and you do Actuarial Studies at university. How old were you when you first played poker?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: I was only 14 when I started playing.
JENNY BROCKIE: Were you playing for money when you were 14?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: No, I only really started playing for money when I was 18. So"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: That's what you're supposed to say but was that when you actually started playing for money?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yeah, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why am I doubting this slightly? Did you play for money informally before that?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: No, I was just playing play money, things like that. I might have had a couple of shots but nothing too serious.
JENNY BROCKIE: So when did you start playing on-line?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Properly, like about eight months ago.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, properly?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yeah, professionally, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how much money did you start playing with?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: It was only very small, I was playing 25 cent tournaments at start, which was quite low, and then it obviously built up as I made more money and, you know, now I'm playing, you know, one, $200 tournaments, sometimes even a few thousands.
JENNY BROCKIE: How often do you play now?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: It's usually quite frequent, I play most days.
JENNY BROCKIE: Most days for how long?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Probably, you know, anywhere between four, sometimes even twelve hours a day, gets quite long.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how long did it take you to go from just playing a little bit to playing that much?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Oh, it all went very quickly, I really like the game so I wanted to put all my time into it. I was studying, you know, watching on-line videos, tutorials and things like that trying to get better, and that's basically, yeah, it all just went from there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Just getting back to the age thing, I mean how easy is it for people under 18 do you think to play for money?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Oh, it's, it wouldn't be very hard. They don't require ID for you to actually play on-line so it's possible to lie about your age and things like that.
JENNY BROCKIE: What's the thing that you love about it so much that makes you play that much? Is it the money?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: To be honest it's more the strategy involved. Like I like playing, I play against one other opponent a lot of the times and you kind of, you can use optimal betting strategies and kind of like read your opponent and it becomes kind of a mathematic game and I've got a mathematic mind so I like that kind of challenge.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what sort of stakes are we talking about here now for you at 19?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Well, so basically I usually play tournaments so you obviously - you pay a buy-in and there's a prize pool and the winner gets a certain prize and I probably play, you know, 40 or 50 tournaments a day.
JENNY BROCKIE: 40 to 50 tournaments a day?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what sort of money then are you feeding into poker every day?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Oh, probably average day maybe $1,000.
JENNY BROCKIE: A day?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yeah, 500 to 1,000, something like that.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, Prateek, I'm interested in talking to you about your betting too because you're studying Biomedicine at university, what do you bet on?
PRATEEK NICHANI: It's probably cricket and basketball mostly.
JENNY BROCKIE: So sports betting?
PRATEEK NICHANI: Yeah, sports betting.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you take it pretty seriously too, how many hours a day do you spend sports betting?
PRATEEK NICHANI: Just a couple of hours a day, that's all that's needed, just to do the research and you place the bets and then you just go on about your day.
JENNY BROCKIE: When did you place your first bet and why?
PRATEEK NICHANI: I think the first one was probably around 19 and I supported India in the World Cup so I think I placed on them to win and, yeah, they won. So I think, yeah, it was just at the moment, at that time it was just sort of, I guess it was an impulse bet at that time and, yeah, it paid off so it was a good feeling.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how much money would you be feeding into betting every day?
PRATEEK NICHANI: About 200 on a daily basis. But I know people who've done much more.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, so you don't think 200 a day is much to be betting?
PRATEEK NICHANI: No, I don't.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Vince, you're 21, you're studying Science at uni, what do you play?
VINCE TAN: I loved to play roulette in general.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how often would you play roulette?
VINCE TAN: Not that often. Like I just have a feel, I guess, if you sort of feel lucky and you're around the vicinity of a casino or your local"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Are you around the vicinity of a casino very often?
VINCE TAN: I do go to uni at city, I don't lie.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you just drift towards the casino, is that kind of how it happens?
VINCE TAN: It kind of pulls me there.
JENNY BROCKIE: It pulls you there, okay, okay. So how much would you bet each time you go to the casino do you think?
VINCE TAN: I start off with 20 and see how I go. Start with 20, if I lose it, well that's my day, I don't get to eat tonight. If the 20 becomes my 200, I have a nice dinner.
JENNY BROCKIE: Your parents took you to the casino though, didn't they, when you turned 18?
VINCE TAN: Yes. It's just like oh, it's your 18th birthday, it's like a milestone, we should go somewhere special. So we go to the city and then since we're at the city we might as well go to Star City. One thing sort of led to another, but yeah, I got my first drink there, I got to place my first bet.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you thought it was great, you walked away thinking it was good?
VINCE TAN: I loved it. The idea that I get money, why wouldn't you? But at that time, like you haven't, you haven't earned that money - it’s given to you by your parents. You lose it, you lose it, you don't care. But as soon as you start earning money, that's when you start becoming really, really stingy about it. Right? You work hours up on hours just earn, if you work at Maccers, at the time, what $8 an hour? It can be $10 an hour, right, and as you work those long hours, to put $10 in there and to lose it, it hurts. You spend"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Every parent listening to this will love to hear this.
VINCE TAN: Yeah. Like I don't know, I didn't like the idea that I spend an hour to make $20, or whatever I did at that time, and then within a minute I lose half of it. Like"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: But you're still gambling?
VINCE TAN: But I'm winning.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, we'll find out how much you're winning in a minute. Aaron, you're poker player and a sports better too?
AARON LAU: A little bit.
JENNY BROCKIE: You're studying Science at uni as well. How often do you play?
AARON LAU: I used to play more regularly in 1st and 2nd year but I've toned it down a little bit so maybe just a few times a week. I usually play one tournament a week. So I run a poker tournament, poker club sorry, at Melbourne Uni downstairs, down in Melbourne, so we run weekly events and I just play those now.
JENNY BROCKIE: And they're for money?
AARON LAU: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: When did you start gambling?
AARON LAU: When I was 18, yeah, when I was 18, that's the legal age for gambling in Australia.
JENNY BROCKIE: That is the legal age for gambling in Australia Aaron, that's absolutely right, but when did you start gambling?
AARON LAU: 18, yeah, 18, that's all.
JENNY BROCKIE: Your uncle taught you how to play poker?
AARON LAU: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: How old were you when you were taught?
AARON LAU: Around 15, 16, so it wasn't that long ago.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how easy do you think it is, I mean we were hearing before from Michael about how easy it is for young people to gamble for money, even though it is illegal until you're 18.
AARON LAU: Yeah. It is quite easy just with like on-line these days, it's just so easy just to say oh, I'm 25, or whatever, and they don't check for ID or anything like that. A friend of mine's brother was I think 13, 14 and he just used his brother's account to play on-line
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, I've heard a lot of these stories about people using brother's accounts, yeah? Very gentle nods coming from the front there. Okay, how much would you spend then or how much would you push into gambling per week say?
AARON LAU: Well, I decided when I first started gambling I would put in $100 and so that's $100 that I'm willing to spend on playing poker and I haven't used up that $100. So when I win it will go up to, I don't know, maybe 500, maybe $1,000 and then that will fluctuate but I haven't put any more money in since that original $100.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how long ago was that?
AARON LAU: That was when I was 18.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, and how old are you now?
AARON LAU: 21.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, so three years?
AARON LAU: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you've still got the $100?
AARON LAU: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how low has it gotten?
AARON LAU: Maybe 50, $50, I think that was the lowest I did hit 10 or $20 once but yeah, nothing. So pretty close.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Sally, you're studying young people and gambling, how common is it with young people in Australia do you think?
SALLY GAINSBURY, SOUTHERN CROSS UNIVERSITY: Gambling is pretty common amongst young people in Australia. It is a very popular entertainment pastime in the adult population and children really observe that and do engage recreationally in families and informal gambling and then when they come 18 they start gambling. So there was a study in 2011 of around 6,000 young Australians aged 10 to 24 and about 77 percent said that they'd gambled in the last twelve months for money.
JENNY BROCKIE: Now those people obviously aren't all problem gamblers?
SALLY GAINSBURY: That's right.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you know what percentage of them are problem gamblers?
SALLY GAINSBURY: Well this study found that around 5 percent of those young people were problem gamblers. But on top of that, if you look at players who have some negative consequences who might be at risk of gambling, it was around one in five young males and around one in ten young females.
JENNY BROCKIE: How do you identify that risk?
SALLY GAINSBURY: So it's if it's taking up more time than they can afford, if they're spending more time than is affordable, and if it's having a significant impact on their life in a negative way.
JENNY BROCKIE: Prateek, what's the most you've won?
PRATEEK NICHANI: In one go? 700.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, what about you Michael, what's been your biggest win?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Well I one effectively $11,000 in one tournament.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Vince?
VINCE TAN: $1,000.
JENNY BROCKIE: $1,000, and Aaron?
AARON LAU: Yeah, around 1,000, around that, in one tournament.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, and biggest loss?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Like because the most I put in a tournament is only a few hundred usually, so like in a day I've lost about 2, $3,000 in a day.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, what about the others? Prateek, biggest loss?
PRATEEK NICHANI: 40 bucks.
JENNY BROCKIE: Aaron?
AARON LAU: 100, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And Vince?
VINCE TAN: 100, 150.
JENNY BROCKIE: Would you call yourself a gambler Vince?
VINCE TAN: No.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why not?
VINCE TAN: Like I think that term's too broad. Like what sort of defines a gambler?
JENNY BROCKIE: But I'm not saying do you define yourself as a problem gambler, I'm saying do you define yourself as a gambler?
VINCE TAN: I dabble in the game so in that case, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: You go to the casino, you play roulette?
VINCE TAN: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you think you're a gambler?
VINCE TAN: Okay, yes, I'm a gambler.
JENNY BROCKIE: I'm interested though that you don't want to adopt that term and I wonder why?
VINCE TAN: I think it's just the social connotations like oh, you're a gambler. Like you sort of broke down - I'm not a problem gambler but I am a gambler nonetheless. I think the connotation is really bad especially for young gamblers, right?
JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think the connotation is?
VINCE TAN: Oh, if you gamble you must be in debt, I believe. Like people who gamble like have no control over themselves, have no self, like, have no will to sort of say no, we shouldn't gamble and most likely these people lose a lot of money.
JENNY BROCKIE: I'm just interested in your sense that you really have a feeling of being lucky and therefore somehow you will be lucky?
VINCE TAN: It's just a frame of mind. You don't want to go into a casino, yeah, I'm going to lose but I'm going to bet anyway. You don't go in with that mindset. You want to go in saying you know what? I think I can double my money.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what happens when you don't double your money?
VINCE TAN: When I don't double my money? I go home and sit down.
JENNY BROCKIE: Aaron, do you think of yourself as a gambler?
AARON LAU: Ah, I do not.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why?
AARON LAU: I don't think poker's anything similar to roulette. It's a completely different game.
JENNY BROCKIE: How is poker different to that? How is there less chance in poker?
AARON LAU: Well there's lot of odds you've got to calculate. In each hand of poker, so in a tournament you might play a few hundred hands and in each hand there's different betting stages so you put in more money when you think you've got the best hand and you put in less, just fold your hand.
JENNY BROCKIE: But there's still chance about the hand you get?
AARON LAU: Well I guess there is still chance but if you're playing regularly and you're playing hundreds of thousands of hands, I wouldn't say that it's luck any more. It's just"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: So it's skill you think?
AARON LAU: Well you've got to calculate it. You calculate the probability and you can just fold your hand, you don't lose any money.
JENNY BROCKIE: Michael, what about you, do you think of yourself as a gambler?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Well gambling is like kind of everywhere around us. I mean I like don't know if you'd call people who trade stocks gamblers because it's quite similar. But I guess to be clear poker is gambling. However, you will profit in the long run if you play correctly.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you think of yourself as a gambler?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Um, yeah, I guess the word has a negative connotation but, yeah, technically it is gambling, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Prateek, do you think of yourself as a gambler?
PRATEEK NICHANI: No, not for a second.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why?
PRATEEK NICHANI: I think there's a bit more skill involved as compared to what people think gambling is. I think people have this sort of notion in their head gambling is just all impulse and on the spot betting, but what I think I do is a bit, it takes a bit more skill, yeah, a bit more statistical analysis, a bit more research.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sally, what do you think about this idea that poker has skill involved and therefore it's not gambling?
SALLY GAINSBURY: Well"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: And sports betting has skilled involved?
SALLY GAINSBURY: Certainly both questions have been asked and there's the legal definition and the legal definition is quite clear in that if any game has an element of chance involved and there's monetary wager and the possibility of a monetary return, it's legally classified as gambling and that definition is quite consistent internationally. But there has been a lot of debate that poker should be classified as a skill game but generally internationally the laws still would say because even though there is much more of an element of skill involved in a game like poker compared to a game like roulette, because there still is the flip of the card on every single hand, the best hand can always be beaten by a chance.
So it is still classified as a gambling activity but it's interesting the notion of stigma because certainly something that's very heavily felt about gambling in Australia, and that's really problematic because it means that people who do have gambling problems are very reluctant to seek help. So amongst problem gamblers their help seeking rate is around 10 percent and that's really unfortunate because there are treatment services available and people aren't seeking it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sudhir, you consult for the gambling industry, what did you want to say?
SUDHIR KALE: Well I consult for the gambling industry but I've also have done a lot of work on the responsible gambling side and I looked at, one of my studies involved 2000 15 to 19 year olds and the emphasis was on poker. It's interesting that a couple of people here think of poker as largely a game of skill and therefore they don't perceive themselves as gamblers. As Sally said, poker involves skill as well as chance and that actually gives people this illusion of control.
JENNY BROCKIE: Illusion of control?
SUDHIR KALE: Yeah, that I'm smarter than the rest, I can beat the system, the rest of them are stupid and so on.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is that how you feel guys? Is that how you feel Michael, that you're smarter than the rest - smarter than say someone who plays the pokies?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Like, well, pokies, you're destined to lose in the long run so that could be something I wouldn't do. Like poker, there's a lot of recreational players who, like if you go on-line there's all these free resources which tell you like if you bet correctly in this way, you know, you're going to make money in the long run but a lot of recreational players don't do this. Like professionals, I call myself a professional poker play, can exploit that and make money.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sudhir, what were you going to say?
SUDHIR KALE: Yeah, the interesting thing in my study that emerged was that out of the 2,000, the problem gambling rate 5.9 percent; whereas among adults, the problem gambling rate is between 1 and 2 percent, depending on where in the world you are. So as it is it's very high amongst the teenagers and so actually this combination of skill and chance leads people into this illusion of control that I can control the game and then that becomes a downward spiral really fast.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you're more likely to get into trouble if you think there's skill involved?
SUDHIR KALE: Hardly anybody in my sample whose favourite game was playing the slots or the pokies was a problem gambler. The highest was associated with bingo and card games.
JENNY BROCKIE: Interesting. What are the card game players think about that, Aaron?
AARON LAU: Well I guess a lot of people do have that sort of illusion. As you said, it is true, but I mean games like roulette or pokies, you're playing against the casino and if you can win off the casino, like they wouldn't be a casino, they'd just be losing money so you're always destined to lose in those sort of games. Whereas poker you're playing against other people which I think you've got to take that into account a bit.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much money have you guys lost? I mean you say, Aaron, that you've never gone below the money you put in to start with?
AARON LAU: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: So have you kept a close record of that?
AARON LAU: I have like a few Excel documents like that to keep track of my progress and so I look at the graph every now and then.
JENNY BROCKIE: What happens if you do lose all of it? Do you just stop gambling?
AARON LAU: Probably not, I'd probably maybe put another 100 in there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, so you'd keep going?
AARON LAU: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it's worked so far?
AARON LAU: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: But it won't necessarily work"¦
AARON LAU: Yeah, I could potentially lose it whenever, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, what about you Prateek?
PRATEEK NICHANI: I think, I haven't really faced that situation yet so I haven't, from the initial I started so I haven't got to that stage yet where I've actually got negative. But "¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: And have you kept a close eye on the money or have you just got a rough idea?
PRATEEK NICHANI: I think it's more a rough estimate because I don't take it as seriously as some other people do. So I do have sort of an Excel spreadsheet thing going thing as well, I keep a close eye on that.
JENNY BROCKIE: If you did would you just stop being a sports better realistically, or do you think you'd keep going thinking you'd win it back?
PRATEEK NICHANI: Well I think I've already told myself that, as in like when I finish sort of my studies, because I do this just to cover expenses, so once I finish my studies and, you know, once I have a full time job, then I would probably stop. But I think "¦
JENNY BROCKIE: Probably?
PRATEEK NICHANI: Until I finish my studies I would never go negative.
JENNY BROCKIE: Vince, what about you, how much money have you lost?
VINCE TAN: I don't really keep track. Like I just enter, I just enter the casino and however much money I decide to pull out that day, if I lose all that then that's my money. If I win more, then I guess I can play a little bit more, or the most times I would run. If I can double or triple my money, I run. I like the idea that I have more money when I walk out. I feel like I'm, in a way like I'm beating the system somehow, right? Because I lucked out.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, but you don't know how much money you've actually"¦
VINCE TAN: I've cumulatively lost?
JENNY BROCKIE: Mm-mmm?
VINCE LAU: I would say I broke even, like you lose"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: But that's a guess, yeah?
VINCE TAN: Of course. I like to believe that I've broken even.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yes, well I wasn't going to say that but you said that.
VINCE TAN: I read your mind. But if you want the answer that you're looking for, I guess I would have been in negative, definitely. But maybe if you kept a tally I be maybe slightly positive or slightly negative.
JENNY BROCKIE: Michael, what about you? How much did you win or lose last year?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Sorry, in about June last year I deposited $50 into an on-line poker site and since then I've made about 30,000.
JENNY BROCKIE: So that's 30,000 in what, about eight months?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yeah. Not all of that was on-line, some was at casinos but it all started from that $50 on-line and that's profit.
JENNY BROCKIE: So $30,000 profit in eight months?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: So I decided to break that down, right? So eight months, $30,000?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sounds amazing, a few gasps in the audience here. That works out, if you play say six hours a day and you said some days you play twelve hours a day?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: But $30,000 over eight months works out at 45 grand a year, which isn't a lot of money for a full time job?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well like as I said before, once I go up higher stakes, like each month I'm going to be making a larger sum. So you know, next year I could make $150,000 let's say and then it can go up year after year.
JENNY BROCKIE: Tonight we're talking to young gamblers. Sami, you're an international student from Bangladesh, you're doing a Masters in Software Engineering?
SAMI ISLAM: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Tell us how you started gambling?
SAMI ISLAM: I was just playing cards with my friend back at home in Bangladesh. Like one of my friends introduced me to one of the games called 29 and it's like so addictive, I'm like after figuring out to play this I was like giving four hours to this game and we were not gambling but"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Was there money involved, no, yes?
SAMI ISLAM: For like first six months that I played I didn't put any money and nobody did, but all of a sudden to make the game more serious, to make it more like something, we are doing something serious, so we like started putting like, like really small amount of money. Gradually"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: How old were you?
SAMI ISLAM: I was around 16. Oh, I'm good at maths so probability and that stuff, like always I'm, always gradually thinking this is the way I can win. I used to make like flow charts how to win this game all the time and I used to boast about it. Like, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you moved on to poker?
SAMI ISLAM: I just downloaded one of like, one of the software, only software you can play on-line poker for like with play money, which are not actual money. So I kept playing and they have this tutorial, they teach you how to play the game, this is the rules, you keep playing and I was like oh, this is something I really enjoy, I'm enjoying this stuff.
JENNY BROCKIE: How old were you then?
SAMI ISLAM: I was 18 and, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what sort of amounts were you playing with then?
SAMI ISLAM: Oh, around that time I was just playing with my friends with money, but really small amount. But on-line, because from Bangladesh it's like gambling is not, you cannot gamble.
JENNY BROCKIE: It's illegal?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah, you cannot put like, you cannot put money outside the country. So, but I actually, that site actually gave me like $2 for free so I started playing and I gradually made it like 50 or something because I won some of the tournaments and then I lost it all. Because poker gives you like adrenaline rush, you're playing, you don't have any tracks of time. Like I'd been playing, when I'm playing in front of like PC, I don't care about anything going on outside. I just put my head phone and keep playing.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. So you came to Australia just over a year ago, is that right, a little bit over a year ago?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: You went to the casino on your second day here, why?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah that was one of the things that I planned to do before like, oh this is the first thing I'm going to do, go to casino. So I actually went there and was like fascinated with the atmosphere and like wow.
JENNY BROCKIE: So did you play at the casino yourself?
SAMI ISLAM: No, like"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you just watched you wanted to watch what people were doing?
SAMI ISLAM: I just watched, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how much time have you spent playing on-line poker since you've been in Australia? You were talking about small amounts in Bangladesh, did it stay small there until you came here?
SAMI ISLAM: Actually I won a big tournament back in Bangladesh, one big tournament, I got like 1,234 or something. Then I kept reinvesting those money and when I came here I had the opportunity to invest some money into poker. I invested like $50 and I won another one, but the problem was not this money that I'm winning, it's like immense amount of pressure that I'm studying and playing poker for long amount of time. Like maybe 14 hours a day, and"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: So you're playing 14 hours a day or you had been playing for 14 hours a day?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah, it depends, like if you are like losing, suppose you lost a hand so it makes you more frustrated. Like why am I losing? Like poker is 70 percent skill and 30 percent luck and if I control those 70 percent I'm going to win.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much time have you spent playing on-line poker in the last year since you've been in Australia do you think - on an average day, how many hours?
SAMI ISLAM: Actually on average I would say six hours to, six to eight hours, when I first, first four months, maybe, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how, what would be the outer limit of how much you would have spent, how much time you would have spent in a day? What would be the most time you spent in any one day?
SAMI ISLAM: The whole day maybe.
JENNY BROCKIE: The whole day as in twenty four hours?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah, time disappears and one of the things I had to handle here also is like I'm new here, right? I'm new in Australia, it's only been like one year for me and it gave me like a way out. Like this is something I'm doing because I have this sense of like I'm not going to do anything wrong because I don't drink, I don't do anything bad, I think I convince myself this is the thing for me, like I just want to hit one big time. One big time, that's it, I'm going to quit then. But that time came and it's gone, like because, you know, I've seen my friend won at the casino a lot of money and lost it all in like two hours.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much money would you have spent on on-line poker in the last year say, do you know?
SAMI ISLAM: I never put my mum and dad's money in my poker because I would never imagine like those money that my dad earns are like complete, completely legit.
JENNY BROCKIE: But how much would you have spent do you think in the last year on gambling?
SAMI ISLAM: I would say around $150, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: $150 or $1500?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah, because I won tournaments so I re-invest, I don't put too much money of my own. I just keep re-investing all the money.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much money have you lost?
SAMI ISLAM: I won around 3,700 and I maybe lost like 3,200 maybe.
JENNY BROCKIE: What I find interesting is that you're saying that you haven't lost a lot of money, but you're saying that it's crushing to you to lose money - like you're not speaking about gambling as a man who is winning. You're speaking about it as something that is causing you pain in a sense, is that a fair description?
SAMI ISLAM: It's causing me pain because like I, in my head I just want to win one big time. Like a huge win, that's about it. I don't consider being like a, I'm going to do it you as like a big career or something.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what would be a huge win?
SAMI ISLAM: Like a million bucks.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you'll keep going until you win a million bucks?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah, that was my thought process.
JENNY BROCKIE: That was your thought process?
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is it still your thought process?
SAMI ISLAM: No, absolutely not.
JENNY BROCKIE: So did you ever dip into money that you were given for your university fees, for example, or money you were given to come to Australia by your parents?
SAMI ISLAM: I've used some of them and I feel guilty about it, yeah. As I said, I'm like those are my parents hard earned money, like I don't think this will be a legit thing to do for me in my head.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you described the effect that on-line poker has on you as gruesome. What do you mean by that? What sort of effect does it have on you?
SAMI ISLAM: It was because like I'm, I am feeling that I'm going into like a psychological hole, that I'm completely discarding everything which is going on outside. You know, I've been sitting in my home for like ten days doing nothing. I'm not - gambling doesn't give anything to like community. If you work, if you do something for the community or anything job, you're serving something, right? But this is, you're just, you're just greedy about getting money. That's it, nothing else.
JENNY BROCKIE: What's it been like for you here in this twelve months as an international student? How has it been?
SAMI ISLAM: It's been like a roller coaster journey for me. I've been through very good times, very bad times, but when I first came here I was trying to play a lot of poker and another thing I wanted to do is like improve my English and do some other stuff which is like Australian culture and mix with Australians and stuff. Which is really tough for me because I'm an outsider, you know, like I don't have Australian accent, I have difficulties in talking to locals because they have their own thing going on and I'm like different, right?
JENNY BROCKIE: You're doing alright now.
SAMI ISLAM: Yeah, but this is the thing, I was looking for something. Then I saw something like a theatre thing going on and I joined, this is like a university project, a workshop where they teach you acting.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, we might talk about that a little bit later on. Are you still playing?
SAMI ISLAM: No, I am currently not playing any more.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sudhir, you've also, as part of the studies you've done, you've compared domestic students and international students when it comes to gambling, what have you found?
SUDHIR KALE: Yeah, that's right, actually Sami's story is pretty much the norm in terms of international students. A lot of them come from countries where gambling doesn't exist. A lot of them are away from their home for the first time. A lot of them have acculturation problems. People from certain countries have English problems. So gambling kind of provides the zone, as Sami mentioned, gambling provides an escape from everything else. So if you come from a country where you're away from your home for the first time, where gambling does not really exist, you know, China would be a classic case, where you really don't have adequate language skills, where you're facing academic problems, relationship problems, all of those things actually contribute towards gambling occupation.
JENNY BROCKIE: Paul, you work with young, with the young Chinese community in Melbourne and particularly around problem gambling. What are you seeing in the community that you're working with?
PAUL FUNG: What I'm finding is there's just a huge amount and more and more people indulging in gambling as a form of entertainment.
JENNY BROCKIE: How young?
PAUL FUNG: Generally from, a lot of them say they start at 18 as we have examples tonight, but yeah, generally from 18 onwards.
JENNY BROCKIE: How old were you when you started playing games with money?
PAUL FUNG: I think I was about nine, nine or ten years old was the first time I started.
JENNY BROCKIE: And who was teaching you?
PAUL FUNG: I learnt from my parents, or I observed from them and then asked them about rules of the games and things like that and other relatives or friends of my parents. When I was young I spent a lot of time with my cousins and that's when the main gambling was sort of done. Similar to Sami, it was sort of we played for fun but then there wasn't enough rush or adrenaline to it so we thought well let's add some funding to it to make it a bit more fun, a bit more entertaining, you know, so that's how it all started.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you were placing bets for money long before you turned 18?
PAUL FUNG: Correct.
JENNY BROCKIE: How were you doing that?
PAUL FUNG: Either, I had a fake ID by the time I think was 15 or 16 so back then it was very, a lot easier to get a fake ID so you just walk into a TAB or something like that, or you'd know, get to know them well enough and say, and just put bets on, or you'd find somebody like that you knew was over 18 to put a bet on for you. So it was very easy.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how far out of control did your gambling get?
PAUL FUNG: Terribly out of control. Beyond, beyond anything, you know, I had a mortgage put under my name by my brother and"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: How much?
PAUL FUNG: It was probably under half a million. Sorry, over half of a million, but in total I extracted probably just under a million dollars out of that account and gambled it all within two to three weeks.
JENNY BROCKIE: Two to three weeks, what did you do with it? Where did it go?
PAUL FUNG: It was all gambled on-line, on horses but similar to most things, I mean when you gamble on-line, numbers are just numbers, you just punch them into a keyboard and press enter and it was just, it started at, I think it was a 2 or $500 bet, it was something around a small range, but the chase just got enormously ridiculous and it got into the thousands, tens of thousands. Before you knew it, it was all gone.
JENNY BROCKIE: How did your brother react?
PAUL FUNG: Horrendously. He was very upset, you know, as anyone would be, knowing that the deceit, the dishonesty.
JENNY BROCKIE: How long ago was this?
PAUL FUNG: This was October, around October 2011.
JENNY BROCKIE: So not that long ago?
PAUL FUNG: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Michael, what do your family and your parents think of your poker playing?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: At first they didn't quite like it. They've had bad experience with some family members and friends and things like that so they didn't really like it at the start. But they've kind of grown on it since then, since I'm making money. But they still have their doubts but I'm trying to teach them that, yeah, it's good.
JENNY BROCKIE: Aaron, what about you? You mentioned that your uncle taught you to play but how do your parents feel about it?
AARON LAU: Yeah, very similar to what Michael was saying. You know, at first, you know, it's gambling, you're just going to lose all your money.
JENNY BROCKIE: Vince, what about you? What do your parents think about you going to the casino? They took you there when you were 18, how do they feel about the fact that you find it an appealing place to be?
VINCE TAN: Without them I think they're not too happy but they're sure encouraged it when they're there. Like if they take me, they're more than willing to put out money for me just to have fun or gamble. So I think with their consensus or with their presence they're not too bad but without them.
JENNY BROCKIE: Prateek, your parents only recently found out that you do sports betting, how did they react?
PRATEEK NICHANI: Well I think they took it pretty well surprisingly and I think, I think they know and I know myself that I can, like I've got a good control on it. So I've told, obviously like I said before I've told myself that once I finish my studies and so on, I'd stop the whole thing.
JENNY BROCKIE: Matt, you're 27 you started playing the pokies when you were 18. Let's have a look at a diary that you recorded last year when you were trying to give it up.
MATT’S VIDEO PLAYED.
MATT TORCASIO: I feel like going to the pub and getting smashed and just play the pokies but I’m not going to.
I’m starting yeah, to feel a little bit down cause maybe I am tired and tomorrows Friday and there’s only one day of work and then I've got two weeks off.
I’m on holidays – I should be happy, yeah and I’m not. I’m more nervous of what awaits me – keeping me away from the pubs. I need to find some avenue – something I can do every day. I’ve got footie tonight, which is good – something to look forward to.
Had a few good days, didn’t think about gambling then all of a sudden – all of a sudden"¦I thought it was meant to get easier – it hasn’t yet.
I want to start to feel happy again.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much were you playing the pokies?
MATT TORCASIO: Probably six or seven days a week, so, yeah, I was spending my wage on a weekly basis. But it wasn't just pokies, it would have been all assets inside of pubs so it would be the TAB, pokies, all at the same time.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, so you were spreading it around, you were liking doing all of it?
MATT TORCASIO: Yeah, it gave me a thrill. All in different ways I suppose.
JENNY BROCKIE: How did you get hooked in the first place?
MATT TORCASIO: Well, it was a social thing for me to begin with. A lot of my mates used to obviously go out, once you turned 18 and had good nights out and we'd always end up at a pub on a Sunday and one thing led to another. Then the first time I ever tried I put $20 in the pokies and first ever push on a poker machine and it went berserk on me. I didn't know what was happening, I just saw coins coming out and I won $3,000.
JENNY BROCKIE: First time?
MATT TORCASIO: First ever push.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much did you put in, 20 bucks?
MATT TORCASIO: $20.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you got 3,000?
MATT TORCASIO: 3,000.
JENNY BROCKIE: And then a week later you tried the horses?
MATT TORCASIO: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah what happened then?
MATT TORCASIO: When I tried the horses, I still remember the numbers, I just went in one day, we were there on a Sunday obviously again with my mates and mixed four horses that come in the exact order, I remember 1, 3, 9 and 12 were my horses and I put $10 in on that bet and it came through and I won 6,700.
JENNY BROCKIE: So this is the first week of your gambling life?
MATT TORCASIO: Yes, that’s correct.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much were you earning at the time in your job?
MATT TORCASIO: I was only a second year apprentice so probably about $300 a week.
JENNY BROCKIE: That could be seen as either beginner's luck or really bad luck?
MATT TORCASIO: I'd definitely say the second one, really bad luck.
JENNY BROCKIE: How quickly did your gambling escalate after that?
MATT TORCASIO: Within six months my problem, obviously my luck had changed, I wasn't winning anymore and that's when I started chasing my losses and that sort of went into going during the week by myself and pretty soon after I was gambling six or seven days a week.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much?
MATT TORCASIO: My whole wage.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how were you balancing up, you know, surviving and paying for groceries or rent or whatever you had to do?
MATT TORCASIO: I relied on mainly my mother at the time who was quite ill and I felt quite bad at the time but a feeling of chance sort of came over me and I just couldn't stop gambling.
JENNY BROCKIE: A feeling of chance came over you, is that the way you think of it?
MATT TORCASIO: Definitely, I could have had $5 in my pocket and I'd still venture down with that feeling of chance that I could turn it into something.
JENNY BROCKIE: So is that the kind of thing, the sort of feeling of luck that you're talking about Vince?
VINCE TAN: Okay, I wouldn't go that far.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is it a similar thing of thing? It's interesting though.
VINCE TAN: Yeah, like you do have those times where for some reason, like you said, you push it, it's like $3,000. You do have that moment where you just can't stop winning, right. So when you feel unbeatable, that's your, I guess that's your luck, you feel lucky.
JENNY BROCKIE: How much you have spent on gambling do you think over the seven years that you've been gambling?
MATT TORCASIO: Over the seven years, this is not including any of my winnings, over a quarter of million dollars, over $250,000.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what have you spent that money on mostly?
MATT TORCASIO: Probably the TAB and pokies.
JENNY BROCKIE: What, what made you stop and take stock of what was happening? What pressures were operating that made you pull up on it a bit?
MATT TORCASIO: The first time I, I tried a couple of times obviously to stop gambling. The first time I'd met my partner Lauren and obviously I didn't want her to know that I gambled so she sort of gave me reasons for spending my money on other things like going out, obviously with her, maybe dinners, movies and little things like that, and that sort of controlled me for about six months. But unfortunately once again I got really, really comfortable in the relationship and we started heading obviously to pubs and stuff like that and once again my luck had struck and off $50 I won $8,000 on a poker machine and that started me up again.
JENNY BROCKIE: And that's all it takes?
MATT TORCASIO: All it took was that one win.
JENNY BROCKIE: Lauren, what's his gambling been like for you?
LAUREN BRITT: During the process of, you know, nearly five or six years to get there it was a really hard time. It was like a ride that I couldn't get off a roller coaster. Fighting all the time and just not knowing how he was going to be every day from being happy to being angry to not knowing if we were going to be together or you know, it was just a mixed bag of emotions. It was just so stressful at times that, you know, I would have to just walk away.
JENNY BROCKIE: Michael, what have your girlfriends thought about you gambling?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Well, I actually, I usually do mention it as a kind of thing because I'm it's not something I'm ashamed of obviously because I'm winning money. Yeah, it's got mixed messages. But the general consensus is, well yeah, that's cook, you're making money, that's good.
JENNY BROCKIE: Vince, what about you, what does your girlfriend think of your interest in the casino and gambling?
VINCE TAN: She's, she's a killjoy, simply put, but I think that's the best thing, like"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why is she a killjoy?
VINCE TAN: She sits there, she supports you in the way - you gamble - but she will never pull out her own money. So then you're kind of sitting there"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: This is going to be really good for your relationships saying all of this on national television, you do realise that, don't you?
VINCE TAN: I do now.
JENNY BROCKIE: I just thought it was only fair to point it out. But she doesn't like it?
VINCE TAN: No, like she just, she's the typical girlfriend, she just want you to be happy, right, and I thank her for that. So I'd sit there and I'd sort of try to encourage her, oh, let's play together but she won't.
JENNY BROCKIE: So she stops you from gambling?
VINCE TAN: Yeah, she stops me, which is good, I think that's really good.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sally, we're only talking to young men here tonight. We did try to talk to some young women and found it very difficult to get them to speak openly about their gambling, but we do know that young men are twice as likely as young women to gamble. Are there differences in the way women gamble compared to men?
SALLY GAINSBURY: Yes, there are very clear gender differences. It's much more culturally acceptable for young men to be at the pub with their friends and play the pokies or the TAB or go to the casinos. It's much more of a male dominated and friendly environment. Men often tend to bet on things that have active choices so that's there that sense of control that we've discussed, whether it's an illusion or a skill, and men tend to bet on things like poker and sports and races that they can control what they're doing. When women bet they tend to play more chance based games and there's an element of escapism. So women might be more likely to play the pokies or bingo.
JENNY BROCKIE: Any of the young women here like to own up to a gambling interest? Yes, lady up here, you want to tell us?
FEMALE: Since when I was 14.
JENNY BROCKIE: Since you were 14? Where were you living?
FEMALE: In Philippines, yeah, until now I still play cards with my mates.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, do you gamble in any other way?
FEMALE: I gamble like I set aside $200 in my pocket and I play cards with my friends and then if I win the money, I have my money back around $500, and then if I lose it, I just said to myself that I'm going to get that money back one day. So I just leave like a week and then I get the money back again.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you keep going?
FEMALE: I keep going.
JENNY BROCKIE: So if you kept losing would you keep going?
FEMALE: Yes, because it's an addiction.
JENNY BROCKIE: Because it's an addiction, yeah, okay. Sami, have you completely stopped gambling?
SAMI ISLAM: Right now, yeah, right now I don't play poker any more.
JENNY BROCKIE: And is it hard not to play poker?
SAMI ISLAM: It's like, when I see something like someone playing it tempts me but I don't play. I just think about something else. I put my energy and focus on something else.
JENNY BROCKIE: What about you Matt, where are you up to?
MATT TORCASIO: A few things have changed for me. Obviously the second time I tried to quit gambling my partner Lauren had made me realise that in the past seven years, Matt, you have made a certain amount of money and you're not going anywhere. I had nothing except for my TV in my room and a rust bucket of a car that was sitting in the driveway. So from that point on I made a decision not to lose Lauren and quit gambling and as you saw the sneak preview of the video diaries that I was doing, I joined with the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and that was the "100 day challenge". And since I've joined there, it's now just over a year and I'm a year clean of gambling and the happiest person I've ever been.
JENNY BROCKIE: Michael, could you walk away from poker?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: For sure. Like for me, like playing poker would be similar to like a football player playing football. It's the interest, it's what they love doing, that's kind of how it is for me. So, yeah, I don't see why I'd want to walk away from it because it's something I enjoy doing.
JENNY BROCKIE: What if you start losing a lot?
MICHAEL ADDAMO: Well I'd reassess my game, I'd be saying like what am I doing wrong because if you're losing a lot of money you're probably doing something wrong so you'd kind of re-analyse that and then try and get better from there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Prateek, could you walk away, or do you enjoy it too much, you'd just keep going?
PRATEEK NICHANI: Well, like I said before, I haven't really been faced with that situation but if I was to get into negative, I've already sort of convinced myself I would stop. But yeah, like I said, I haven't really been pushed to that limit so I've never been to the negative since I started. So yeah, it's been going good so why would I stop?
JENNY BROCKIE: What about you Vince, can you imagine yourself not gambling?
VINCE TAN: Yeah, I can imagine myself not gambling, but I don't think, like not frequently. Like does that make sense? You're always dabble in it, just like oh, you're there, let's just have a game. I would never go to the stage where I would spend hours upon hours trying to perfect the skill or some sort of control.
JENNY BROCKIE: Sami, do you think you'll keep doing it or do you think you'll give it up all together?
SAMI ISLAM: I, I already, it's been like four months for me I didn't play poker. Rather than playing poker and tell my dad, oh, dad I'm playing poker and winning money. Rather than I'm doing theatre and like dad is really happy. This is something like I really feel proud of these things, these are achievements, poker is not achievement in my book, I think, yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, thank you very much everybody for joining us tonight, it's been a really interesting discussion and that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and Facebook. I'm interested in whether you gamble and where you draw the line.