Gambling is enjoyed by many people but can be problematic for some people. Understand the types of gamblers and learn how treatment can help.

Although all addictions have the power to create havoc in a person’s life, not all addictions are the same, and not all people experience addiction in the same way.

A person with an opioid use disorder, for example, could either be abusing medications prescribed by their doctor or abusing heroin from the street. Their situations and experiences are completely different.

The same is true with gamblers and people who struggle with gambling addiction. Gamblers show addictive behaviors in various ways. To understand and treat the problem, it’s necessary to understand the type of addiction and the individual’s unique situation. In answer to the frequently searched question, “Which type of gambler am I?” This overview of seven types of gamblers can be helpful.

1. Professional Gamblers

Professional gamblers are a rarity. People who gamble professionally make a living by gambling. Somehow, they confront systems that are built around taking their money and come out ahead.

Being a professional gambler takes an extraordinary level of:

  • Patience
  • Frustration tolerance
  • Intelligence
  • Self-control

Successful professional gamblers continually weigh the odds of each situation to decide how to proceed. Impulsivity and anger stand in the way of their performance, so professionals dismiss these traits.

It is important to note that professional gamblers will not usually be addicted to the act of gambling. Addictions can diminish self-control and rational thinking, which would undoubtedly cause more losses than wins.

2. Casual Social Gamblers

A casual, social gambler is much more common than a professional player. A casual gambler may stop in a casino from time to time, spending a moderate amount of money on slots or blackjack and then head home at the end of the night. They might also join friends for a fantasy football league or Friday night poker game.

For the casual, social gambler, the act is not about the strong desire to win. This type of gambler is interested in spending time with friends, meeting new people and engaging in some rest and relaxation to relieve stress.

The casual, social gambler is comparable to a social drinker. A social drinker may head to the bar after work some days, but the experience is more about socializing with similar people to de-stress. Alcohol, or gambling, in this case, is not the primary focus.

3. Serious Social Gamblers

Gambling can be either a positive or a negative coping skill. The casual gambler uses gambling as one of their various available outlets, but the serious social gambler relies solely on gambling to cope.

While negative coping skills seem useful in the moment, they only lead to problems in the future. With long hours spent gambling to cope with stress, serious social gamblers may begin sliding toward problematic gambling while struggling to maintain family obligations, work and friendships.

4. Relief and Escape Gamblers

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that addictions commonly form when people engage in behaviors, like using drugs or gambling, to fulfill an emotional need. Relief and escape gamblers may only seek out gambling as a way to manage their depressionanxiety or other causes of stress.

Escape gamblers may be pretty unsuccessful at winning, though. Due to their emotional state, their decision making and judgment can be poor. Relief and escape gamblers could lose huge amounts of money in a short amount of time and feel higher stress, anxiety and depression in the long-term.

Relief and escape gamblers benefit from expanded coping skills to address their emotional needs.

5. Conservative Gamblers

Rather than seeking the thrill of winning or the social aspect of gambling, conservative gamblers are interested in the experience. They want to try playing slots or rolling the dice because they have seen the games on television or in movies and are curious.

Conservative gamblers likely place a modest budget or time limit on their gambling and stick to it whether they win or lose. This practice makes problematic or addictive gambling very rare among conservative gamblers.

6. Personality Gamblers

For better or worse, the above gambler types all involve activity that is legal, even if it could become problematic. The personality gamblers — sometimes called antisocial gamblers — are different because they behave in illegal ways.

These gamblers want to make large amounts of money gambling by any means necessary. Personality gamblers may lie, cheat, steal and deceive other players or people in charge to come out on top. Their tactics could be simple like hiding a card up their sleeve, or elaborate, like conspiring to fix a race or sporting event.

For the personality gambler, gambling is an issue, but there could be other facets of their criminal activity and mental health that need equal attention from professionals.

7. Compulsive Gamblers

Compulsive gamblers lead lives that are entirely controlled by gambling and money. Even though they might not want to admit it, they frequently display signs of a gambling disorder like:

  • Spending too much time gambling
  • Making unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop gambling
  • Continuing to gamble despite issues with relationships, work, school or home life caused by gambling
  • Constantly chasing the next win to compensate for the last loss

Compulsive gamblers typically need professional treatment and support from their loved ones to avoid worsening life circumstances. Compulsive gambling can quickly consume a person’s life.

Getting Help for Problem Gambling

Within reason and in moderation, gambling can be a fun way to de-stress, connect with friends or have a new adventure. However, gambling addiction is an issue that can spiral out of control quickly.

If you worry about your gambling habits or the gambling of a loved one, help is available. If you or someone you love struggles with a drug or alcohol use disorder and has a co-occurring gambling problem, call The Recovery Village. The professionals at The Recovery Village can listen to your concerns and guide you toward treatment that works.

Camille Renzoni
Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
Eric Patterson
Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” Published 2013. “Types of Gamblers: Compulsive Gamblers and More.” June 20, 2016. Accessed February 17, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.