Hubert received primary education in a village in China. There were not many job opportunities when he migrated to HK at the age of 18. After several changes, he found a stable job in a hospital.
Hubert had been active since young. He was enthusiastic in playing various games in village, including poker which he found exciting. Poker was a game without monetary involvement at that time because of the villagers’ financial strain. However, Hubert began to take small bets on horses and mahjong when he came to HK. He also followed colleagues to casinos in Macau since 2003 when more casinos were established. He learnt the rules of baccarat and was particularly fond of the ritualistic process of rubbing cards. He explained, “You have to bend up the corner or edge when your Ace encounters a card with three sides; but if your 2 or 3 meets with a card with three sides, you will have to blow on your card.” Hubert believed that his rubs and cheers would help him control the outcome and win. He felt extremely excited when he perceived his rituals worked. He added that when he got his desired card “through the rituals” including the crowd’s cheering, he gained a strong sense of achievement which he had never felt at work.
Influence of gambling myth
Hubert’s belief that ritualistic behaviours of cheering and rubbing cards could help him control and win the poker game was reinforced by several winning experiences. He therefore increased in gambling frequency and betting amounts. Once, he even stayed in a casino for a whole week until loan sharks took him back to HK. The addiction in gambling not only brought Hubert debts, but also emotional distress. He was sad that gambling destroyed his marriage and family. He was kicked out of home by his wife. He thought of suicide when he felt hopeless in all the losses rendered. Fortunately, he chose to live and face the problems. His counsellor applied food bank and accommodation for his temporary needs.
Treatment and changes
During treatment, counsellor asked Hubert given the belief that rituals were effective in controlling poker games, why did it not work at times? Hubert gave time to ponder on it. He realized rationally that the outcomes of poker games were set independent of rituals. The atmosphere merely created an illusion of control. Counsellor guided him to understand the probabilities of different baccarat combinations so as to deepen his realization of the illusion of control. With Hubert’s motivation to quit gambling, counsellor explored with him means to repay his debts and rebuild a healthy life. Hubert was forgiven and accepted by his wife to move back to home. He had remained abstained from gambling for 3 years now.