College Student Reveals How He Knew He Had Sports Betting Problem

Written By Eli Hershkovich on July 2, 2022
sports betting

The act of recreational sports betting can be as much psychological as it is analytical. Problem sports betting can have the same characteristics, taken to extreme levels.

The deed often employs anticipation, joy and happiness followed by fear, dejection and the coping mechanism of your choice — or the other way around. But when the level of either or both of those avenues is raised to another degree as of a result of money, there may be reason for the upmost concern.

Below is a conversation with a 21-year-old college student, who chose to remain anonymous for this story. He acknowledged his issue — before it worsened — after he lost a Purdue wager during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when Saint Peter’s became the first 15-seed to reach the Elite Eight in March Madness history.

One College Student’s Journey Identifying Problem Sports Betting

When were you first introduced to sports betting?

“Sophomore year in high school, my (athletic) coaches first started talking about it around me. When I was a junior (and didn’t play for them anymore), I started betting after they helped get me involved. So right around 16 (years old).”

How much money is your average sports bet — without disclosing a figure?

“Let’s say 1-5 units.”

What was your biggest wager before the Purdue vs. Saint Peter’s live bet?

“It was Gonzaga (moneyline) versus UCLA (in April 2021) for about 30 units. The money came from a combination of my bank account and past winnings. I’m also a pretty avid poker player too, which I have much more success with than sports betting. That’s what kind of supplements any sort of losses I might have because I think my edge in cards is a little bit higher. In terms of a buy-in and unit size, it’s about 10 to 20 times the difference (from my average bet).”

Looking back at the Gonzaga-UCLA bet, was that the first time you emotionally felt different while watching a game?

“I felt like the odds I was laying versus the chances of UCLA winning were drastically different. Even though the bet juiced me up to enjoy the game more, I feel like I’m able to reflect on that game (in a positive way) just as much as any other great one.

But it definitely felt different. The payout was obviously much smaller compared to what I was risking made it such an overall stressful time…

The first thought that came into my head was terror (after Johnny Juzang hit the layup to tie the game with three seconds left in overtime). The next thought was trying to mentally adjust to try to figure out what Gonzaga could do to stop what was going well for UCLA.

When (Jalen) Suggs hit the shot, I didn’t feel happiness. It was relief. The sense of relief after winning it was like 10 tons lifted off my shoulders. There was somewhat a kick-in-the-pants because I felt like it was a stupid decision, but it wasn’t enough to cloud me from the future because of the success. Since it was ticketed as a winner, I went ‘Oof,’ and just wrote it off.”

Mentally, what made you go back to the well for Purdue-Saint Peter’s?

“Maybe the fact that it was March Madness, and money’s flying that time of the betting season. I got excited to get more skin in the game (again). The way the live bet went down, it was spur of the moment. I thought I had identified an all-the-chips-in-the-middle spot (by wagering on Purdue live).

  • Editor’s note: For disclosure, the 30-unit bet was placed at the under-four minute timeout in the first half, as Purdue was -375 on the moneyline.

It wasn’t a rush of adrenaline that made me bet it. It felt like Saint Peter’s shot-making (from previous games) was getting deterred by Purdue’s size.

When I got the ticket, they (the Boilermakers) went out a 6-0 run. I checked the sportsbook for the live moneyline odds, and it jumped up to -1250. I could’ve gotten out of it because it was such a big amount, which did cross my mind. But I figured, ‘Oh, they’re on a roll. Hopefully they come out of halftime swinging and they steamroll them.’ Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I didn’t chase at all afterwards.”

In the final minute of that game, where was your head at?

“Almost in a trance. But the fact that I was desensitized to what was going on (for me) financially kinds of speaks volumes — in a good and bad way. It was a large bet, and it might’ve been me being oblivious to the repercussions afterwards. But it also might’ve been me trusting something that I thought was going to be profitable.”

Did you ever think about problem sports betting before or after it happened again?

“It’s always something that’s thrown around if you have a bad night or a bad loss. It’s kind of joked around about but never taken seriously. But I’ve thought about it in the past when I’ve seen myself playing cards when I should be studying. I feel like because of my roots, it would take a very slippery slope to identify to that degree.

I vow to never have it happen again. If I don’t have a skill edge where I can handle the swings, there’s no point in doing it. That would be the thesis I’d take away for someone who is struggling with problem gambling…

It took a lot of self reflection while demonstrating to myself that I won’t show an addictive personality ever again. A loss like that stings so bad, going over a unit amount that was much bigger than I normally bet. The fact that it forced me see a loss, which I thought was a slam dunk, home run, and it blew up in my face. If I’m going to do it, it has to be recreational.”

Response From National Counsel on Problem Gambling

Even though Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Counsel on Problem Gambling (NCPG), acknowledged the college student’s ability to further limit his losses that evening, he still highlighted the overall importance of seeking out guidance during that type of situation.

“The trends we are seeing around sports gambling and problematic play are very concerning,” Whyte said. “Too many people still don’t recognize they are exhibiting signs of this addictive behavior, and even fewer are aware of how to get help when it is needed.

While this story has a happy ending, it can serve as a reminder for those who chose to gamble how critical it is to fully understand the risks and, to know and stick to your limits before you begin. NCPG’s website ( offers tips, tools and resources to help keep gambling fun.”

If you or someone you know has an issue with problem sports betting, there’s more help available than ever before. The NCPG recently teamed up with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc. (CCGNJ) to expand the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline outside of New Jersey.

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Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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