That evil side, the red devil perched on Hogan's shoulder telling him that maybe this hand would be the one to win it all back, can be traced to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control. Neuro-imaging has also revealed that pathological gamblers have decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex — as do drug addicts.
For casual players like Knauf, though, the devil is easy to brush off. "I think poker's more of a temporary rush, and once in a while you need it," Knauf says. On most nights, though, he's happy to trade one vice for another, and just go out drinking with friends. When it's you, your buddies, and a round of Jack Daniel’s, everybody wins.
Samantha Henig is a self-described flop who lives by the river. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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