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      Inhibitory control in poker: Do experienced non-pathological poker gamblers exhibit better performance than healthy controls on motor, verbal and emotional expression inhibition?

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          Background and aims

          Strategic games, such as poker, require gamblers to develop several skills to perform better than others and to expect a potential gain. Players must remain as unpredictable and unreadable as possible by inhibiting the expression of their emotions in response to both good and bad poker events. The aim of the present study was to compare several aspects of the inhibition process in experienced poker gamblers and controls to better understand how inhibitory control is involved in poker performance.


          Thirty experienced non-pathological poker gamblers (EG) and thirty healthy controls with no or limited poker experience (HC) completed 3 cognitive tasks. Each task measured a specific type of inhibition: motor inhibition [Go/No-Go task], verbal inhibition [Hayling Sentence Completion Task] and expressive inhibition [expressive suppression task, which combines subjective, expressive (facial EMG) and physiological (skin conductance, heart interbeat interval, cardiovascular and respiratory activation) measures of emotional experience]. Linear mixed models with random effects were performed.


          Inhibitory control skills were similar between the two groups, regardless of the form of inhibition tested. The only difference observed in EG was a higher ability to partially suppress the physiological expression of emotion. However, this difference was only present for negative and positive emotional induction and was not maintained for emotional induction related to poker situations.

          Discussion and conclusions

          The development of specific inhibition skills in experienced poker gamblers was not supported and raises questions about the transferability of poker skills previously discussed in the literature.

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          Author and article information

          Journal of Behavioral Addictions
          J Behav Addict
          Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
          June 2020
          05 June 2020
          : 9
          : 2
          : 347-362
          [1 ] CHU Nantes, Addictology and Psychiatry Department , Nantes, France
          [2 ] Université de Nantes, Université de Tours, INSERM , SPHERE U1246 “methodS in Patient-centered outcomes and HEalth ResEarch”, Nantes, France
          [3 ] CHU Nantes, Biostatistics and Methodology Unit , Department of Clinical Research and Innovation, Nantes, France
          Author notes
          [* ]Corresponding author. CHU de Nantes, Service d’Addictologie et de Psychiatrie de Liaison, Hôpital Saint Jacques , 85, rue Saint Jacques, 44093 Nantes Cedex 1, France. Tel.: +33 253482532 E-mail: gaelle.bouju@
          © 2020 The Author(s)

          Open Access statement. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes – if any – are indicated.

          Page count
          Figures: 05, Tables: 05, References: 59, Pages: 16
          Funded by: University Hospital of Nantes
          Award ID: RC14_0036
          Funded by: Research subvention from the GIS “Jeu et Sociétés” for the traineeship of A-L Quibel
          Award ID: RC14_0036
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