Studies show that though many people participate in gambling as a form of recreation or even as a means to gain an income, gambling, like any behavior which involves variation in brain chemistry, can become a psychologically addictive and harmful behavior in some people. Reinforcement schedules may also make gamblers persist in gambling even after repeated losses.

The Russian writer Dostoevsky (himself a problem gambler) portrays in his novella The Gambler the psychological implications of gambling and how gambling can affect gamblers. He also associates gambling and the idea of “getting rich quick“, suggesting that Russians may have a particular affinity for gambling. Dostoevsky shows the effect of betting money for the chance of gaining more in 19th-century Europe. The association between Russians and gambling has fed legends of the origins of Russian roulette.

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