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Media reports from Peru indicate that Italian poker pro Alessandro Bastianoni was despondent over a particularly brutal downswing in poker that caused the 48-year-old to take his own life.

The last to hear from Bastianoni was his girlfriend, Yeinni Ospina, who apparently heard his despair over losing roughly $600,000 during a telephone call, The Republic reported. When she could no longer get in touch with him in the days following that last communication, Ospina alerted the authorities, who discovered his dead body. A poison was found nearby.

Bastianoni’s last cash at a live event occurred roughly 1 and 1/2 months ago when a 6th place finish on the Latin America Poker Tour VI in Columbia was good for $4,863, according to the Hendon Mob database. He has four other cashes on his resume, including two on the same tour in Chile in March where 4th and 12th place finishes brought in a total of $3,960 in winnings in two separate $270 buy-ins.

At a PokerStars-sponsored tourney in Brazil in this year’s first month, Bastianoni enjoyed his best live payday. He took home $24,401 for finishing sixth in the Brazilian Series of Poker No-Limit Hold’em Main Event.

Poker downswings are part and parcel of being a pro and all players know that rough patches are inevitable. The despair that comes from experiencing an unfortunate run of bad cards can be quite burdensome. Sometimes maintaining a proper frame of mind and realizing that things will eventually get better is difficult to do.

Anti-gambling proponents cite incidents such as that which befell Bastianoni as reasons why gambling expansion, including the Internet, is bound to destroy a huge number of lives and families along the way. The reasoning goes that with gambling so readily available with just a few simple mouse clicks, a lot of players who don’t know when to stop gambling or when to turn to others for help when things get bad will end up shattering their hopes and dreams of a fulfilling and joyful life.

So what should be done to control the situation and prevent further tragedies as that of Bastianoni while poker and gambling become more widespread globally? It’s not an entirely easy solution. Casinos and online poker and gaming sites are making every effort to identify and assist gamblers who experience addictive behavior.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made it one of his conditions that more funds be set aside for compulsive gambling programs before he signed online gambling legislation in February. As other states eventually join in with gaming regulation of their own, hopefully they will follow New Jersey’s lead and provide more funding as well.

But throwing money at the problem is not the be all, end all answer either. It certainly helps to make people aware that help is available and to employ safeguards that prevent problem gamblers from logging on or gambling in casinos. Perhaps greater efforts to inform people of the risks involved may have some effect.

But maybe it won’t have any effect at all and those opposed to gambling will experience a lot more opportunities to say “I told you so” in the future. While those of us who realize that ups and downs are part of poker and take our bad beats and coolers in stride as best we can, there may always be a percentage of people who may never see the light at the end of the tunnel after a particular devastating downswing.

The Bastianoni story is indeed a tragedy. But poker and gambling both live and online is a way of life throughout the nation and is here to stay. It will not be going away and will likely expand further. So how do we identify and prevent such problems as mounting debts and huge losses incurred by players who seem ill-prepared to accept the risks of their behavior? Unfortunately, the answer remains elusive.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.