I've been thinking lately about how people fall into the spectrum of gambling and gaming. I've come to categorize these people in this way:
(In order of degeneracy, from least to worst)
1. The Teetotaler - These are folks who, for reasons religious or moral, absolutely refuse to participate in gambling activities of any kind. They believe that any form of gambling is sinful or leads to such moral ruin that they feel compelled to warn you against it every chance they get. They also believe that anything involving chance is 'gambling' and don't make distinctions between games of luck or games of skill. If there's money on the line, it's gambling pure and simple and in their eyes, bad. My parents, and many other people I know, fall into this category.
2. The Scientist - People who refrain from gambling because the math doesn't work out in their favor. This person knows the odds of every scenario you can face in games of chance and, almost never having an edge, will abstain. Blackjack, Craps, Roulette and such are anathema to the Scientist. But games of skill, he is more likely to partake in. Games like Chess or Backgammon, where each move is known to each player and skill is the predominant factor are his pursuits whenever he wants to risk his hard-earned paycheck. The Scientist, however, is more interested in the intellectual pursuit of these games of skill, makign the most perfect play possible, and is far less interested in the money aspect. As such, the Scientist usually wagers little or nothing and is content to play for his personal advancement.
3. The Hobbyist - Also known as The Gamer. This person loves games of any sort and he's knowledgable enough to know when skill trumps luck. The Hobbyist tries to learn as much about a game before risking his money and tries to get it in with the best of it at all times. However, common sense dictates the this person isn't going to do this for a living and usually risks low to moderate amounts on each wager. This aversion to risk prevents the Hobbyist from losing a lot but also prevents him from winning a lot. The Hobbyist plays mostly for fun, rather than money, and doesn't harbor hopes of giving up his day job. He has the tools to be a great player but not the drive or the appetite for risk that would be required.
4. The Professional - The Professional risk taker is an expert at games of skill and will ruthlessly maximize his advantage whenever possible. Wagering large amounts of money is not out of the question for the pro, but he will only do so knowing he has the best of it. He can make a living at 'gambling' because he understands that Math never lies and he'll profit in the long run as long as there enough suckers to take the losing end of his propositions. He has the bankroll, the vision and the calm nerves to succceed. The Professional has the best mix of degeneracy and self-control in this whole group.
5. The Gambler - A Gambler is one who knows a lot about the games they're playing and even excels at games of skill. But the Gambler has an impulse that will drive him to take larger risks than is called for, albeit sometimes calculated and sometimes not. Even getting the worst of it, and knowing it, the Gambler will risk moderate to large amounts of money. The Gambler's variance is higher than the Hobbyist and it's always hard to know where his bankroll is at. He's a wild player and unpredictable which makes him a most dangerous opponent.
6. The Degenerate - This person is consistently risking large amounts on losing propositions. As such, he may have lost his relationships, his assets and his job because of his passion. The thrill of the chase is what propels him and his winning or his losing are largely irrelevant. He's not propelled by rational thought but he's predictable in the way he tosses good money after bad.
Most of the poker players I know fall between the Hobbyist and the Professional. I consider myself to be somewhere in between, probably leaning toward the Hobbyist side as my appetite for risk is rather low. The Backgammon players I play with are mostly of the Gambler type, though some are Degenerates, taking nearly any cube, no matter how dire his situation.
Somewhere in this list is a a formula that can be derived taking into account factors of skill, risk aversion, bankroll and nerves to place a person here, but I haven't quite worked it out yet.