Even when his partner and kids walked out the door, Tau Brown still failed to recognise how serious his gambling had become.
Now free of gambling for over a year, Brown told TV ONE's Breakfast today that the changes in his life since quitting have been "phenomenal".
But things had to get worse before they got better.
Brown's addiction crept in slowly, starting with a few beers and a dabble on the pokie machines. It was harmless at the start, but became more enticing.
"If you do something continuously, it becomes a bit of a habit," he said.
His destructive behaviour started ruining his life. He was spending almost his entire wage "hoping for one big one".
"My partner packed the kids up and left a two page note which opened my eyes up."
But he still didn't take it on 100% until he realised how his whole life had become built on lies.
"I was doing all this lying, because it's all based on lies. You're lying to everyone and you have to put up a big front. You've got to make excuses.
"I really realised 100% that I was just bringing myself down all the time."
"Elephant in the room"
Problem gambling costs New Zealanders more than $5 million every day.
Auckland University of Technology is hosting a think tank today aimed at greater understanding of problem gambling.
Addiction to pokie machines is a huge societal problem, said Andree Froude, Problem Gambling Foundation marketing manager.
Froude told Breakfast the machines are "the elephant in the room".
"Most of the problems that we have come from pokie machines. More than 70% of the people that seek help with gambling do so because of pokies."
The machines are designed to hook people in, the result being that one in five people who regularly play on them will have a gambling problem, she said.
"We see people who are broken, who've lost everything. They've lost their relationships, they've lost their homes, they've sometimes committed fraud and are even suicidal.
"So the tentacles of it go very wide and for every problem gambler you have between five and ten people impacted."
Gambling addiction is much harder to pick than drug and alcohol addiction, she said.
Australia legislation around gambling pre-commitment will become mandatory from next year.
"It means before they start gambling on the pokie machine they are able to take control of how long they're going to spend on the machine and how much money they're hoping to spend," Froude explained.
A year free of gambling, Tau Brown said his life is so much better.
"The stress levels are just basically 'kaput', just your normal family life stresses.
"And just every day I spend so much time with my kids and my partner."