If you are a poker player, you’ll notice that very few poker players drink while playing. The ratio of poker players who are holding a drink in their hand, compared to the general population of gamblers, is a complete and stark contrast.
I’ll speculate that there are more poker players driving drunk than poker players playing drunk. That’s not meant to be a joke because drunk driving is not a joking matter. It’s my genuine observation from personally knowing poker players.
In case you’re wondering if alcohol is comped for poker players like it’s comped for general gamblers, then the answer is yes. Alcohol is comped for poker players, and they may drink it while playing poker. The average poker player just elects not to drink.
And yes, I did clarify that the average poker player doesn’t drink, not all poker players, baby.
Of course, as you can probably guess, the reason for the dry poker room culture is that poker is perceived to be a game of not only skill but also mental acuity, where it’s combatant versus combatant, and any sort of impairment will result in lost winnings.
Now contrast this to the table games where the players are almost always drinking. Take a look under the rail at a craps game. Take a look at any roulette table or blackjack table. Alcohol is everywhere. It can be argued that table games do not have the level of skill required of poker, however, games such as blackjack have a high skill component involved. A very poor blackjack player can be playing against an effective net house edge of 5% or greater, whereas a good blackjack player can be against an effective house edge of .19%, in the best Las Vegas strip games.
Even in games with no skill such, as roulette, alcohol can impair judgment (ahem…the late Dr. Richard Jarecki, who was able to verifiably beat roulette, would heartily disagree with me that roulette has no skill component). Lost four outside bets in a row because the same color kept coming up? There’s no way black can come up five times in a row. Now all of a sudden you slam your entire stack on red. I’ve seen this scenario quite often.
While it can be argued that the odds and associated house edge are the same, impaired or not, making a larger bet increases the amount of action, resulting in a larger hourly loss because it’s usually the case that if the player loses his stack, he will pull out more money, or if he wins, he will now become acclimated to making larger bets. That all just results in a greater expected hourly loss.
Or something we’ve probably all seen: when a player is steaming at blackjack, his risk tolerance boosted by liquid courage, and then foolishly betting his entire stack. Drunk and tilting blackjack player then gets a pair of aces but has no money to split. So he has to sell off one of his aces or incorporate with his fellow tablemate if he’s not playing by himself.
My point is that judgment and decisions matter, and alcohol can impair your ability to think clearly.
So the question is…should you drink while gambling? Or should you be like most poker players and keep all your wits intact? The answer is highly subjective and personal.
Like anything in life, the wise answer and approach is moderation.
I drink two per day when I’m at the casino, and I make the casino pay for it (and I specify a premium alcohol brand to the cocktail waitress).
Gambling, as an activity, is fun and exciting. It’s more exciting if you’re drinking, and most people drink while out anyways. Alcohol is part of the universal comp issued to gamblers in most jurisdictions (not all, such as Chicago and New Mexico, among others), so if you drink, then you should take advantage. If you’re a drinker, and you normally consume two drinks a day at a bar, that could easily run $30 or more. If you’re gambling anyways, then just get it from the casino and save yourself that $30. The house already has an edge on the games, don’t gamble, and then give them more money at the bar.
Just don’t go for that third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth drink because then you might find the courage to pull out the rent money because ‘the field has to hit sooner or later’.
That’s my approach. Let me know your thoughts. Do you drink while gambling?