Poker: Think Before You Drink

There is a major decision you need to make before your next trip to a casino, card room or home game.

Will the cup holder in front of you at the poker table be filled with a bottle of Corona or a bottle of Coca-Cola?

This question might sound off base and unrelated to how well you understand or play poker; however, in reality, your answer to this internal question plays a significant role in determining whether your game that night is tight, loose or somewhere in between.

Not to sound like some ABC After School Special, but during your next game, please think before you drink.

Of course drinking beer and playing poker are inseparable. If you plan on playing poker to win money, then you need to do everything possible to keep your concentration and stamina at optimal levels. It doesn’t take a Surgeon General’s warning to understand that drinking beer or alcohol isn’t the best way to stay sharp and alert at a poker table.

For some, drinking beer usually leads to too much drinking beer, which ultimately damages the brain’s poker skills. A drunk or near-drunk player commonly makes bad or tremendously loose calls, gives his hand away by talking too much, and has trouble calculating pot odds.

One easy way to improve your game is to decide well before the first hand whether you’ll be drinking or abstaining.

While attending a home game, before you even look at the first hand, ask yourself: Are you there for a friendly card game with your buddies, in that case the more beer the better, or if you plan on taking their money? If the latter is the case, then you must monitor your alcoholic intake.

The same logic holds true when heading off to Las Vegas or Atlantic City on vacation. Be aware, though, if you are sitting at a no-limit or high-limit table in those two cities, the chances are good that sitting across from you are more than a few foes who play poker for a living. Just as you don’t drink on the job because it will lower your productivity, professional players think the same way and act accordingly when they punch in their time card.

Pro players consider beer-guzzling tourists easy marks that make their day on the job that much simpler. Don’t fall into the trap of losing your edge to players who would gladly take every last chip away from you.

If drinking and having fun are your top priority, and on vacation there is nothing wrong with that game plan, park yourself at a low-limit table. During those games you can be relaxed, enjoy your complimentary beverages, make some new friends, and do all of this without handing your kids college fund away to a sharp-minded sober player at a no-limit table.

Before you swear off ever drinking again at the card table, realize there are some benefits of having a cold one at the poker table. For players who have the ability to know when to say when, drinking can help their game. A drink or two might loosen them up and lead to some productive chance taking. Changing gears and occasionally being less restrictive in hand selection can help a tight player win a few more pots he otherwise never would have gotten involved with to start.

Just having a beer in front of you will also send a message. Players might think you have had too much to drink and are prone to making mistakes. If you’re drinking in moderation and still have all your faculties, then you could gain a slight advantage against an opponent who has you incorrectly pegged as “the drunk guy”.

A player can exude a similar table image by drinking coffee. The coffee drinker tends to be a cerebral player who expects to spend a lot of time in that seat.

Whatever you do decide to drink at the poker table, the final decision should revolve around your expectations of play, financial or social goals of the game, and most importantly how you hold your liquor.