The movie image of a smashed poker player gathering in all the chips is not a realistic one. The best poker players don’t drink when playing. Just a little alcohol, they realize, takes the edge off their perceptions and this edge is what they bring to the game.

On the other hand, in all the years there were people gambling, there were actually a lot of heavy drinkers at poker tables, and 90 percent of the time, they lost

Occasionally, if you want to have one harmless drink to loosen you up, that’s just fine, but anything more and you’re asking for trouble. Two immediate things happen when you drink— one, your senses are dulled, and two, you lose you inhibitions. Both are deadly sins at a gambling table.

With dulled senses, you lose the ability to focus clearly and correctly.

It may not hurt you that much in a mechanical game like baccarat or craps, where you make the same kind of bets over and over again; but in any thinking game, especially poker, you are at the mercy of the other players. When good players see a drunk at a poker table, they turn into a swarm of sharks, cutting and biting and ripping and grabbing what they can.

A whole table can feat off one drunk, wiping him out. Who wants to be that kind of victim?

The other awful thing is loss of inhibition. Drinking makes the weak brave, but it is false bravery. It is a caution thrown to the winds. And you cannot do that in fast-moving gambling games where a lot of money can be lost in a hurry. When you lose your inhibitions, you start to make wild, crazy bets, and then, without knowing what you are doing, you may, if you have a credit at a casino, use it all up in one wild binge and waking up the next day with a splitting headache, realize that you must have done something foolish, because you’re broke and feeling so terrible.

To top it off, alcohol is also a depressant. It may rev you up for a little while but inevitably it has the opposite effect— a REAL down effect. If you’re playing long enough, at first you’ll lose control of your senses, then your inhibitions, then you’ll get depressed. Playing while in this state is like playing with gun at your head; there is no hope for clear thinking with that much anxiety hanging over you.

So stay clear headed when playing poker and your rewards will possibly be finacial as well as physical.