Conventional poker wisdom dictates that you shouldn’t drink alcohol whilst playing poker. There’s a good reason for not drinking alcohol and playing poker at the same time – alcohol effects your judgement and makes you do silly things, and at the poker table this can obviously have heavy financial consequences.
But I don’t agree with the idea of having to stay sober at the poker table. Over the years I’ve found that drinking can actually help me play better. I can relax and loosen up my game, which can sometimes be too tight. There does have to be a balance, and getting too drunk is not a wise move. In such cases I start thinking I’m invincible and become too aggressive – though let me stress; aggressive with the chips not with words or actions.
Scotty Nguyen won the $50k WSOP Player’s Championship in 2008 – and he was steaming drunk. He showed a complete lack of class (and has since apologized for his actions), although it did make good TV:
It’s clear that Scotty had a few too many beers. I believe it’s about striking the right balance. Some people don’t ever drink alcohol at the poker table. Good for them! I’m not saying I need to drink in order to relax – and I don’t drink every time I play, especially those times when I have to drive home (on such occasions I remain tee-total). But poker should be a fun game, and I find it more fun when I’ve had a few drinks – just not too many.
The best live poker games are when everyone is having a drink or two, whether it’s at home games or at the casino. The added bonus of drinking is to project the right table image – i.e. you’re there to have fun, not to try and take everyone’s money. Of course the goal is to win, but if by drinking a few beers you project an image of someone who doesn’t take poker too seriously, then you just might win a few extra dollars.
However, drinking alcohol and playing online poker is a different matter entirely. A few years ago I had a really bad habit of coming home late at night, under the influence, and I’d play online poker before going to bed. I nearly always lost, which isn’t surprising. These days I never consume alcohol and play online poker. It helps that I’m a social drinker and I don’t ever drink in the house. Online poker is much tougher than live poker, and although the results still sometimes make me want to turn to drink – it’s best avoided.