It has certainly never done James Bond any harm to indulge in a Martini or two before settling down to some action inside the casino.
Whether it be winning baccarat hands in Dr No and GoldenEye or coming good at the poker tables in Casino Royale, Bond always eventually leaves a winner, usually after suffering a few bad beats early on to keep us on tenterhooks.
Alcohol and gambling often go hand in hand when visiting casinos, notably because of the ease at which a beverage can be obtained from a cocktail waitress working her way around the floor in search of tips.
Benefits of Booze
Two drinks may be enough to cause someone to break the drink-drive limit, but for many gamblers this quantity of alcohol has many positive benefits.
It can help settle nerves and allow a player to maintain a believable poker face during a big hand – the last thing needed is to start knocking chips all over the baize when dealt pocket aces or to begin uncontrollably shaking when placing a bluff bet attempting to steal a pot.
Cult darts player Andy Fordham has previously revealed that he used to drink before a game partly to settle his nerves.
Furthermore, the extra shot of confidence provided by alcohol could be the difference between winning or losing.
The conservative player free of alcohol would possibly decide to stick in a game of blackjack if holding 15 and the dealer showing a face card of four, believing he could turn two pictures.
However, the involvement of alcohol may provide the ammunition to take a hit and be rewarded with a low card to make a better hand.
A No Go in the Health Conscious World of Professional Poker
But when it comes to professionals drinking alcohol or not, Anthony Holden in his gripping book “Big Deal” is clear that few follow in the footsteps of 007. One extract reads:
“It is a movie myth that poker players drink at the table … The refreshments constantly supplied by the cocktail girls range, at the most daring, from mineral water to coffee. Even ‘regular’ (as opposed to diet) Coca Cola draws dark looks from other players, as if it were downing a puree of anabolic steroids.”
Holden does speak fondly of 1985 World Series of Poker winner Bill Smith, who was a rare exception to the norm, in that he would often play drunk, drinking beer with scotch chasers.
The key was that he retained enough of his senses to make correct judgement calls, rather than risking a fifth of his stack chasing a 7 on the river to complete an unlikely straight.
This is arguably the biggest factor regarding drinking strategy – it is fine until it becomes a hindrance on making simple decisions, particularly whether it’s a sensible idea to continue playing or not.
Shifting the Boundaries
Whether looking to win money at video slots, blackjack or roulette, many players will have set boundaries as to how much they are prepared to lose or how much profit they are chasing before deciding to cash out.
Too much alcohol has the obvious impact of tempting a player to move the goalposts of these boundaries and make them wider.
Many players will generally believe that by investing another £50, they can win back all of their losses, while others could reach their pre-play plan of being up £100, but then continue on the basis that they are on a winning streak.
Especially in games that require the smallest quantity of brain power, there is the understanding that winning leads to drinking, winning more leads to drinking more and this continues until a tipping point is reached.
This is amped up fivefold in a live environment, when there are others to down shots with, others to touch glasses with, drinks on tap and the feeling of real money (in the form of chips) to burn.
A Question of Skill and Luck
In reality, games such as blackjack and slots are chiefly about luck, with only the most basic decisions being expected of players (whether to choose red or black, bet higher or lower than a 6).
It is in the games where greater skill is required where too much alcohol can inflict the most damage. A clear mind is certainly needed in a game of poker, where a range of different and evolving factors impact whether a bet is made and its quantity.
Taking in all of the information surrounding poker position, pot odds, tells and calculating outs can be enough to confuse a sober amateur poker player. For one that’s enjoying his eighth Guinness, they are nothing more than money-giving fish for others at the table.
Everything in Moderation
Understanding their own alcoholic tipping point is potentially the biggest asset for a player whether it be online or in a live casino.
One or two drinks for luck, to ease nerves or to bring on a facade of confidence can be classified as indispensable to some, but going beyond this would seem advantageous to nobody. Many casino games may truly be based around luck, but players still need to retain a degree of their senses to correctly assess bet size, a modicum of sensibleness around decisions (don’t twist on 20 at blackjack!) and where they are in terms of pre-determined bank balance.