Ever since the first casinos invited gamblers to ply their trade, a steady stream of alcohol has been served on the house. Casino operators have long recognized the role alcohol can play when it comes to a player’s risk management skills and cognitive abilities.
After all, they wouldn’t let gamblers drink for free if doing so helped you beat the house. No, those watered down cocktails and stale beers are delivered tableside at no cost precisely because they hinder your strategic thinking and skillful play.
With that in mind, here are three ways drinking alcohol in moderation can help gamblers excel, followed by three reasons to abstain from “the sauce” altogether.
Ways Alcohol Can Positively Impact Your Gambling Results
When taken in moderation, the effects of alcohol can actually improve the abilities of some people when they are gambling for real money. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
A Few Drinks Can Loosen Up Risk-Averse Players
Despite the inherent nature of gambling—which requires one to risk money in hopes of winning more—many players shy away from the riskier aspects of their favorite game.
You know the type, the sad sacks who only play four coins instead of five on video poker, or the ones refusing to double down on an 11 in blackjack. For these folks, playing it close to the vest in conservative fashion is the only way to roll.
Of course, declining to incur an additional level of risk in those spots is akin to bankroll suicide. Video poker players must play the maximum five coins in order to realize their full expected value vis a vis the royal flush jackpot payout. And at the blackjack table, declining a double down with 11 against any dealer up card is like leaving money on the table.
One of the oldest and easiest ways to overcome the human mind’s natural aversion to risk involves imbibing alcoholic beverages. Be it a beer or two, a glass of wine, a shot, or a cocktail… drinking naturally leads to a “loosening up” period by which your normal risk-reward assessments go out the window.
Obviously, abandoning those risk-reward parameters can have deleterious effects of their own, as we’ll discuss later in the page. But when you can stay disciplined and limit yourself to just a couple drinks, a touch of alcohol can be just what the doctor ordered for a cautious gambler.
Playing in a Relaxed State of Mind Can Boost Your Recall Abilities
When you achieve that delicate state of mind we call “buzzed” or “tipsy”—not quite sober, but not exactly drunk yet either—the effects on your mindset can be absolutely magical.
Along with that increased tolerance for risk-taking, the right amount of alcohol can accelerate your brain’s ability to recall memories. And as any skill-based gambling player knows, memorizing and remembering basic strategy charts is the key deciding factor between winning players and the losers.
If nervousness regularly affects your play at the casino, starting off with a stiff drink before shifting to coffee or other caffeinated beverages could be the best way to proceed. You’ll quickly shake those jitters off, allowing yourself to deploy all of the strategic knowledge at your disposal.
Getting Drunk Might Give You Something Else to Do Besides Play
Lastly, one big benefit to drinking alcohol at the casino entails leaving the gaming floor altogether.
Let’s face facts here. Casino games are designed to favor the house over the player. And while we all enjoy trying to beat those casino house odds, they remain perpetually fixed against us nonetheless.
If you’re struggling through a rough run of cards, or the dice just don’t seem to be on your side, quitting the game can become your best bet. The only thing is, most gamblers come to play their favorite games, not watch from the sidelines (when they’re sober, that is).
Add alcohol to the equation, however, and you’ll suddenly have a slew of additional entertainment options on the table that don’t involve gambling whatsoever. You can hang around the bar and continue drinking while making a few new friends. You might head up to the nightclub to party the night away. Or maybe you head back to the room for a nightcap and a nice night spent sleeping it off.
Ways Alcohol Can Negatively Impact Your Gambling Results
Unfortunately for some, drinking at a casino can quickly become out of control and lead to disastrous results. Here are a few examples.
Getting Drunk Can Distort Your Natural Ability to Judge Risk vs. Reward
Whenever you see a police blotter listing that mentions a drunk driver, the natural inclination can be to blame the offender for their bad choices.
The only thing is that a lot of people have gotten behind the wheel after one too many glasses of wine with dinner. That risk doesn’t always translate to a DUI arrest either, which further reinforces the inebriated mind’s natural inclination to justify additional risk.
We’ve all seen those sorry souls who drown their sorrows with drink after drink, all while losing every dollar they have on hand. These people may not even be gambling addicts by any means, just folks who simply lost control after having a little too much to drink.
As a test, start keeping a log of your gambling results under two columns—one for when you’re drinking and one for when you’re not.
I’m willing to bet that the first column, while possibly involving swings between big wins and big losses, finds you solidly in the red. On the other hand, while your sober self might not notch as many major winners, your increased risk aversion will lead to fewer losses over the long run.
Whole Casino Bankrolls Can Be Blown When You’re Blacked Out
I still remember the day vividly, even though the sad scene played out some 20 years ago.
As a college freshman, with a newly printed fake ID happily in hand, I headed out with my fraternity brothers for a night at the local tribal casino. At this point in my life, I didn’t know my limits, both in terms of alcohol consumption and financial ruin.
And so it was, in the summer of ‘99, that I managed to lose an entire semester’s worth of spending money in a single disastrous night. Even worse, I can’t tell you a single detail about the hands I lost, or whether I even played a hand at all.
As my buddies informed me the next afternoon when I finally woke up, I actually lost it all playing roulette. For whatever reason, I convinced myself that betting on black until it hit was a “sure thing,” before betting every last dime in my bank account.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t even play roulette. Even so, that night saw me drink way too many Red Bull and vodkas for anyone’s liking. But once I hit the blackout drunk stage of the evening, all bets were off—literally.
An “86” Property Ban Can Easily Become Reality
Boy, do I wish a competent bartender had spotted my admittedly lackluster fake ID. If they had, maybe I would have suffered the indignity of a property ban rather than the complete erasure of my college bank account.
Folks who drink to excess can get kicked out of a casino for many reasons, starting with drinking illegally and stretching into all sorts of bad behavior. Berating the dealers, starting arguments with other players, and generally acting a fool are all reasons why your favorite casino can add you to their blacklist after you get blotto.
Alcohol and casinos go hand in hand, namely because the house has no compunction about pumping players full of complimentary cocktails. Every gambler comes willing to risk their money, but a drunk gambler is happy to risk much more than they can afford.
With that said, drinking in moderation can provide a few ancillary benefits that a select few players can exploit. It’s up to you to walk that tightrope, but I hope this list of pros and cons gives you something to think about the next time the waitstaff appears at the ready.