In the United States, the ultimate stage for ultra-competitive individuals is the world of professional athletics. And whenever people driven by their competitive nature are afforded the opportunity, they’ll look for ways to increase their edge over the opposition.
Just ask Barry Bonds, a world-class athlete and Major League Baseball legend long before he relied on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to pad his already unworldly stats. Seeking an edge over the field through whatever means necessary is simply human nature.
Gamblers aren’t immune to this urge, which is why they rely on substances like caffeine which promise alertness and aptitude. But just like any other PED, caffeine can present a double-edged sword for gamblers looking to get over.
Ways Caffeine Can Positively Impact Your Gambling Results
When taken in moderation, caffeine can help people achieve more productive results in many things including gambling. Let’s go over a few positives.
Increased Alertness, Focus, and Attention Leads to Better Concentration
When you play the skill-based games like real money blackjack, traditional poker, and video poker, brainpower is what separates the “pros” from the “Joes.”
Thus, a stiff espresso or Red Bull in the morning is a great way to get your mind sharp and ready to roll. From there, you’ll be honed in and focused on the strategy study materials needed to erase the house’s inherent edge.
Once you get to the table and start gambling, a caffeine-aided brain easily outperforms the alcohol-addled alternative. Poker players know this for a fact, as countless scenes of sober players sipping their latte while schooling drunk foes have graced the ESPN airwaves over the last two decades.
But even when you’re going toe to toe with the dealer, caffeine increases your ability to process the cognitive puzzles created by table games. Memory recall, alertness, and focus are all invaluable skills for a skill-based casino game player to possess.
When your brain is humming along at the right frequency thanks to caffeine, knowing when to hit or stand* with 12 against the dealer’s 15 becomes second nature.
*You should stand in this situation and hope the dealer draws a 7 or higher to go bust
The Ability to Persevere Through Fatigue Lets You Take Advantage of an Edge
Every casino gambler has been there before.
After grinding through an up and down session all day simply to break even, Lady Luck finally takes a seat by your side. Suddenly, you’re seeing every situation before it develops, responding to every scenario by making the mathematically optimal decision.
But before you can start upping the ante and taking it to the house, you feel it—drooping eyes and distraction. The focus on every card which brought you here seems to abandon you without notice, and remembering which play to make becomes a bother.
With a strong cup of java on your side, however, this downward trend can easily be turned around. So long as you’re not coupling the caffeine with a depressant like alcohol or legal marijuana, a cup of coffee (black or with cream or sugar) should provide the jolt needed to get back on track.
A Cup of Joe Is the Best Way to Stay Sober and Avoid Hangovers
Speaking of alcohol, we all know the casino floor is a free for all when it comes to complimentary cocktails, beers, and other adult beverages.
Indulging in a bit of booze while you gamble is a time-honored tradition. Simply put, risking money on games of chance and skill goes hand in hand with mind-altering elixirs.
With that said, tying one on at night can lead to disastrous consequences the next day. Even if you survive the initial hangover thanks to a cold shower and hot coffee, you’ll be in a world of hurt as you try to focus on the task at hand.
For that reason, balancing your alcohol intake with a pot of coffee or two is the best way to have hangovers become a distant memory.
Ways Caffeine Can Negatively Impact Your Gambling Results
On the other side of the coin, when gamblers use caffeine irresponsibly, they can see drastic scenarios where their gambling suffers. Let’s go over a few of these examples.
Caffeine Overload Can Quickly Lead to a Catastrophic Crash
While a warm cup of coffee to start the day is always preferable, many gamblers turn the notion into an unhealthy casino habit by continuing to indulge during the afternoon and evening.
I blame this trend on the proliferation of “energy drinks” like Red Bull and Monster, both of which ramp up the sugar and taurine intake to dangerous levels. Sure, you’ll be buzzing for a while there, feeling like you’re “on it” at all times and on top of the world, too.
But that brief caffeine high inevitably gives way to the mental and physical phenomenon known as “crashing.”
Basically, after preserving its strength via artificial means like coffee, your mind and body must eventually catch up to reality. And when it does, no amount of caffeine can prevent the crashing phase from negatively affecting your cognitive abilities.
Trying to play through the caffeine crash is never a good idea, because there’s just no amount of fuel that can push you through the mental fog. More coffee or Red Bull won’t help, and until you get some zzz’s, you’ll be facing a steep uphill climb on every hand, spin, or roll of the dice.
Getting the Jitters While Gambling Can Lead to Erratic Decisions
Before the crash comes though, excessive caffeine intake can lead to a state of mind most of us refer to as “the jitters.”
You know the feeling: a trembling hand, eyes that can’t seem to stop darting from side to side, and a mindset that runs at speeds of a mile a minute. That mindset can seem like the optimal goal for caffeine users on the casino floor, but the fine line between enhanced cognition and impairment can often be too thin to discern.
One minute, you’re thinking on your feet and making difficult strategic decisions almost automatically. Your brain is absolutely humming as you dip into the memory banks at will, deploying logic and reasoning to tackle the task in front of you.
The next minute, however, that sense of autopilot turns into something else entirely. Suddenly, with your brain running on caffeine, your ability to balance risk vs. reward becomes impaired to the point where bad bets seem like a good idea. Chasing losses goes from a choice to a mental imperative, and backing long shots goes from a lark to a regular occurrence.
Before you know it, a nice night out gambling turns into a marathon of bad gambling decisions and even poorer play.
Staying Up Too Late Leaves You a Wreck the Next Morning
They say a hot cup of coffee is the best way to prevent a hangover when you’re drinking alcohol.
And while that may be true, drinking too much caffeine can create a hangover situation all its own. When you have a wake-up call set for 7 a.m., but you’re up until 4 a.m. playing through a caffeine high, the anti-hangover benefits can be outweighed by a sheer lack of sleep.
From there, you can easily oversleep and miss your check-out time, or wake up the next day feeling groggy and out of sorts. And once that point comes, the cycle of using more caffeine to “cure” your coffee hangover becomes a back-and-forth tug of war that can be tough to escape.
Athletes use PEDs to overcome their own mental and physical and limits, and the same can be said for caffeine among the casino gambling community. Trust me, these elderly ladies and gentlemen who never seem to leave their table or machine aren’t powered by pure moxie alone.
Nope, they’re using (and often abusing) caffeine and other stimulants to stay stuck in the game as long as humanly possible. Doing so can have its benefits, as I discussed in leading off the page, but every sensible gambler must take care to avoid overindulging on “uppers” like coffee and Red Bull.