If you’ve ever been to a brick-and-mortar casino, you’ve probably noticed a few glasses of whiskey at the poker tables. Even James Bond enjoyed a martini while playing a round. Refreshments form part of a fun night out at the casino, helping to take the edge off and give players a boost in confidence.
Even so, the best poker players know the importance of a clear and focused mind. Whether you’re playing a casual game of online poker with friends or taking part in a more serious online poker tournament, your accompanying drink should never compromise your game. So, what are poker players drinking while playing Texas hold’em poker and other variations of the game? Let’s take a look.
You’re likely to have seen poker rooms in movies filled with cigar smoke and whiskey glasses, and there’s a reason this drink has become synonymous with the game. American whiskey and bourbon (a sweeter, more smooth type of whiskey,) in particular, were made to be savored. A small amount is served in a glass, sometimes “on the rocks”, which dilutes the drink and allows players to enjoy small sips, appreciating the purity of taste and aroma while playing poker. The advantages to this are twofold: firstly, because players are drinking slowly, they aren’t as likely to get intoxicated, which helps to maintain concentration. Secondly, because they aren’t drinking large amounts of liquids, their bathroom trips will be less frequent, again allowing for more focused gameplay.
A highball is a two-ingredient cocktail that contains a small amount of alcohol, usually two to three ounces, and a larger amount of a non-alcoholic mixer, usually four to six ounces. Typically served over ice and in a tall glass, highball drinks are popular among poker players as they are pleasantly refreshing and contain comparatively less alcohol, allowing players to retain their mental clarity.
There are several popular drinks in this category.
- Screwdriver: This drink consists primarily of vodka and orange juice, though there are a number of variations around the world. The sweetness and high levels of vitamin C (which has been proven to assist memory, attention and reaction time) make it a popular drink at casino table games. Interestingly, the name goes back to the 1920s, when oil workers stationed in the Persian Gulf would secretly add vodka to their orange juice, using screwdrivers to stir it up!
- Vodka and cranberry juice: Another sweet (and slightly tart) drink favored by poker enthusiasts, this combination originated in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a region famous for growing cranberries. Served with ice and a wedge of lime, vodka and cranberry juice is an especially refreshing drink, making it ideal for late-night games.
- Gin and tonic: A true classic, gin and tonic is favored by those who like to keep it simple and sophisticated. G&Ts are served in either a highball or rocks glass in a ratio of 1:1 or 1:3. Typically garnished with a lime wedge or a slice of cucumber, this drink is low in calories and sugar.
- Rum and Coke: This mixture is easy and affordable, making it ideal for those wanting to focus their bankroll on games rather than drinks. The sweet, bubbly flavor of Coke blends incredibly well with the smooth, spicy flavor of rum, giving players a refreshing option on a budget.
Those who prefer something a little more glamorous and slightly sweeter will probably go for a cocktail. The sugar content in these drinks can help keep players alert and engaged, especially after a few hours of play. Casino classics include martinis – 007-style, margaritas – a perfectly balanced blend, super refreshing mojitos, which just happen to be a great source of antioxidants, pina coladas for a tropical twist and Bloody Marys.
While energy drinks are more commonly associated with online gamers, there’s no doubt they’ve seen their fair share of poker players through the most grueling poker tournaments. For players who prefer to save their alcohol for after the game, energy drinks, as well as coffee and tea, are a great way to keep focused and engaged as caffeine has been shown to boost mental performance, memory and brain function.
Tips on choosing a drink
Whether you’re playing at home with friends, online or at a land-based casino, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the ideal drink.
- Steer clear of hard liquor or choose to dilute it. The best moves in a poker game are always going to come from a sharp mind.
- If you’ve never tried a drink before and don’t know how strong it is, give it a go after your gambling or at another time entirely, rather than accidentally compromising your gambling evening.
- If you’re a fan of cocktails, give the casino’s house special a try. This is most likely a drink favored among players and will save you a few dollars.
- For a touch of fun without a spinning room, opt for a flavorful drink that’s light on alcohol, such as a chocolate martini, pina colada or an Irish coffee.
- Tea, coffee and water are often free at many land-based casinos. This makes them a great choice for both your bankroll and your mental clarity.
A word to the wise
One of the best poker tournament tips is to stay sober when playing, especially during more serious or high-stakes games. Because poker requires strategy and concentration, every drink will ultimately risk your ability to play. It’s also important to take casino betting table game etiquette into consideration, as intoxicated players can ruin the game for everyone at the table. Remember to both drink and gamble responsibly.
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