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Alcohol And Gambling

The connection between gambling and alcohol has been present for a long time, with many pubs and bars having at least a couple of slot machines to this day, which have remained consistently popular with punters.The link between the two goes far deeper than that though, with poker games around the world often being characterised by the presence of large amounts of alcohol to be consumed within an extended period of play.But does drinking have an impact on a players’ ability to play sensible? And does stopping drinking while your gambling really make a difference? And if there’s such a connection between the two, does doing both add to the dangers of addiction?

The Connection

There have been many reports from around the world that discuss the links between binge drinking and problem gambling.For example, an Addictive Behaviours Report in Sweden in 2015 pointed to the connection between the two.The report comprehensively showed that problem gambling and drinking in excess are associated behaviours, with one often leading to or exacerbating the other.

The Science

In the simplest possible terms, an addiction to alcohol stems from the feeling that one gains from drinking, and a want to extend that feeling, and experience it as much as possible.It has been shown on many occasions that gambling has a very similar effect on pleasure receptors, and therefore a combination of the two is often seen as a higher pleasure than the sum of its parts.A report from the US based Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stated that sufferers of co-occurring disorder (COD) will often have issues with both drinking and gambling as part of a wider lifestyle problem.Alcohol can be used as a tool by gamblers to both celebrate success, or mourn a loss, meaning that whatever the turnout of a gambling session, alcohol can feel like a good idea, and that’s without considering the culture of drinking that exists within the gambling world during games.As the report explains:“There are several interaction patterns that may emerge for individuals who are dependent on alcohol and are problem or pathological gamblers.“Alcohol abuse and problem gambling (especially pathological gambling) may be either concurrent or sequential addictions.“In fact, sequential addiction is one of the more common clinically observed patterns. How does this work?“Take the example of someone who has been dependent on alcohol for many years. He or she may have had many years of effective recovery and attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Then he or she develops a gambling problem.”

What Happens if You Drink and Gamble?

Aside from the obvious health benefits of not drinking while you gamble, which is the best way to avoid one or both addictions becoming an issue, there are also benefits to your gambling game.First, let us consider the effects of alcohol.One of the most common issues associated with excessive drinking is an inability to sleep, which in itself brings various side-effects including an inability to concentrate, especially for an elongated period of time, something that is not conducive to a long poker game, for example.One of the largest impacts that alcohol can have on the human brain is the depression of the inhibitors within the brain that stop us from making rash decisions, this, along with the added confidence that alcohol can give a person, can result in a player being far more likely to take a less than sensible risk while playing, which in turn makes losses far more likely.For those who drink consistently, these affects start to change, and instead of a pleasurable feeling, alcohol can lead to negative thoughts, and aggressive behaviour, which, again, is not helpful to the gambler.The assumption that alcohol relieves stress and anxiety is often incorrect as well, especially for those who drink heavily and regularly, which in turn has an effect on a gamblers’ habits, anxiety can lead to snap decisions, for example spending more than a player can afford on a risky bet in order to try and make up losses that have already occurred during the session.Alcohol leads a player to be less conscious of their environment and situation, and therefore less likely to be aware of the warning signs, which goes as far as the ability to tell whether another player is bluffing or not, which, again combined with the added confidence, can lead to big losses.The connection works the other way too, with long-term alcohol problems being strongly linked to depression, something that is also frequent in gamblers, especially those who have suffered big losses, so the addictions can feed each other and create a vicious cycle of depression.

The Effect of Stopping Drinking While Gambling

If you do not drink when you gamble, these issues above will disappear, your decision making will be more logic-based and less down to rash emotional responses to a situation, and this will, in turn, benefit your game.Not only that but due to the aforementioned culture within gambling, you may well find yourself being the only sober person at the table, which can result in you being the only one making logical decisions, which will, more often than not, work in your favour.There are many reports from gamblers who saw a noticeable change in their game when they stopped drinking, one that led to them winning far more often!

Spot the Signs

If you are still unsure of whether there is a connection between drinking and gambling, or if you’re simply not keen on changing a lifestyle that you have enjoyed for an extended period, consider a few things.Firstly, there is a legal limit on drinking when it comes to operating motor vehicles or heavy machinery, this is due to the fact that alcohol impairs your ability to concentrate fully, and therefore safely carry out tasks that would otherwise be easy.On top of that, consider the fact that many casino will hand out free drinks to players who are spending a decent amount of time within their walls.As we all know, a casino’s first priority, as it is with all businesses, it is own profit margins, so if the casino didn’t think they would benefit financially from giving these free drinks they wouldn’t do it.Now, of course, a large part of the reasoning here is to convince players to stay longer and gamble more, but that only works to the advantage of the casino if the player is not winning, and the house edge on any game will tend to go up some as soon as the player has consumed a certain amount of alcohol.

Can You Find a Balance?

Now, we are not saying that unless you don’t drink at all, that you will never win when gambling, indeed, however much your drink, you could get lucky sometimes, but it’s the balance between wins and losses that is important.If not drinking at all while gambling doesn’t seem like much fun to you, which is an entirely acceptable opinion to hold, then it’s worth being careful.The main piece of advice for drinking while gambling is the same advice for gambling while drinking, know your limits.A couple of drinks may have limited effect on you except to put you in a slightly better mood and make you a little more confident to talk to those you are playing with, or to simply sit down at a table in the first place. If that is the case, then ensure that you do not cross that boundary, restrict yourself to a couple less drinks than your maximum for staying in control, and you will find the urge to make risky bets will go down swiftly.Another sensible tactic when drinking, in casinos but also everywhere else, is to take a soft drink between every alcoholic drink, water is the most sensible here, as it will keep you well hydrated, therefore reducing the effects of alcohol, and will also lead to you drinking less.Don’t be afraid to ask for help either, if you are playing a game with a friend, look out for each other, and speak up if it looks like one of you is on the cusp of drinking more than is sensible for the situation you’re in.


No two people are the same, and what works for one may not work for the next, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of being aware of the effects that alcohol can have on you when you are gambling.Take the time to find the right balance for you, start low, and if you want to, gradually move up, but ensure you always stay well below your limit for responsible decision making.Not only will you be likely to win more, you will also spend less money on alcohol, meaning that it is very possible that you will notice a huge difference to your wallet when you wake up the next day!

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