Poker And The Use Of Performance Enhancing Drugs

3rd June, 2010

It’s nothing new to hear about elite and professional athletes taking performance enhancing drugs, but poker players?

In a recent study, poker players admitted to using illegal drugs including: cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, Valium and other prescription medication. Additionally they said they relied on caffeine, energy drinks and guarana to try to keep the upper hand over their competitors.

The study had 198 professional, semi pro, amateur and recreational players from the US taking part. They were interviewed about their use of cognitive and performance enhancing drugs in addition to dietary supplements to improve their performance whilst play poker. The players were also asked about how the drugs were acquired and what were player’s motivations for using them.

Most of the players in the group were in their mid 20’s and 28% of them said that they take at least one prescription medication to improve their performance. Of those that take cognitive and performance enhancing medication 73% said it helps them to concentrate. The most popular medication was amphetamines or dextroamphetamines, this is followed by benzodiazepines (tranquilizers), hydrocodone (a painkiller), and methylphenidate (usually used to treat attention deficit disorders).

It wasn’t just prescription medication that players relied on, 71% use caffeine, 51% drink energy drinks, 34% smoke marijuana and 30% use alcohol. 46% of participants took dietary supplements such as vitamin B-12 or guarana to enhance their performance.

"The use of these substances could allow poker players to stay awake longer, as well as focus and concentrate better, which would be a competitive advantage," said Kevin Clauson, an associate professor at NSU's college of pharmacy.

Clauson, the principle investigator in the study, added, "Stamina is important for any poker player because tournament poker and cash games can go on for many hours."

Currently, players are not disqualified for using such substances whilst playing poker, but it is certainly a question to debate as to whether players should be tested in major events.

By Faye

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