A number of blogs and other news outlets have reported on a Nova Southeastern University study finding that 80% of poker players use performance enhancing drugs. It is a misleading headline in many ways, not least of which in that when you think of performance enhancing drugs, you think steroids. Of course, physical strength isn’t what needs enhancing at the poker table, that is unless you need to strong arm winnings out of a deadbeat player. Looking further into the study I found just what drugs they included in their statistic.
In descending order of use, players employ caffeine, energy drinks, marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, sports drinks, and cocaine.
I think more than 80% of the people I know, poker playing or otherwise, use some combination of coffee, soft drinks, Gatorade, beer and cigarettes daily. The fact that the study is getting any press at all is a symptom of society’s desire to paint poker in a bad light. Connecting one vice, drugs, with another vice, gambling, is a win in appealing to a conservative audience.
If any of those listed drugs are “performance enhancing” it is only in that caffeine and energy drinks are helpful in keeping a player awake during long sessions. A better study would be showing the effects on how weed or alcohol affect a poker players’ results at the table. I guess that they would mellow out an overly aggressive player, but I don’t know because NSU opted not to perform an actually useful study.
To be fair to NSU, most of my rant is directed toward the echo chamber reporting the 80% headline. Their study also found that 28% of players use prescription drugs while playing poker and 46% of players use dietary supplements. I find those numbers of more interest, but when it comes down to it, the study was just an online survey of a self-selected sample size of less than 200. Big deal.