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Poker Players Use Performance-Enhancing Drugs?


It seems performance-enhancing drugs have penetrated the high-energy, highly competitive world of—poker? A new study shows that 80 percent of poker players use drugs and other substances to enhance their performance.

Researchers at Nova Southeastern University in Florida conducted interviews with players during the World Series of Poker and also surveyed poker players online from around the world, including those in North America, Asia, and Europe. Most respondents were from the United States and Canada.

The majority (96%) of the 198 responding poker players were males in their mid-20s, and their level of play ranged from professional to semi-pro, amateur, and recreational. Players participated in the game in person (18%), on the Internet (67%), or both (15%).

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Approximately 73 percent of the players reported using drugs and other substances because it helped them to stay focused and to better concentrate. The rest said they used substances to stay awake, improve their memory, and to stay calm. Dietary supplements were used by 46 percent, with vitamin B12 (30%) and guarana (23%) the most commonly used substances. Others included caffeine and energy drinks.

Twenty-eight percent of players said they had taken at least one prescription drug to improve their performance. Amphetamines were the most commonly used prescription drug, although most of the players got their drugs from other players and not from a physician. Other drugs used by the players included marijuana (34%), cocaine (8%), Valium, and other prescription medications.

Kevin Clauson, Pharm.D., an associate professor at Nova Southeastern’s College of Pharmacy and principle investigator in the study, noted that “Stamina is important for any poker player because tournament poker and cash games can go on for many hours.” The hoped-for performance enhancement may be in jeopardy, however, because depending on which substances players use, there will probably be short-term and long-term adverse effects, according to Clauson. The fact that many of the players reported taking prescription drugs given to them by other players raises concerns as well.

Clauson noted that their study results indicate that poker players often use performance-enhancing substances to improve their game. Although the investigators did not raise this question, one may wonder whether drug testing of poker players will someday be a reality.

Nova Southeastern University