Doping in sports has always been a controversial topic. Traditional sports like football, basketball, volleyball, and others have strict anti-doping policies. That means that all players are subject to testing even outside of the competitions. This has been the standard practice for the last couple of decades.
However, in recent years we got a surge in popularity of some “cerebral sports” like poker and eSports. Even though poker has been around for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the internet era that it became a part of the mainstream culture.
These sports, especially poker, are not that physically demanding, but they still require a tremendous amount of skill and work. Unfortunately, as with other sports, the players have found not-so-ethical ways to boost their performances and beat their competition.
So, what is the go-to drug for poker players?
Short story, it’s Ritalin and other similar “mind drugs”. Just a small disclaimer, because there is no official anti-doping testing in poker, everything we are going to talk about here is only allegations and off the record statements from some professional poker players.
For example, poker pro, Paul Phillips, has credited much of his success to the drug use. He did not specify which drug precisely, but we can freely say that it worked because he amassed a massive $2.3 million in tournament winnings. Another example of a poker player that isn’t ashamed to admit to drug use is Phil Hellmuth. He said that many poker professionals are using the so-called brain-enhancing drugs like Ritalin, Piracetam, and Propranolol.
The science behind it
Ritalin is a drug known for its ability to increase someone’s cognitive capabilities. It’s popular among students that want to pull off all-nighters, with eSports players that need to practice tactics for hours, and of course, among online poker players that want to grind as many tournaments as possible.
The idea to use Ritalin and other brain drugs did not come out of nowhere. In fact, a recent study even further cemented the positive effects of their use. This research, in particular, has proven that Ritalin has an enhancing effect on your cognitive abilities.
The interesting part is that it’s even better than coffee and no-sleep drug Modafinil. Players that were on Ritalin won 54% of their games, and players that were “clean” 51%. The 3% difference doesn’t seem like much. However, at the high-level games where decimals can make a huge difference, the 3% is a considerable increase in the win percentages.
So, what do you think about anti-doping testing in poker? Are you in favour or against it? I somehow doubt that it would be regulated anytime soon. After all, poker’s roots are at the back-alley bars and saloons, where alcohol and illegal substances were a regular part of it.
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