There’s nothing like a fun game of pool on a Friday night. After a long work week it’s nice to get together with friends for a few rounds of snooker or 8-ball. And, it’s even better while enjoying a frosty mug of your favorite beer! It makes you wonder if drinking alcohol while playing pool can actually improve the game.
Does Drinking Alcohol Help You Play Better in Pool? Yes, drinking alcohol may help you play better in pool (temporarily). Alcohol decreases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin that mediates anxiety. It turns on specific pathways that promote happiness which may help you feel less nervous and in turn, more confident.
Many pool players tend to overthink simpler shots or lose focus on the ball in front of them. They try to think down the line (which is good), but sometimes ‘get in their own head’. Alcohol (in moderate doses) can help with that. We will explore this in more detail below.
Positive Effects of Drinking Alcohol while Playing Pool
Let’s review a few of the ways that alcohol (in small amounts) can have a positive effect on a player and improve his/her game. It is important to mention as well that these effects are only temporary and will not turn anyone into a pool shark overnight! Ok, let’s begin!
Relaxes the body. Alcohol is a sedative that affects the nervous system. It calms the body by slowing the brain! This is helpful when playing pool as any sport that involves hitting a target or ‘making a shot’ requires a slower, smoother movement.
Warms the muscles. Alcohol ‘thins the blood’, increasing its flow to the muscles while creating a warming effect. This loosens the tissues making them more pliable. This is vital when playing pool as a slower, smoother follow-through along with a softer grip on the cue (which results from warmed up muscles) will steady the shot.
Improves balance and accuracy. In 1993, a study on dart players showed that with a blood alcohol level of just 0.02, balance and accuracy actually improved! Pool, like darts, is a turn-based sport that requires both balance and accuracy to set-up and execute the perfect shot! Keep in mind that any amount of alcohol above the ‘sweet spot’ (0.02 – 0.05) will nullify this effect.
Builds confidence. Alcohol decreases levels of serotonin in the brain which both alleviates anxiety and promotes happiness. This, in turn, relaxes a person and makes him/her feel more confident. Confidence is necessary when shooting pool because it creates a sense of calm which lessens the chance of overthinking each shot and therefore ‘choking’.
This feeling of confidence can also come from the initial increase in mental clarity caused by the brain utilizing glucose, a direct result of alcohol consumption. Be careful, however, as cognitive function will decrease as blood alcohol levels increase!
Adds enjoyment. Let’s be honest, socializing and drinking go hand-in-hand. So, having some liquid refreshments while shooting stick with friends is just more fun! Having fun can improve a player’s pool game by replacing tension with relaxation, stress with joy and anxiety with happiness.
Negative Effects of Drinking Alcohol while Playing Pool
Just as alcohol can have a positive effect while playing pool, so too can it have a negative effect. It is worth examining the cons as well so a player can choose whether the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to ‘liquid courage’ at the pool hall. Ready, here we go!
Slows hand-eye coordination. A study done on dart players in 1993 showed that just one drink of alcohol immediately slowed down their hand-eye coordination. Pool, like darts, is dependent on hand-eye coordination to line up and make that winning shot! If just one alcoholic drink was enough to impair this pool-playing prerequisite, perhaps ordering a pop is a better choice!
Inaccurate estimations and shots. Drinking alcohol slows brain function and reduces concentration. Pool is a game of estimation and requires the player to focus on the target and predict the necessary angle needed to make the shot. Needless to say, making mathematical calculations and mental estimations is not improved after an ounce (or two) of booze!
Increase in expense. The game of pool is often considered a ‘cheap’ recreational activity as one can play for an hour at the average cost of five to ten dollars. However, throw a few drinks into the mix at another five to ten dollars each and that hour-long pool game has doubled (or maybe even tripled)!
Not to mention the cost of repairs should your compromised equilibrium cause you to accidently scratch the pool table, break the pool cue or tear the table-top fabric. This could also potentially get you banned from your favorite billiard establishment should the damage be severe and your behavior contentious. Yet another reason to choose pop instead!
Creates a ‘state-dependent’ mentality. If not careful, a person can develop a state-dependent mentality with regard to alcohol. In other words, a person will believe that he/she cannot play to the best of their ability without taking that drink first. Therefore, relying more on the stimulus rather than talent to perform.
Negative personality effects. Just as alcohol can create a feeling joy, it can also create a feeling of anger. Alcohol has been shown to increase aggression in some individuals, which can result in muscle tension and negative thinking. Both of which are counterproductive when playing pool.
Other negative behaviors associated with drinking alcohol include poor judgment, low self-esteem, impatience, impulsivity, and insecurity. None of which will improve your ability to play a game like pool. One that relies on strategy, concentration and self-control.
The Killer Pool Drinking Game
Here is an example of a game that combines both the sport of pool and drinking alcohol! It is a multi-player variation of straight pool in which each player is assigned a set number of ‘lives’ and takes one alcoholic shot per round to attempt to pocket a ball (or else lose a life).
It is common in pubs and pool halls and fun to try with friends on the weekend! There are YouTube videos and websites dedicated to the game, for your information. Go online and check it out!
How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
Alcohol affects the nervous system in the body. After it enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestines, it then travels to the brain and slows it down. This, in turn, slows bodily functions such as reaction time while also reducing coordination and impairing vision.
Why Depending on Alcohol is a Bad Idea When Shooting Pool
Alcohol is a drug and any dependency on it is detrimental to both a person’s physical health and mental well-being. Relying on a catalyst (rather than ability) when it comes to shooting pool is a dangerous trap to fall into. It creates a false sense of security while ultimately reducing cognitive function, slowing motor skills and increasing mental depression.
Should you have water while drinking alcohol? Yes. Always ‘chase’ booze with water! Dehydration is a common result of alcohol consumption. It is a diuretic that strips the body of key electrolytes which are vital for muscle function and endurance. Staying hydrated keeps muscles flexible and joints lubricated, which is necessary for any sport or game, including pool.
Do professional pool players get drug-tested? Yes. At the Olympics, for example, players are randomly tested for drugs. The reason being that any drug (such as alcohol) that can affect heart rate could potentially improve a player’s performance by helping him/her feel less nervous under pressure.
Should you arrange for transportation to and from the pool hall? Absolutely yes, if you are planning on drinking as well. Anytime you feel like having alcohol at a public place or social event, you should always plan for a safe ride home. Losing your license, your vehicle and (possibly) your life is never worth the risk of drinking-and-driving!
In conclusion, shooting pool should be a fun experience, whether you are a professional or novice player. Enjoying an alcoholic beverage while playing can have both positive and negative effects on your game (not to mention your personality). How it will affect you is based on the amount you drink as well as your own individual physiological and psychological makeup. So play (and drink) at your own risk. Now rack ‘em up!