Recently I stumbled across the field of nootropics.

I don't know anywhere near enough to say whether they really work, and I'm not willing to try any of the unregulated drugs unless a regulatory body says they're safe.

But it got me thinking; I'm sure there are people around that do try to use drugs for an advantage, it's not an original concept. I'm just wondering how drugs would be handled in the sport of professional poker.

I found an article confirming that a small sample of professionals (190), back in 2010, used more conventional drugs to what they believe to be their advantage.

Most notably, Cocaine is a drug with visible effects. Marijuana also has visible effects.

How would a situation be handled if it was thought that they were using these drugs?

How would players and event organisers react in a situation where it is almost obvious that a player is using performance enhancing drugs?

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    I strongly suggest reading Mike Matusow 's book 'Check-Raising the Devil'.:) In it, he talks about his addiction to ecstasy, cocaine, and anti-depressants. He also talks about winning his first (I think) WSOP bracelet high on meth. It is a well written auto-biography of a pro player.
    – Roman Mik
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:14
  • I read the article you cited. Could you elaborate on your statement that " Cocaine is a drug with visible effects. Marijuana also has visible effects"? From what I read, research included no more than interviewing, with absolutely no assessment on how drug use affects win rate. Would you agree?
    – ch-pub
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 23:31
  • Visible effects means it's sometimes very obvious when someone is high. Which led on to the question 'How would a situation be handled if it was thought that they were using these drugs?' I wasn't commenting on whether those drugs do enhance performance and that's not what this is about. The field of nootropics boasts some interesting possibilities that may introduce new synthetic PEDs in future, I'm wondering how drug taking in general, and particularly performance enhancing drug taking, is or would be handled in professional poker.
    – Dom
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 23:40
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    The community spirit, support and encouragement is astounding here. I can see why the site is flourishing. :)
    – Dom
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 21:03
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    I live in Las Vegas and often play with professionals. I've had numerous final tables with professionals at large tournaments at casinos that you all have heard of. There has been very open & frank talk about drugs, particularly marijuana and Aderal at the tables and no one says or does anything about it. I don't condone it and wish someone would do something about it, but I just don't think anyone cares. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 2:49

2 Answers 2


Nothing, besides perhaps criminal investigation. Poker is not a sport with a sanctioning body like the NBA, NFL etc, that has sanctioning powers in this respect.

Casino promoters, (Use this term as a catch all for the operators and organizers) have regular powers to disqualify players, but unless there was some kind of incident, like a fist fight at the final table for example, I don't think they would disqualify someone for being stoned or high. I don't think they would have the legal power to disqualify someone after the fact for the use of PED's, nor do they have a right to verify the use of PED's with say a drug test.

Poker tournaments are open venue, meaning anyone can register. The only thing that qualifies one as a player is their ability to make the buy-in. I think considering the lifestyle of many poker pros, that a subjection to a clause concerning PED's would not go over to well.

  • Thanks for answering, does that not then mean that anyone not using a 'bona fide' PED is at a disadvantage against anyone who is? I'd be pretty annoyed to come back after a break to see some dude wired up on Cocaine who's just obliviated all of the possible tells I'd gathered. Moreover, in a game like the pokerstars 24 hour cash game (or longer can't remember) PEDs like Cocaine certainly would provide an unfair advantage.
    – Dom
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:41
  • I really would not care to argue rather this is right or wrong. Poker tournaments are not pro events, they are pro-am things. Players do not have contracts to play, promoters do not have rights to enforce drug usage. Use of PED's is not within the scope of things that a player can be disqualified for. Players are independent in this respect.
    – Jon
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:50
  • I didn't actually ask if it was right or wrong, again: would anyone not using a 'bona fide' PED be at a disadvantage against anyone who is?
    – Dom
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:52
  • Not advocating drug use at all, but technically no you would not be, because you are both under the same set of rules, so if you don't care to gain the same advantage as another player within the rules, that is your choice.
    – Jon
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 20:56
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    I disagree, if there was a bona fide performance enhancing drug, that could have harmful effects (which arguably there are many of [not my point though]), you would be at a disadvantage because you aren't willing to risk your long term health for a short term gain - and it's unfair because to gain the equal advantage you will potentially sacrifice your health.
    – Dom
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 21:00

I've had a fair bit of experience with nootropics - I'm narcoleptic, and a lot of what people use as nootropics are on-label prescriptions for me. I'd say that if you feel like you can focus on the game, pay attention to the players around you, and do the basic statistics math (pot odds / outs / etc), then you're not at a disadvantage. Without exlporing the details of how and why they work better or worse for some people or in different situations, I'll say that in poker, I don't see a lot of room for nootropics to help beyond baseline paying attention / doing the math.

  • Thank you for adding this, it's comforting for poker in general, though I'd still be a little bit worried about it if I was entering an extremely long game where I'll probably get tired, as that's where PEDs would provide the most advantage.
    – Dom
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 10:04
  • can you recommend a reliable source for information on nootropics?
    – Ray Tayek
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 0:24

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