Does alcohol make you a better pool player? How many times have you been in a bar or pool hall and you heard the phrase “I shoot better after a few beers” or “I shoot my best once the buzz kicks in”? Is there any truth to that phrase or is it pure bs?
The truth is no, drinking alcohol will not make you a better pool player. Although there still may be some benefits to having a beer or two while playing. Having a small amount of alcohol can help you to relax your nerves and ease anxiety, giving you more confidence in your ability to play, hence the name “liquid courage”. There are many other factors to consider though as everybody is different.
Keep reading as I break down these different factors to consider before making your own conclusion. Although alcohol will not make you a better pool player it can help certain players to perform better temporarily.
How Alcohol May Help Some Pool Players
Alcohol affects the body in many ways causing both positive and negative effects. The lower the amount of alcohol the more positive the effects but too much alcohol in your system will cause the negative effects to outweigh the positive.
Relaxes Muscles and Brain- Alcohol affects the nervous system, which in small doses will help to alleviate stress and anxiety, which can give you the much needed boost in confidence to help you perform at your best. It will also thin your blood which allows for better blood flow throughout your muscles giving you that warm cozy feeling. The relaxed muscles can allow for better shooting as you are more likely to keep a loose grip on the cue allowing for better follow through on your stroke.
State-Dependent Memory– This is probably the most common reason people think alcohol makes them play better. A player performs best under the same conditions as they have practiced. So, if you always play pool when drinking you may actually be better when drinking at least until you practice playing sober for a while and train your muscle memory for when you are sober.
Promotes Confidence- Alcohol decreases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which helps to alleviate anxiety and promotes happiness. This can help you to feel more confident in your ability to shoot as well as help you to prevent over-thinking the shot. Second guessing your ability to shoot the ball can cause unnecessary stress and cause you to choke and miss the intended shot.
How Alcohol Will Not Make You A Better Pool Player
As I have stated above alcohol does have some positive effects on the body, at least in smaller quantities. That is the problem though, no one I know has just one drink, one leads to two and so on. To me the negative effects from alcohol significantly outweigh the positive. Let me list those out so you can make the judgement for yourself.
Deteriorates Hand-Eye Coordination– As with most sports, hand-eye coordination is a must in pool to be able to perform at a high level. Just one alcoholic beverage is enough to slow down your hand-eye coordination. While pool isn’t the most physical of sports, it is a strategic game, that requires the ability to visualize and aim your shots as well as implement them. That is the key to performing your best on the pool table.
Declined Cognitive Function– Pool is known as a critical thinking game, because once you advance past just being able to pocket the ball you are shooting at, it becomes all about strategy. Alcohol can slow down your cognitive functions as well as affect your ability to concentrate. Since pool is all about being able to concentrate and visualize your shot to predict where the cue ball will end up, this can drastically affect your game.
Behavior– To perform at your best you must be in control of your emotions. If you get angry and start beating yourself up after missing a shot, that can haunt the rest of your match. Causing you to get frustrated and doubt your ability to shoot causing even more unnecessary stress.
Alcohol has been shown to cause irrational behavior, such as aggression for limited to no reason, which can cause tension of muscles and negative thinking. Other negative behaviors include clouded judgement and impulsivity which is the exact opposite of what you want in pool. You want to be able to stay calm and collected, think clearly, and be in control of every shot.
State-Dependent Memory– As I have stated for reasons why it may make you a better player also applies to why it will not. By thinking that you need to drink in order to shoot at your best causes and unnecessary dependance to alcohol. And as the above reasons prove that it actually hurts you ability to perform at your best by deteriorating your hand-eye coordination, slows down your cognitive functions, and clouds your judgement with irrational behavior.
Expense– This is not directly related to making you a better pool player but it is something to keep in mind though. Alcohol gets expensive and if you were to drink soda or water instead you could use that extra savings and invest back into more games played, which in turn could make you a better player, as practice is the only true way to improve.
The Common Misconception
Typically, the reason players say they play better after having a few drinks is normally to do with that they get warmed up by playing a few games while they are having their first few drinks. So, by the time they are feeling a buzz from the alcohol they are indeed playing better. But that is not the alcohol making them play better it is the practice.
Although I do see benefits in having a drink or two while playing as it does loosen you up and can relax your nerves, especially if you are in a tournament setting. Keep in mind though that professional players do not drink when they play for a reason as they do not want to depend on a crutch. The more you play sober the faster you will learn and improve without relying on alcohol to calm your nerves.
In conclusion, drinking alcohol will not make you a better player but it may give you the necessary confidence in your ability to play. You could always gain that confidence through practice and experience instead, so alcohol is not needed to make you a better pool player.
I have listed the pros and cons of drinking alcohol when it comes to playing pool. At the end of the day, the decision is yours, as everybody is different, and alcohol will affect people differently. That said I drink when I go play most of the time because I am there to have fun with friends. If I am competing in a tournament and I want to perform at my best I will just stick to water.