January 20, 2010

Advanced Poker-Drinking:
Rule VI—Focus on Poker-Drinking Position

Why just get drunk in Vegas, when you can get paid to get drunk in Vegas?

We conclude our discussion of poker-drinking, already in progress ...

Rule VI: Poker-drinking position is critical to profitable poker-drinking.

Many novice poker-drinkers are oblivious to the critical role of position in selecting a poker-drinking game. Unlike in poker, position for a poker-drinker is quite literal—it refers to the poker-drinker’s physical status:

Early position—An “early position” poker-drinker is early in his day (usually starting noonish to mid-afternoon). He is fully upright and able to ambulate without difficulty to any poker room on the Strip. He is able to appreciate the quality of the premium liquor he is consuming. He has a long period in which to maximize his poker-drinking profits (POTOP = 9 to 18 hours).

Middle position—A “middle position” poker-drinker is midway through his day, usually beginning after a late dinner (preferably a heavy Italian or Mexican dinner to better absorb the free booze and prolong the POTOP). He is usually reclining in his chair, can stumble without assistance as far as the next casino, and is able to tolerate short, low-speed cab rides without puking. He is not able to distinguish premium booze from well drinks, but is still sober enough to order “the good stuff.” His poker-drinking profit window is beginning to close (POTOP = 3 to 9 hours).

Late position—A late position poker-drinker is winding down his day, usually marked by eating pizza by the slice. He is close to horizontal or slumped forward almost to his knees, but can still stagger to the restroom and post his blinds with assistance from the dealer. He is not capable of operating an elevator, and moving walkways confuse him. He will order booze by grunting, “Beer!” or “Gin & tonic!”, but will drink whatever rotgut is placed in front of him. His poker-drinking window is closing rapidly, along with most major organ systems. (POTOP <= 3 hours).

Rule VI(a):  Your starting casino requirements will vary depending upon your position.

It is important to match where you drink to your ability to drink.  In early position, limit yourself to playing only in poker rooms with high booze-to-blinds ratios. Your goal in early position is to maximize your profits while enjoying premium booze. Also, in early position, you have the physical ability to walk to any poker room, so there is no reason to settle for second best. In early position, your wit, charm, and American Idol-inspired attire will prove irresistible to women. Generally speaking, early position casinos include: Venetian, Wynn, Aria, and Bellagio.

In middle position, your ability to walk or ride to another poker room is somewhat compromised, as is your ability to appreciate whatever you are pouring down your throat (though you can still distinguish “whiskey” from “rum” and will refuse to drink Zima Gold). Your POTOP is still far enough off you want to continue making money while drinking, but you would be content with merely breaking even since you will be able to hit on drunken girls at a bar near the poker room. In middle position, you can open up your casino requirements to include: MGM, Mirage, Mandalay Bay, TI, Monte Carlo, Hard Rock, Bally's (noteworthy for its unsurpassed drink service rate), Planet Hollywood, and Imperial Palace.

In late position, your sole poker-drinking goal is to get enough booze in you either to pass out or work up the nerve to call one of those girls on the “porn slapper” cards you collected earlier in the day (just to plant on a married bud for a joke, of course). Because your POTOP window is so short, you will not win or lose much money by poker-drinking, so your casino options are generally limited mostly by non-poker considerations (e.g., how close is your hotel, where is your girlfriend staying, where did the hooker tell you to meet her, are cigarettes or secondhand smoke available, etc.). Typical late position casinos include: Sahara, Luxor, Excalibur, Rio, Flamingo, Harrah's, and Caesars Palace (perhaps the worst poker-drinking value on the Strip).

Rule VI(b). Excess tipping is only effective in late position.

In considering tips for the cocktail waitresses you will encounter, it should be noted that the basic EDV equation includes an assumption that a poker-drinker will tip $1/drink. Because the point of calculating EDV is to determine if your drinking is more or less profitable than sitting in a bar, and since the typical drinker will tip approximately $1/drink in the bar, a similar assumption is incorporated into the value of booze consumed (VBC) variable so that you are comparing apples to apples and scotch to scotch. Many casual poker-drinkers believe they can increase their drinking rate (DR) and/or VBC by giving their cocktail waitress a large tip (typically $5-$10) up front; this is known as the excess tipping maneuver. The expectation of these poker-drinkers is that the waitress, overcome by their amazing generosity, will provide faster service (increasing their DR) and/or better quality booze (increasing their VBC), resulting in higher EDV. This assumption is false.

Early position casinos tend to be high class joints focused on the big money players. In an early position casino, a $5-$10 up front tip is like throwing your drink in the face of some obnoxious twit in a bar—momentarily satisfying, but still a waste of a good drink (and the money you spent on it). Since the early position casino already serves top-shelf booze, an excess tip cannot improve your VBC. With respect to DR, the waitress in an early position casino will pocket your excess tip and continue to focus on the high rollers who flip her green and black (and the occasional purple) chips; your level of service will be unchanged because to the service industry vultures, players like you are nothing more than small time roadkill compared to the bloated whale carcasses of the high rollers.

You might expect the excess tipping maneuver to have better results in a middle position casino; you would be wrong. Middle position casinos fall into two categories: high class joints serving middle class booze, and middle class joints serving middle class booze. In the high class joint, you get the same treatment as in an early position casino, but with an extra serving of open contempt to reinforce your roadkill status. In the middle class joint, you get noticeably better treatment, but the waitresses generally cannot upgrade your booze. Further, the improved treatment does not continue unless you consistently tip > $1 / drink thereafter, which makes the excess tip a net drain on your EDV. Given that middle position casinos already have limited +EDV due to middling VBC, continuous excess tips are generally enough to make the middle position casino a –EDV.

But what if you excess tip up front, but then only tip the standard $1 / drink thereafter? In theory this could be a +EDV situation, except for human nature. Think back to high school and that girl who would let guys get to second or third base on the first date. Now assume she dated you once, you hit an inside the park home run, and then she decided to join the born-again-virgin movement and save herself for “love”. Would you go on a second, or third, or tenth date with her? Of course not. Similarly, to the waitress you excess tip up front but never excess tip again, you have become the born-again-virgin tipper; don’t expect her to linger at your table lovingly passing you booze if you aren’t putting out.

In late position, interestingly, the excess tipping maneuver in fact has some +EDV. In late position casinos, tips may or may not occur, and when they do, they are in a range where your $5-$10 looks pretty generous. In fact, an excess tip could easily double your DR, and possibly move you from swill to middle-class booze. The excess tipping maneuver, however, is dependent on being able to play long enough to recoup your initial investment, so do not attempt the maneuver if your POTOP is < 2 hours, or if the waitress in question will be changing shifts or genders prior to your departure. CAUTION: the late position casino is not the place to give out real names and hotel room numbers with your real tips; you’re now a high-roller who might get rolled.

Conclusion: Hopefully this mathematical and game theory analysis will prove helpful to players of all ability levels in their quest to analyze the leaks in their poker-drinking games. After all, why just get drunk in Vegas, when you can get paid to get drunk in Vegas?


  1. Thank you for ripping off the Band-Aid (or adhesive bandage if you don't buy brand names) rather than peeling it back over successive days / weeks.

  2. BWoP,

    So you're saying my set of mini-posts was painful??

    As for the timing, I was facing fierce Twitter pressure to accelerate the poker-drinking roll out (originally planned for a week). It's amazing how much a little Mennonite-Jewish guilt trip can accomplish!

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

  3. I think blogger ate my comment. Or you deleted it.


  4. BWoP,

    The only comment of yours on this post I've seen is still showing above. Well, now there are two of your comments showing--your original comment and a meta-comment. Was there a third comment that got lost? I haven't had to delete any comments from the blog ... yet. *knock on processed bamboo*

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