The topic of caffeine, or specifically coffee, is a sensitive one among professional poker players. Many players enjoy their daily cup of coffee and think it’s completely harmless. Thankfully, a growing part of the community is discovering how it’s actually more harmful than they initially thought.

So, how is coffee actually hurting you win rate?

Before we get started, let me set some things straight. I don’t hate coffee, I actually enjoy drinking it once in a while. I have drank coffee for 10 years before I quit my daily intake and became a moderate coffee drinker. After quitting, I wondered why I felt so good in so many ways. I had to be connected with clearing out the caffeine in my system. I did my research for a year straight, reading scientific research, experimenting, talking to clients and medical professionals. Eventually, I came up with some pretty interesting discoveries. 

Frustration

Let’s Talk Science

There are many types of research that prove how caffeine is in no way as harmless as we all think it is. It is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world. But this doesn’t in no way mean it’s harmless.

(Click here for sources)

  • Caffeine causes spikes in cortisol, which in turn, causes stress. Stress that we interpret as a short boost of energy. 
  • It affects dopamine receptors, which we interpret as a good ‘high’ followed by a ‘low’ soon after. 
  • Caffeine affects our adenosine receptors in the brain, making us feel temporarily less tired, but giving us sleep problems in return. 
  • Because caffeine basically mimics the effect of a panic attack it can also cause a full blown caffeine induced panic attack. 

Besides these lovely side-effects, caffeine can also cause stomach and intestine issues, heartburn, migraines, insomnia, raise blood pressure, and increase the risk of heart attacks, especially among young adults. 

Like it or not, you are addicted.

Now that we’ve got science out of the way… I hear a lot of you guys talking;

but I haven’t experienced any of those effects and I drink coffee all the time!?

It may very well be possible you have (developed) a very high tolerance towards caffeine or your body can break it down better than most can. But, unfortunately, these above mention side-effects are not the only things you need to be worried about. It is also being addicted to an extremely addictive psychoactive substance.

It is estimated that 1.4 billion cups of coffee gets consumed every single day worldwide. That’s hundreds of millions of people addicted to a dangerous psychoactive substance.  

We as a society are used to being constantly stressed out. Social media, mainstream media, politics, coffee, sugar, and so many other things are ravaging our dopamine receptors and messing with our cortisol. This is a big reason why anxiety disorder is THE most diagnosed mental health disorder in the world and steadily growing. 

Can you quit coffee for 30 days without getting withdrawal symptoms?

Without feeling lethargic and experience a short fuse?

Function properly throughout the day and perform your A-game? 

Most likely, the answer is no and this is where the impact on performance comes in, but more about that later.

Caffeine Prison

Being addicted to a substance is – giving a substance rent-free living space in your mind. It blocks you from experimenting with new habits, changing your structure, and puts a break on self-awareness and self-reflection. 

So many people structure their day around coffee. You wake up; you need a cup of coffee to get started. Afternoon dip; you need a cup of coffee to keep going. Long poker session; definitely need some caffeine to stay awake. After dinner; just 1 last cup of coffee. During important poker games; 1 or 2 energy drinks won’t hurt me.

The problem is not coffee here, the problem is you mindlessly consuming caffeine throughout the entire day without being aware of its effect on your physical and mental state. 

One example is when you wake up. CAR is the Cortisol Awakening Response. Your body already has a natural built-in system to help you get started. When you drink coffee you refuse your body the opportunity to wake up naturally and healthy. 

You might feel like you can’t walk because you have used a crutch for so long. 

Another way it restricts you is by using it as a performance enhancer during long poker games. Instead of asking; ‘Should I be playing these long hours?’ or ‘Are there any other methods to feel more mentally and physically fit for longer periods of time?’ 

Caffeine doesn’t have to be the default answer to these questions.

Like in poker, we should never blindly pick one option because it feels like it’s the only one, without ever considering the other options.

Caffeine and Performance

We already spoke about caffeine and its effect on your cortisol and adrenaline levels, meaning stress. Poker is already a very stressful game, do we really need to add more stress to it? What a coffee drinker often is looking for, besides taste, is to perform on a high level consistently. With coffee, you are actually being counterproductive. Caffeine doesn’t help you consistently perform on a high level, it makes you perform in waves. It hits your system, takes 15 mins to get to work, reaches its height at around 30 to 60 minutes and it’s gone after a few hours. Your performance doesn’t get boosted, it becomes a rollercoaster. 

Besides that, the thought of coffee on your mind is distracting. How many times have you thought about the desire for caffeine? How many times did you feel distracted because you haven’t had (enough) coffee yet? Whenever you wake up and don’t get your morning cup of coffee, how do you feel? Can you wake up earlier than usual without 2 cups of espresso? 

Even when you’re not drinking coffee, the urge is still there and it’s draining your focus and eventually, affects your performance. 

How To Drink Coffee

‘Are you telling me to quit coffee?’

No.

I am telling you not to be dependent on any substance for your performance. You shouldn’t need marijuana to sleep, you shouldn’t need mushrooms to be creative and you shouldn’t need caffeine to perform.

Drinking coffee should be enjoyable. Not something you HAVE TO DO because otherwise you will become lethargic, have a short fuse, and won’t be able to perform. 

You know if it affects you, you know if you’re addicted and you know, if you are being honest to yourself, that quitting daily coffee intake will be a huge improvement to your life.

It’s scary, I know. I have found it to be the hardest drug to quit and I’ve quit drinking, cigarettes, and weed. This also proved to me that caffeine is a hell of a drug.

In the Raise Your Edge Discord, there are many people working on their mindset and health. Let’s help each other to be live and play healthier. Together. 

Take back control of your performance and own your win rate.

You don’t need any substance to be who you want to be.