The good player can exploit his opponents more easily when they are distracted. A radio or television for sporting events has excellent distraction value. A late newspaper is usually good for several hands of distracted play from opponents checking horse-race results, the stock market, and the news. Pornographic literature offers an absorbing distraction. Good spreads of food and assorted drinks provide steady and effective distractions.

Availability of beer and liquor usually benefits the good player. One drink takes the sharpness off a player's ability to think and concentrate. Even a single beer will reduce the effectiveness of a superior player. That is why the good player never drinks before or during the game. And that is why the good player is glad to see superior-playing opponents take a drink.

Moderate amounts of alcohol have less effect on poor players because their concentrations are already at reduced levels. The poor player must drink enough to become intoxicated before his edge odds are reduced to even lower levels. But the advantages of having intoxicated opponents are sometimes canceled by disadvantages such as slowing down the game and causing drinking problems that may drive profitable opponents from the game.

Each week, John Finn is a good fellow and brings beer to the game, along with the late evening paper containing the complete stock-market closings and horse-race results. Ted and Sid read this paper while playing their hands. Every now and then they lose a pot to John because of that distraction.

Those newspapers cost John less than $15 per year, but are worth about a $1000 a year in distractions--or about $20 per newspaper.

By encouraging and creating distractions, John Finn increases everyone's confusion. At the same time, he keeps the action moving. In the Monday night game, however, he discovers his opponents will play for significantly higher stakes when using cash rather than faster-moving poker chips. (In most games, the reverse is true, and thus the good player normally prefers using poker chips.) To offset this, John speeds up the game by alternating two decks of cards between each shuffle and deal.

By using an array of distractions, John increases his edge odds by about 20 percent. That means $8000 additional income per year at his current winning rate. He estimates that while playing their hands, his opponents are distracted 35 percent of the time. And they are distracted a much higher percentage of the time when they are not involved in the action. The chart on page 142 estimates the in-action distractions of each player:

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