Among professional poker players, drinking at the card table is usually limited to water, soft drinks and, of course, coffee. With the exception of Captain Morgan-loving Gavin Smith, who insists that everybody’s Texas hold’em game improves with a glass or two of spiced rum, most savvy pros enjoy their cocktails after they count their winnings. We asked three top poker champs about their favorite post-game tipples.
Two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Howard Lederer is often called The Professor, since he approaches the game with an intellectual bent. So it’s hardly surprising that he can be analytical about his drink of choice—Belvedere Vodka on the rocks. “I don’t go for Screwdrivers and Cosmopolitans,” he says. “They feel a little bit like cheating. If I am going to drink liquor, I want to be able to taste it.”
Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari:
Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari has earned $3.5 million in tournament winnings. But when he’s not playing he can usually be found sipping Patron Silver Tequila mixed with pineapple juice at a popular Vegas nightspot, like XS at the Wynn or Tao at the Venetian. Esfandiari is such a fan of the spirit he has a shelf’s worth of Patron bottles on display in his home office.
Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth:
Famed for his temper at the hold’em table, Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth likes to keep it cool when he’s sipping his signature cocktail: Jack Daniel’s and Diet 7Up. “In the old days, I used to like Jack and Coke,” says Hellmuth. “Then I was on a Dom Perignon kick for 10 years. I’ve since gravitated back to Jack. Mix it with Diet 7Up and you get a very refreshing drink.” Who are we to argue?
Michael Kaplan is the co-author of Aces and Kings: Inside Stories and Million-Dollar Strategies from Poker’s Greatest Players.