Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Related Links
Recent Articles
Best of Aaron Todd

Gaming Guru

author's picture

The Effects of My Poker All-Nighter

23 April 2006

By Aaron Todd

NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles about my attempt to play poker for a 24-hour session on April 22-23, 2006. Click here to read to Part I, and click here to read Part II.

A month ago, when I asked some friends if they would be interested in helping me play poker for 24 hours, one of them was in the middle of typing an e-mail to my wife.

At the end of his message, he decided to let her know about my plan. Seventeen seconds later my phone rang.

Me: "Hello?"
Wendy: "What's this about a 24-hour poker game?"
Way to go Liam.

After some damage control, and after I told her I wasn't planning on attempting the feat in a casino, Wendy (who would like to be known as "The Poker Gal") warmed up to the idea. She's even letting me host the game in our living room and will be joining us for a few hours when we're shorthanded.

While my wife has generally been very supportive of the idea, she does have one concern: How will missing a whole night's sleep affect me after the game is over?

I have a very low tolerance for sleep deprivation. My mood, motivation, and attitude in general suffer terribly when I haven't slept enough. The Poker Gal understands this better than anyone. Since she's going to have to put up with me in the days following this little experiment, I understand her concern.

So I decided to do a little research to prepare for this endeavor. There have been a number of studies on sleep deprivation and they all come to a similar conclusion: Lack of sleep equals bad things.

Brain functions are altered when a person suffers from sleep deprivation. In a 2000 study published in Nature, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that regions of the brain that are most active while rested people do arithmetic problems were not nearly as active when sleep deprived subjects were asked to do the same problems.

Another study, published in 2000 by Occupational and Environmental Medicine, reports that sleep deprivation can be as hazardous as consuming alcohol. Subjects in the study who drove after being awake for 17-19 hours performed worse than subjects who had a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.

Perhaps the most disturbing study was a 2003 University of Pittsburgh study, which found that older adults who lay awake for long periods during the night have a diminished quality of life and double their risk of death.

Thankfully, I don't fit into the demographic of that study, as it was conducted on people over the age of 60. I don't mind messing up pot odds or making a boneheaded call, as long as I'm still breathing on Sunday afternoon.

Finally, I wanted to figure out how long it would take me to recover from missing a whole night's sleep. I will have to make up for an entire night's worth of "sleep debt," a concept described by Stanford University professor William Dement in his paper "Sleepless at Stanford."

"If (a person's daily sleep requirement) is not obtained, a sleep debt is created. All lost sleep accumulates progressively as a larger and larger sleep indebtedness. Furthermore, your sleep debt does not go away or spontaneously decrease. The only way to reduce your individual sleep debt is by obtaining extra sleep over and above your daily requirement."

Amazing how quickly it adds up. Assuming I need eight hours of sleep a night (which is what I generally get now), I'll owe myself eight hours of sleep after this experience. Until I get it, I'll be bad at math and act a little drunk. Probably not the best way to start a week, but if I take a four-hour nap on Sunday afternoon and sleep for 10 hours on Sunday and Monday night, I'll be right back to normal on Tuesday morning, right?

We'll see how the woman who has to put up with my shenanigans feels about me
at that point.

How I Plan to Stay Awake

While caffeine is widely accepted as a solid mechanism for staying awake while pulling an all-nighter, I was surprised to find that most competitors in the
Iditarod, the annual 1,150 mile dog sled race across Alaska, avoid the drug when trying to stay awake during the grueling race. Here are some other tips from the mushers courtesy of
, that I might choose to employ:

  • Watch what you eat and drink, avoiding sugar and caffeine

  • Listen to a tape (Bring my iPod)

  • Jump off the sled and run alongside to get the blood pumping (Do pushups beside the table)

  • Choose to be a little chilly by removing a layer of clothing (I'll crank the air conditioning)

Other Web searches on how to stay awake revealed these tips:

  • Eat something spicy … hopefully your breath will keep you awake

  • Wash your face and brush your teeth

  • Change all your clothes

Sources: "Altered brain response to verbal learning following sleep deprivation." Nature. Feb. 10, 2000. Vol. 403, Issue 6770, pgs. 655-657.

Dement, William. "Sleepless at
" Stanford University Center of Excellence for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep Disorders. September, 1997.

"Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication." Occupational and Environmental Medicine. October, 2000. Vol. 57, Number 10, pgs. 649-655.

"Poor Sleep Linked to Earlier Death in Older Adults." Science
. Posted February 4, 2003.

In his previous life, Aaron Todd was a sports journalist by day and a poker player by night. He can now be found covering the poker beat for Casino City and making horrendously unsuccessful bluffs in his home game. Write to Aaron at

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.