Smokin' Aces

Smokin' Aces

Monday, 17 June 2013

Are fags costing you BBs?

Smokers, ever wondered how much those fag breaks cost you in terms of BB’s per hour? Could these e-cigarettes thingies, widely permitted in casinos, improve your hourly rate? Our editor, who smokes so much there’s tar dripping off the ceiling of his office, decided to find out.

I’ve been half-heartedly trying to give up smoking for about a decade. I’ve tried the patches (they give me palpitations), the gum (hiccups, and it’s horrible) Alan Carr’s book (boring) and psycho-active “wonder drug” Champix (we’re “psychologically incompatible”, apparently), all to no avail. Thus, I’m often found in the smoking area of the Victoria Casino sucking desolately on a Marlborough Light, wondering whether I’m missing a huge rush of cards (obviously, I am). It’s a place of quiet desperation, the smoking area. People are far less likely to go for a cigarette when they’re winning, I’ve noticed, and so we losers puff away in silence watching the CCTV screens beaming live coverage of the roulette wheels inside, winning millions in our heads.

It’s a wretched state of affairs, really. So, could e-cigarettes be the answer? We’re seeing them increasingly in casinos now, these odourless, tar-less, carbon-dioxide-less nicotine administers. Most casinos permit them, although most also request that you refrain from using them at the table, which means all you need to do is fold your junk, stand back a few yards, take a few puffs and sit back down in time for the next hand.

So, putting aside for a moment the health dangers of smoking, which are myriad and obvious, how much are we smoking poker-players losing, on top of the cost of buying fags, simply by taking those hourly fag breaks? Note: This relates only to winning poker players. If you’re a losing poker player you are obviously saving money by taking cigarette breaks.

Put this in your pipe…

OK, let’s say you’re a pro playing six hours a day, six days a week (I’m not, I have a magazine to put together!). Let’s assume we play 25 hands per hour live and make 2-4 BB/hour, which is probably about right for a pro – maybe 4BB/hour in an action game with a straddle. If you miss three hands out of 25 for your hourly fag break, you’re missing about an eighth of your hands, so your win-rate decreases to about 3.5BB per hour. If you're playing a £2/£5 game with a straddle, it’s costing you £2.50/hr or about £390/month (with 4.3 weeks in a month, that is). Of course, if you smoke a pack a day, it costs you £250/month anyway. Over the course of a year you will miss getting dealt aces 17 times. When you put it like that, the “e” in e-cigarette could stand for EV.

What’s an e-cigarette?

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine into a vapour, which you inhale, avoiding all those horrible things like tar and carbons dioxide and monoxide. There’s no smoke, no ash and no smell. They come either as rechargeable devices which can be filled with cartridges and therefore re-used, or cheaper one-off disposables.

Cartridges contain varying degrees of nicotine, depending on your requirements, the idea being that you gradually reduce your intake before giving up completely.

Are they completely safe? Well, the liquid in the cartridges is propylene glycol, an additive that had been approved for use in food. Nicotine occurs naturally in foods, such as tomatoes and red peppers, where it’s actually thought to be quite good for you. Inhaling it into your lungs may be a different matter altogether, of course, and e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough to determine any effects from long-term use, but the fact is they are bereft of the substances in cigarettes that have been proven to kill you, which is good enough for me.

I was a bit suspicious when I saw people smoking these things. I was suspicious about some of the flavours they came in: cherry, Coca Cola, chocolate, cinnamon… surely this was just a daft fad. They couldn’t really emulate that feeling of clasping your laughing gear around the filter of a real cigarette and inhaling deeply, could they? I was about to find out when literally hundreds of the things landed on my desk for review in this article.

The real difficulty when attempting to give up smoking in the past, for me, has always been when I’m working. There’s something about writing that makes you want to get up, walk about, have a think, have a smoke – and yet, here I am, chuffing happily away on my e-cigarette at my desk. No itchy feet, no cravings. I haven’t had a real one for three days. I know that’s not long in giving up terms, but I never even intended to give up at all. These things really do hit the spot. And after three days of serious “vaping”, as my research tells me it’s called, here are my favourites.

#1 Sky Cigs

My personal favourite were Sky Cigs. They’re a good size and weight which means they feel like a proper fag, but most importantly they draw like a proper fag, and hit the back of your throat just how you like it. We were sent the refillable “Freedom Pack” and disposable versions, both good, although the flavours in the refillable versions are better, especially the “tobacco” flavour, which in the disposable version tastes a tiny bit like burnt toast.

Cartridges arrived in tobacco, tobacco gold, cherry gold and mint flavours and all – despite my initial reservations about the novelty flavours – were very pleasant. Battery life is good, considering how small they must be in order to give the light feel of a real cigarette. Freedom Packs come at the very reasonable price of £49.99 which includes two batteries, charger and five flavour cartridges, equivalent to 150 real cigarettes. After that, refill packs cost as little as £9.95 – a fraction of the price of normal smoking.


#2 E-lites The E-lites starter kit is a good price at £39.99 which will get you the equivalent of 200 cigarettes. I like the packaging which looks very much like that of a certain brand of cigarettes which was my favourite when I was a smoker, like, three days ago. The battery life is better than some of its competitors but comes at the expense of realism – the device feels heavy and the weight is front-loaded. The size is also a bit skew-whiff, being significantly longer and a bit thicker than a real cigarette. The range of flavours is disappointing too: just regular tobacco, light tobacco and menthol.


#3 Green Smoke

Like Sky Cigs Green Smoke are a good size and feel and come in a pleasant range of flavours, my favourite being the mocha flavour, which goes wonderfully with my morning mocha.

The vapour is very responsive when you drag, which makes for a realistic smoking experience. Their Pro Kit, at £62.97, is a little bit more expensive than Sky Gigs’, although there is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy, and it’s still much cheaper than smoking. The pack includes two batteries, a charger and 10 long-lasting cartridges (comparable to 15 packs of cigarettes).


#4 ProSmoke

ProSmoke e-cigarettes are a little bit different. For a start, their cartridges use a vegetable-based solution instead of Propolyene Glycol that’s less harsh on your throat and produces more vapour with each puff. They also come in a wide variety of crazy flavours available, such as passion fruit, apple and chocolate. Battery life isn’t great and the prices are market-middling, but the down side is they’re currently only available in the US, so you will have to pay for shipping.


Tags: Smoking, cigarettes