We studied the relationship between the degree of portal hypertension measured by the gradient between wedged and free hepatic venous pressures, the size of esophageal varices, and the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding in a series of 100 unselected patients with alcoholic cirrhosis. The degree of portal hypertension was not different in patients with no visible, in those with small-sized, and in those with large-sized, esophageal varices. The degree of portal hypertension was not different in patients without and with gastrointestinal bleeding, whether the source of hemorrhage was ruptured varices or acute gastric erosions. The risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, whether due to ruptured varices or acute gastric erosions, was significantly higher in patients with large-sized, than in those with no visible or small-sized, esophageal varices. It is concluded that, in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, (a) the degree of portal hypertension has no predictive value for the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and (b) large-sized esophageal varices are associated with a high risk of occurrence or recurrence of gastrointestinal bleeding and could be taken into account for a better selection of patients for portacaval shunt.