The efficacy of linkage studies using microsatellites and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was evaluated. Analyzed data were supplied by the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). Alcoholism was analyzed together with a simulated trait caused by a gene of known position, through a nonparametric linkage test (NPL). For the alcoholism trait, four densities of SNPs (1 SNP per 0.2 cM, 0.5 cM, 1 cM and 2 cM) showed higher peaks of NPL z scores and smaller significant p-values than the usual 10-cM density of microsatellites. However, the two highest densities of SNPs had unstable z score signals, and therefore were difficult to interpret. Analyzing a simulated trait with the same markers in the same pedigrees, we confirmed the higher power of all four densities of SNPs compared to the 10-cM microsatellites panel, although the existence of other confounding peaks was confirmed for maps that are denser than 1 SNP/cM. We further showed that estimating the gene position using SNPs is far less biased than using the usual panel of microsatellites (biases of 0–2 cM for SNPs vs. 8.9 cM for microsatellites). We conclude that using dense maps of SNPs in linkage analysis is more powerful and less biased than using the 10-cM maps of microsatellites. However, linkage signals can be unstable and difficult to interpret when several SNPs are genotyped per centimorgan. The power and accuracy of 1 SNP/cM or 1 SNP/2 cM may be sufficient in a genome-wide linkage scan while denser maps may be most useful in fine-gene mapping studies exploiting linkage disequilibrium.