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The Crap Between Your Ears
By Stephen  ďheavyĒ Haltom

 Never underestimate how difficult it is to concentrate on your precision toss under live casino conditions.  When numbers keep rolling the table fills up with other players.  Most have no idea of proper table etiquette. 

You will be bumped and jostled.  Money and chips will rain on the layout.  A prop bettor will hold up the game arguing over a dollar hardway wager that got knocked off three rolls earlier.  A little-old-lady playing the quarter slot machine next to the craps table will hit the jackpot.  Half-naked cocktail servers will tap on your shoulder and offer you drinks.  The house shill will blow cigar smoke in your face. 

The box man will try to strike up a conversation with you while the dealer under-pays one of your bets. None of these things can be allowed to cloud your mind.  They must be put on another plane of existence.  You are in the zone.   You see nothing but the dice, the table, and the back wall. 

Sports psychologists teach professional athletes how to attain a mental edge for peak performance.   Precision shooters can benefit from the research that has been plowed into this science.  There are many popular books on the subject available from your favorite bookstore.  Most revolve around a common five-step process. 

First of all, you must define your desire.  One personís desire might be to have a once-in-a-lifetime 90-minute roll.  Another might wish to reduce his sevens-to-rolls ratio from one-in-six to one-in-twelve.  You might have a win objective in mind - say winning an average of $100 every time you step up to the craps table. 

Or your vision might be for the things that money can buy - a new car, the latest high-tech toy, a special trinket for the love of your life.  Whatever the desire, you must define it and fix it permanently in your mind.  Write it down to further imprint it on your subconscious.  Review it daily to keep it fresh and alive for you.  So step one is to define your desire, write it down, and review it daily.

Step two is keyed to one of the most powerful words in the world.  The word is imagine.   Imagine yourself achieving your desire.   Create a mental picture of yourself at the tables.  Envision the bets on the layouts, the dealers making the payoffs, the joy on the faces of the other players.  Picture yourself pre-setting the dice, then gripping and delivering them precisely down the table.   Pay the line.  Take the doníts.  Run your thumb across the growing stacks of chips in your rack.  Imagine yourself a winner.  Visualization is mental practice for what lies ahead.  Olympic downhill racers call is ďsee and ski.Ē  And that is exactly how you should prepare for precision shooting.

Step three goes hand in hand with step two.  Control your self-talk by replacing negative affirmations with positive ones.  What is a negative affirmation?  Itís that tiny voice in your head that says You canít do that.  Just lose another hundred, then quit.  The seven is going to roll next.  Nothing has any power over you unless you give it power through your conscious thoughts.  Think you canít execute a precision roll?  You wonít.  Believe youíre going to lose another hundred?  You will.  Convinced the seven is going to roll next?  Call your bets off and hop it.  Train your mind to accept only positive thoughts.  Youíre the best shooter in the house.  Youíre not going to be greedy.  Youíll just win a thousand - then quit for the night.   Positive affirmations condition the mind to accept winning.  William Shakespeare said it best.  ďOur doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

Step four is building on your previous successes.  Of course, to do this you will have to keep records.  These records are the benchmark of your success.  As you strive to master precision shooting you will have a lot of good rolls and an occasional great one.  After every great roll it is important to take a break from play and analyze what went right.  What were you doing differently than on other occasions?  Were you using a different pre-set?  Was your physical stance different?  Did you modify your grip?  What signature numbers developed during your roll?  Burn the answers into your mind.  Make them part of your daily visualization exercise.  Strive to recreate the moment every time you step up to the table.   

Step five builds on the previous four steps as you learn to focus on the moment at hand.  This is the step we alluded to in the opening of this article.  The precision shooter ultimately strives to reach a Zen state commonly referred to as the zone.  For this individual, nothing exists but the dice, the table, and the roll.   

Last of all letís talk about three things you should have learned from your mother.  Eat right.  Avoid alcohol and drugs.  Get plenty of rest.   Sound familiar?  Virtually every gambling book ever written contains the same recommendation.

People tend to fall into two categories when it comes to casinos and food.  One group never leaves the gaming tables for the dinner tables.  Their entire caloric intake comes from the olives in their cocktails.  The other group hits every restaurant on the property; the coffee shop for breakfast, the buffet for lunch, and the gourmet steak house for dinner.  Either extreme can work against you.  Skipping meals wreaks havoc with your metabolism and your mental edge.  Over indulging can make your blood sugar skyrocket or plummet.   The post-pasta crash can leave you groggy as a six-pack of Guinness.  Learn to manage your diet for maximum energy at the times you need it.  Remember that food is just fuel for your body.  Top the tank early and often with small, well balanced, nourishing meals.   Both your game and your health will be better for it.

There is a reason why the drinks are free for players.  It has nothing to do with the casinoís good will.  It has everything to do with stacking the odds in the houseís favor.  If you are knocking back beer after beer you are not playing at your peak.  Alcoholic beverages of any kind serve to cloud your mind and impair your mental faculties.  When gambling, your drink of choice should be bottled water.   The one exception to this might be an occasional cup of decaffeinated coffee.  You say you feel like you need the caffeine?  Then you donít need to be standing at the table.  You are not mentally sharp enough to be in the game.  Take a break and go to the coffee shop.  The table will still be open when you return.

How many times have you checked into a casinoís hotel, then rushed down to play without even unpacking your bags?  How many times have you lost half your bankroll on day one of a three-day outing?  Ever wonder why?  The simple fact is the first two hours after checking into the casino hotel are the most dangerous to your bankroll.  Perhaps you flew halfway across country to get to Vegas.  Or maybe you fought freeway traffic for three-and-a-half hours to get to the boats.  No matter how you get there, most players are too tired to be mentally on top of the game immediately upon arrival.  The rush to play becomes the rush to lose. 

To avoid these disasters establish a few strict ground rules for yourself and stick with them.  Have a light snack in the coffee shop.  Go for a swim and relax by the pool for an hour.  Drop by the spa for a quick massage.  Make love with your significant other.  Catnap on the sofa.   Find something other than gambling to do for those first two hours. 

Then, when you do go to the casino? Donít be in a rush to play.  Walk around and survey the layout of the property.  Is the roulette wheel open?  Are there any obvious trends worth investigating?  Find out who the hot players in the casino are by striking up a conversation with the pit staff or a dealer at an empty table.  Then take up a position where you can chart the craps tables for a trend worth investing in.   Then and only then should you consider buying into a game.    

Thereís more to dice control than the pre-set, grip, pick-up and delivery.  Thereís also the game thatís played between your ears.  As with any other game, you have to prepare a strategy.   And when preparation meets opportunity - luck happens.

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