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Stocking Your Tool Box
By Stephen  “heavy” Haltom

 

My daughter has spent years as a student of the martial arts.   She has her Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and has cross-trained with some of the world’s greatest martial arts masters.  She attends weekly Black Belt Masters Classes, teaches two beginner classes a week and works out with both intermediate and advanced students.  Yet with all of this experience, she begins every class with basic kicks, basic blocks, basic punches and basic self-defense.  Why concentrate on the basic tools of martial arts?  Because while that Jackie Chan stuff looks great on film or at a tournament demo, most of it won’t work in a real fight.  You’ll only succeed in amusing the bad guys while they use you for batting practice.  It’s the basics of martial arts that keep you alive to fight another day.

No matter what your line of endeavor, there are certain basic tools you must have to ply your trade.  The same is true with gambling.  I call these tools the Super Seven.     Let’s open the tool box and take a brief look at them.

1.   Knowledge of the game. One of the silliest questions I hear people ask at the craps table is “How do you play this game?”  Standing at the table with your hard-earned cash at risk is not the time to learn.   Before placing your first bet you should have mastered all of the basic rules of the game, understand the terminology, have a working knowledge of the correct odds and pay-off, and be comfortable with both the pass and don’t pass sides of the game.

2.   Sufficient Bankroll. I like to think of my casino chips as bullets.  On the battlefield, if you run out of bullets you’re as good as dead.  That’s why it is important to build a sufficient bankroll before stepping into the casino.   You will always have limited funds to play with when your bankroll is compared to the casino’s.  The Pit Boss can roll out the reserves anytime by calling the cage and having the security boys bring out a chip refill.

Yet flukes do occur.  I have fond memories of standing at a $5 table at the Horseshoe one night when a player stepped up and bought in for $20.  He waited patiently for the dice to come to him, then placed $5 on the line and threw the nine.   He placed $10 in free odds behind the line and played a dollar each on all of the hardways.  Nineteen of his twenty dollars were on the table.  He held the remaining dollar tightly in his left hand, picked up the dice with his right and started the roll of a lifetime.  He threw the dice for an hour and twenty minutes before sevening out - without making the nine.  The shooter never made his pass, but he had managed to throw hardway after hardway, parlaying his bets at first, then leveling off at the $25 level and placing the numbers with his excess payoffs.  When the smoke cleared he colored up just over $3,600.  And he still had that single one dollar chip clutched in his right hand.

Of course, it’s a great story.  Statistically, the shooter should have either made his point or sevened out within four rolls of the dice.  Had the seven shown it would have been all over.  He’d have taken his last dollar and headed to the cage.  In this case, though, his bankroll didn’t let him down.  He got lucky.  He caught a streak. 

There are lots of ways you can use your “bullets” against the casino.  You can use them like artillary, playing those long shot bets, or a machine gunner raining chips all over the table.  Or, if you’re smart, you’ll launch a sniper attack, making every shot count.  But to stand any chance at all in these bankroll battles, you must have enough capital to start.   I’ll show you some simple strategies on how to build and maintain a bankroll -- and how to bet accordingly.

3.  Conservative Strategy.  My college professor friend loves to play marathon craps session.  Few things give him more pleasure than an eight-hour session at the tables.  But long sessions are not the gambler’s friend.  The casino’s edge will invariably grind you down.  The only way to survive these sessions over the long haul is to adopt an extremely conservative betting philosophy.  In my friend’s case that consists of a single Don’t Pass bet with single odds.   On every win he increases his odds bet by one unit, and continues to increase his odds bets by one unit until a loss.  Then he begins his progression again with single odds.  That’s it.  The whole thing.  And while he will never win a huge amount of money, he will rarely lose a large amount either.  He is patient and plays his strategy flawlessly, and it achieves exactly what he wants. 

You must approach the table with the same type of logically conceived, conservative game plan.  That doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to the pass line or don’t pass - or limit yourself to a single bet.  It simply means you step up to the table with a plan.  A strategy that allows you to adjust the size of your bets based on your bankroll, minimize your losses, and maximize your wins.  How?   By positioning yourself to take advantage of the gambler’s friend - the almighty streak.

4.  Money Management. I can only guess at how many times a player standing next to me at the table has pointed to a stack of chips on the layout and asked, “Is that my money?”   I’ve heard it hundreds of times through the years.  But money management is more than watching your bets.  As I mentioned before, you have to adjust the size of your bets in relation to the size of your bankroll.  But money management goes beyond that, as well.  It requires you to set specific win objectives and loss limits based on your total bankroll.  It means knowing exactly how much you will bet in every conceivable win/loss situation you encounter.  And it means having the self-discipline to execute those bets flawlessly.  In fact, I believe money management and self-discipline are the heart and lungs of winning. 

5.  Self Discipline. Most gamblers don’t have it.  Simply put, self-discipline is how you control your emotions while gambling.  A few months back I bought in at a table and -- by using good money management and discipline -- doubled my money in about forty-five minutes.  At the same time, the player next to me lost a little over $14,000.  He was drinking heavily and sweating the losses.  The more he lost the more he relied on crazy, scared-money wagers - $100 hop bets on two or three numbers every roll, and placing the hardways for $500 each.   As his losses mounted he became loud and abusive.  Unable to tolerate this behavior any longer, I colored up a $500 win and moved on.  At the same time, he was signing a marker for another $20,000.   He was pitting his bankroll bullets against the casino’s.  The house had him out-manned and out-gunned.  Everyone at the table could see he was destined to lose it all -- everyone except him.  As the old saying goes, you gotta know when to walk away -- and know when to run.

6.   The Almighty Streak.  Craps is a game of streaks. Streaks of Point - Seven Out.   Streaks of Point - Pass.  And, most often, choppy streaks where there is no dominant trend.  Since craps is a game of independent trials -- what happened on the last roll of the dice has no influence on what happens the next roll.  Predicting a trend is impossible.  However, you can recognize the current trend by looking for certain signs along the way. 

I liken it to long range weather forecasting.  If you live in Minneapolis it’s a safe bet to say it will snow in January.  However, if you say it’s going to snow the second week of January, the odds of your being wrong just went up.  Likewise, if you predict it’s going to snow on January 11th, you increase the likelihood that you will be incorrect.  And if you forecast that it will start snowing at 3:17 PM on the afternoon of January 11th - and will continue to snow for two hours and forty-three minutes - well, you get the picture.  

Oh the other hand, if you are standing outside and it starts to snow, you recognize immediately what is happening.  After it snows for half an hour you may think, “Hey, better run to the store and pick up a couple of things.  It looks like it’s going to stick.”  Two hours later, when it’s really coming down with no sign of letting up, you say “Better get the snow blower ready in case I need it in the morning.”  Every blizzard begins with a little flurry.

While you cannot predict how long a roll will last based on what went before, every forty-five minute monster starts out with a dozen tosses of the dice.   It moves on to the five-minute mark, then ten, fifteen, and twenty.   At some point virtually every player at the table recognizes what is happening and the layout fills up with chips.  They have spotted the almighty streak.  You must train yourself to recognize one as well.

7.   Winning Attitude. Let’s face it.  The only one who likes a loser is the casino.  And yet you hear people reinforcing a losing attitude at every turn.  The science of neuro-linguist-programming - NLP for short - teaches that you can actually program your mind for success through positive affirmations.  Yet so often we program ourselves for failure instead.

On a recent Vegas outing I walked into the casino and turned a quick $360 profit at the craps table.  Recognizing that the streak at that table was over, I colored up and strolled over to the Wheel-of-Fortune carousel to see if my companion was ready to go to dinner.  “Just a minute,” she said, shaking her coin cup.  “I just want to lose these last few dollars, then we can go.” 

Think about that.  How many times have you stood in the casino and heard someone say something similar?   They don’t expect to win - so they don’t.   They just stand there until they throw their last chip in.

Why do you gamble?  It’s not for entertainment - though often it is entertaining.  It's not so you can tip the dealers and show what a good loser you are.  You play to win.   It’s not just a goal.  It’s the only goal.  The rest of it -- the comps, the excitement, the roller-coaster thrill -- is all secondary.  You’re in the casino for one reason.  You want their money - and lots of it. 

Now get out there and get your share.

Back To Heavy On...

   

 

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