Living, Mindful Shooting ─ Part V
Each of us plays the mental
game by our own rules, depending on deep-seated ways of thinking and
living. Accordingly, some will be more drawn to exploring the mental side
of DI than others.
Whether we change our mind
in any particular way while perfecting our DI skills, how we might go
and what it means, are
personal things we discover for ourselves.
Toward an Ecology of the DI Mindset
Developing an appropriate,
practically oriented DI mindset requires effective stewardship not only
figuratively “between our ears,” but quite literally beneath our skin. In
Parts III and IV we’ve seen how proprioceptive awareness plays a
critical role in our DI skills because it bears on what we know about how
we move, feel,
and think. We simply can’t
escape always being under the influence of our own awareness, or any lack
thereof. Our self-image making mind is sometimes referred to as the
motoric ego―mind and body
combined to make us who we
The mental and physical
demands of advantage craps vary substantially from one moment to the
next. Most notably, we’re “within” delivering the toss one second, and
then we’re back “out” implementing our game strategy the next. In a
future installment, I’ll be talking more about how our physical skill
from this continual process
of repetitively modulating the focus of our attention. But for now, let’s
in mind that the ease with
which we shift gears among these different mental behaviors affects the
quality with which we accomplish each of them, and vice versa.
Motoric Understanding: A Brief Moment of
Our sense of our mechanics
and our observation of the dice remain paramount, of course. The feedback
from each shot is critical
and it is most vivid only for a very brief instant while it’s fresh
in our mind.
The clarity we’ve talked
about achieving is secured incrementally―one shot at a time―through
intermittent short bursts of “motoric understanding.” We not only come to
know how we toss, but we begin to sense it, too, without
thinking about it as much.
In the face of an iron-clad
guarantee that each of our turns with the dice always hastens its own
eventual demise, that recurring brief moment of understanding derived from
our toss fortifies our skill with the information and the inspiration
to survive for one more roll. But our attention on tossing is inevitably
interrupted with other concerns. There may be commotion and noise
distracting us. And even in the best
of circumstances we have to
attend to our wagers. Through it all, we have to stay in touch with what
we’re learning in the course of our turn with the dice and we always have
to navigate our emotions.
It’s That Balanced Attitude Thing Again
Thus, we’ve got to have a
relaxed enough overall attitude to keep from getting uptight about the
we inevitably run into.
We’ve got to keep our cool. But we’ve got to keep the fires burning at
the same time―we want easy access to that molten intensity we rely on for
executing each toss.
Thus, for a relaxed
attitude to support precision performance, it must remain informed
by the intensity of our engagement. Without intensity to draw on,
relaxation too easily degrades into a mere failure of full attention.
By the same token,
intensity without that feeling of effortlessness can quickly become rigid
and exhausting; we can find ourselves trying too hard.
Like a biological
eco-system sustained by the organisms competing for survival within it,
the DI mindset doesn’t long survive if any of its constituent parts is
allowed to commandeer an upper hand over the rest.
Spurious Thoughts When Shooting the Dice
Among the obstacles we
encounter, self-imposed distraction is one of the biggest, of
course. In Maddog’s excellent nine-part DI chronicles, Maddog’s
Journey, the problem was succinctly noted. Maddog wrote: “I’m
convinced that the quickest way for a DI to lose control of his toss
mechanics is to start thinking about his bets.” And then he concluded, “These
spurious thoughts are extremely disruptive.”
Maddog has identified something we need to be intimately familiar with:
Those disruptive thoughts of ours.
But the solution is not as
easy as shrugging and trying to look the other way. There’s always
another distracting thought lurking in the other direction. If we want to
manage our distracting thoughts, we’ve first got to know the beasts we’re
trying to appease. You’ve heard the sage advice about facing our own
demons. While I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize my thoughts as
demonic, they sure seem to have a helluva lot to do with “the devil”
popping up sometimes.
So let’s examine a little
further the problem of disruptive thoughts. Let’s see what other kinds of
thoughts and emotions―in addition to worrying about our wagers―might be
messing with our concentration, maybe
without our even knowing
Smile! It’s a
Wonderfully Complex Undersea World of Barely Conscious
Sometimes as I’m preparing
to shoot, I’ll realize that my mind has wandered and grabbed hold of some
pretty ridiculous “ideas.” I usually kind of smile inside because upon
realizing I’m distracting myself it’s fairly easy to just gently
regain focus. Realizing what’s going on serves as a kind of
anchoring point―a perfect reminder
to relax and get down to
Other times, however,
getting focused can be more of a struggle. Thoughts sometimes seem to be
swimming along without particular form. I can’t dispense with these
thoughts as easily, because I’m not fully aware of them. Instead, I can
just sense that I’m not completely settled in. And then, once I realize
I’ve been half-following a barely conscious, but definitely distracting
thought constellation, it seizes the opportunity to suddenly come into
full relief and spin itself out of control, taking me along for the ride.
Of course I don’t make quality tosses with such a diffused,
distracted, and tentative non-presence of mind.
What is it that is so
different about the thoughts we can just smile about and forget, compared
with the thoughts that succeed in unsettling our concentration?
To me, thoughts of every
kind seem to be routinely running a very slick under-cover
distraction-importing operation. They want to hijack our concentration
but avoid detection in order to ensure their own survival in spite of our
intentions to clear our mind. And when we resist paying them the
attention they seek, they’ll fight for it harder, cloaking themselves with
a ferocious quality of absolute urgency and importance. Naturally, we
either accord them our attention at that point, rather than staying
focused solely on our toss,
as we’d hoped to do, or
else we just feel frustrated knowing we’re subtly distracted.
The nerve of these guys!
Our clever minds
manufacture all kinds of machinations perfectly suited to calling
attention away from what we’re trying to do―which is just toss the
dice with an uncluttered mind. Concentration and intensity tend to “turn
up the volume” of everything in the mental landscape. Learning to
navigate a smooth course through the variegated mental substrate that
emerges is a challenge unto itself. As I learned to embrace this mental
dynamic more objectively rather than fight it, I began to see and
invariably enjoy the irony involved. So acknowledging pesky
thoughts without getting rattled about the momentary distraction they can
cause is a key step to reducing their grip, and easing ourselves back on
I Told You There Was a Party, But Did I
Mention It Was a Masquerade?
Here are some of the
thought-creatures that emerged in surprisingly vivid and sometimes amusing
as I first began focusing
with more intensity on every toss. Maybe some of them will seem familiar
First, there’s the
Meticulous Instructor, the quintessential distracter because of the
utter relevance of what he’s always talking about. He’s got
plenty of experience and lots of good ideas. I trust his
advice. “Not too much backspin. Don’t over correct. Square it up.
Remember your follow through. Lock on the target. Visualize your
trajectory.” The problem is that while my Instructor is busy reviewing
shot-making perfection, I can’t just toss.
Okay, think positive, I
just won’t mess up. Here goes.” With this
attitude, no wonder the Kid
out swinging on three
pitches to end the inning with the bases loaded, every time.
Then there’s the
Showoff, exhorting anyone within earshot to “get a load of this.”
He’s talented, and he knows it. He’ll show us how it’s done.
“You want a hard eight, pal? I’ll roll you a hard eight.” How his head
swells when I hit one of “his” shots. Bravado may feel
like it’s helping, but it’s a monumental distraction from where our
focus needs to be.
And there’s the Banker
that Maddog mentioned. He’s all business, and has only our best
interests in mind. “What about all that dough on the outside? Maybe we
should’ve pulled back before this shot. But then, we could really use a
nice win here―to make up for last night.” As we all know,
thinking about our wagering, or bankroll, or earlier sessions can be
among the most difficult of distractions to overcome.
Oops, let’s not forget
mom and dad―or is it our spouse, or a teacher or some other “role
model.” Especially if we’re falling a little behind―there they are,
arms folded, “Tsk, tsk! Why do we waste our time like this?
Consorting with ne’er-do-wells, pursuing such nebulous dreams. Surely,
ruin is lying
Here’s a tricky one.
It’s taken a real effort to realize that even my thoughts about
the mental game―and about expressing my thoughts about the mental
game―are all just another clever gambit of my thinking mind,
trying desperately to gain sway as I try instead to focus on shooting.
If you ever thought about a trip or practice report while tossing, you
know exactly what I mean.
And the Obsessive
Narcissist. This chump seems to think the world revolves only around
him; every little thing gets him totally bent. From grim-faced
dealers to the antics of other players, from the color and finish of the
dice to the style of the music in the lounge; he’s so focused on finding
something to make excuses about, he’s never comfortable.
Just try shooting with this guy hanging around your neck.
Uninvited thoughts. The
”crap” between our ears. It’s a bit of a paradox, but I found that my
initial efforts to increase my focus just on shooting ended up
increasing my awareness of the very kinds of thoughts and emotions I
wanted to keep from intruding on my game. It was that increased
awareness, however, that seemed to eventually open the door to more
relaxed and consistent shooting. As I became more familiar
with my own resistance, it
became manageable, and my shooting improved in ways I’d earlier only hoped
Inconsistent physical skill is the
result we should expect if spurious thoughts and their emotional
charge are allowed to steal the upper hand and muddy up the ecology of our
DI mindset. It’s especially true if we’re just so laissez-faire that we
don’t even realize how they’re affecting our shooting.
Next time around, we’ll
look at a number of things some shooters have reported helping them to
achieve a quiet, shooter’s mind. I’ll describe a method or two I’ve found
helpful for jump-starting the process right at the practice rig. We’ll
further consider how mental convergence leads to skill emergence.
In the meantime, if your
dice game already has you hearing voices, don’t worry. You might not
really be losing your mind. It may just be the storm before the calm.
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