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Potholes on the Road to Success

If you live in the north-east, Spring not only brings fresh things to life, but it also gives birth to potholes and huge cracks as reminders of the winter that just passed.  That’s one of the reasons I like to be in the warmer climates during the colder months of the year.   I love skiing and hockey, but when the snow clears and grass is green, the huge gaping potholes bloom well before local gardens, so I like to avoid them until they are filled in.

That got me to thinking about some of the potholes and ruts that I’ve run into while playing craps while Precision-Shooting in recent years.  Fortunately, I haven’t hit too many, but they sure seemed huge, deep and costly at the time.

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I started out with a very light breakfast of café au lait and a croissant at the Boulangerie that is nestled amongst the French-styled shops.  It was a busy weekend, and the lowest table-limit available was $10.   I had previously enjoyed some accurate shooting here, so I took my spot at an otherwise crowded table. 

The dice were many players away from my position, so I whiled my time away on what was a very choppy table.  There was never more than one Pass Line win in a row, but then again, there were never more than two Don’t Pass winners in a row either.  Predictably both “sides” were being killed.  My bankroll fluctuated a little bit, but I was never down by more than $50. 

I was getting impatient, not so much because I wanted to shoot, which was also true, but moreover, because there was no discernable pattern that I could capitalize on.  When the dice finally came to me, I let a frustrated sigh of relief out.  Establishing the Point of 4, and backing it up with $30 in odds, I immediately bet my “$220 Inside” method, with the intent of regressing each bet down to $44 Inside after one hit.  Needless to say, I never got that far.  A quick 7-Out was all I had to show for that $260 loss.  Once more around the choppy table, my bankroll remained relatively stable until it was my turn again.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but another VERY quick $260 loss was enough to drive me out of the casino, and back to my suite for what in the past I would have thought of as an “un-needed” break.


Choppy tables combined with impatience, usually add up to unfocused and hurried shooting on my part.  The results are never good, and almost never profitable.  For that reason, if I find myself getting impatient, obviously I haven’t settled and focused myself, not only as a professional player, but also merely as an ADULT.   If I start to have childish impatience, that thought alone is usually enough to re-center me, if not I take a break.

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I have traditionally done exceptionally well on all of the tables here.  They have various sizes, but that hasn’t deterred my success.  It was my ninth time playing here, and the profit from each of my previous sessions had averaged over $1700, so I was expecting VERY GOOD things. 

My casino host had set me up with all the perks for staying and playing there: a decent suite, front-row tickets for Micheal Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, tickets to their Wheel of Fortune show at the MGM, tickets for the Tyson fight at the MGM, all the gourmet food I could handle, free Cuban cigars from George Hamilton’s Cigar Bar, even vouchers to the game arcade and unlimited roller-coaster rides. 

Though I was staying there, I always spread my playing action around.   I did fine at other houses, but for the three days at NYNY, I did LOUSY!  It wasn’t a matter of shooting opportunities, I had PLENTY of those.  But for 81 hands with the dice, I not only never made one Point, I didn’t hit one single, solitary 6 or 8 in all the time I threw in that casino over those three days! Yet I kept going back to their tables to try to prove myself right, and prove my fear wrong.   

How did that happen?  I have no idea whatsoever.  I was totally disgusted with my shooting.  I began to wonder if maybe I had “lost it”.  That is, lost the ability to accurately shoot the dice.  I would go to a neighboring casino like MGM, or Monte Carlo, or Excalibur or Luxor, and my faith and ability would be quickly restored.  Then I would wander back to NYNY to try again and again, but to no avail. 


I already knew that if my shooting wasn’t working somewhere, that I could easily switch houses.  That part turned out to be quite successful, but my ego kept leading me back to the place where all my failure and frustration were focused.  For those three days, every cent of profit that I made at the other casinos was viciously sucked-up by NYNY. 

If I had been willing to accept that one casino wasn’t working for me on this trip, but all the others were, then I would have had a bulging $8,300 profit in my pocket instead of a small loss.  Well, it was a small loss for my bankroll, but a HUGE loss to my ego.  After that trip, I took a couple of weeks off to really think about my battles with not only one set of tables in one casino, but more importantly, my battles with myself.  The effect of trying to prove myself “right” can be extremely costly.  Subsequent successful trips back to NY-2 provided incontrovertible evidence that it wasn’t a problem with the tables, it was a problem with ME and my ego.

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It was during COMDEX’99, when 250,000 computer guys flocked into town to see the Computer Dealer’s Expo.  It’s the largest annual convention/trade-show in Las Vegas, and the place is tightly-packed and harried.  Sometimes getting a cab or buffet lines can mean a two-hour wait.  Even with my own car, the normally heavy traffic of the Strip becomes totally grid-locked for up to eighteen hours each day.  Normally I avoid the city when a show like that is in town, but a shorter-than-expected set of meetings in Palm Desert, California saw me in town at the peak of that gathering.   I originally planned to stay Downtown at the Golden Nugget.  They, as well as nearly every other decent joint, was filled to capacity. 

My Casino Host at the GN gave me a lunch comp to the California Pizza Kitchen, and said that he would call around to see if there were any openings.  Over a passable meal at CPK, I thought that perhaps I would take the long drive up to Reno and spend some time there.  I had pretty much resigned my mind to that arduous journey when I checked back with him about one-hour later. 

He informed me that a senior-executive show participant at the Mirage had to leave town early and his suite would be empty by mid-afternoon.  It was mine for the taking if I choose.  After checking-in and freshening-up from my high-desert drive from California in a convertible, I was suitable ready to take a look at the tables. 

To my surprise, they weren’t as busy as I had anticipated.  I started play at one table with four other players.  None of them threw with any luck OR skill, and they were all on the darkside.  I threw a hand with 16 rolls, and followed it up on my next go-round with 21 rolls. 

By this time, they had been joined by their computer brethren, each still wearing their plastic-sheathed name and company tags from the show.  They all agreed that the “don’t” side was far superior to the “do” side, and they bet accordingly.  I never made much money on their tosses, but then I never lost any money on their tosses either, so I was unfazed by their whooping, hollering and high-five-ing when one of them 7-ed Out. 

When it was my turn to shoot, I was still the only one on the Pass Line.   The camaraderie of a shared mission against the lone “right-side” shooter was enough for even the box-man to say, “I don’t envy you Mr. X”.  I smiled and said, “This bothers me about as much as a cloudy day.”  I had another great hand, which ended after 19 rolls.  By the end of it they were booing, jeering and generally trying to throw off my concentration.   

I’m not easily spooked, and that irritated them even more.  By the time the dice came around again, the mean-spirited comments were beginning to bother me quite a bit, but I wanted to shoot one more time just so I could watch them LOSE!  Soon enough, the dice were in my hand.  I put out some huge bets because I was determined to kick their dicks in the dirt, and make a pile of money at the same time.  Sadly, a small pushing/jostling match with them and their drunken cohorts took place behind me just as the dice were leaving my hand.  Too late to put the dice back down, the die was cast, and all my bets were quickly swept up with the knock-out 7 punch.


Instead of focusing on my game, I was more interested in proving them wrong.   I wanted to have a little revenge on their bad behavior by “teaching them a lesson.”  Instead, the lesson was mine for the learning.  I still walked away with a profit, but I left about 30% of it with the casino on that final roll.  Now, if people truly irritate me, I take a break.  By the time I get back, they have usually lost all their money and they have simply evaporated as simply as my frustration has.

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I’m not easily muscled into anything.  I’m not the biggest, or the strongest, but I’m not easily intimidated, panicked or brow-beaten by ANYONE.  However, a couple of years back a long-time associate put a challenge in front of me that seemed too good to be true. 

Sammy (not his real name) has been a gambler for all of his life, and he’s been under federal indictment more times than most people have been in a church.  He runs with a bunch of old-time hoods from the New York/New Jersey area. 

All of my dealing with him had been legitimate, and he knew of my affinity to craps. Sammy came up with a plan to make some “serious” money honestly.   He and a couple of guys from his “crew” would accompany me to Vegas, where they would bet on my rolling, and produce a hefty profit for everyone.  I knew these guys as high-rollers, and they offered a 15% “commission” for everything that I won for them.  In theory this looked good. 

They wanted to start at someplace where they weren’t “known”.  So we avoided the obvious choices of MGM, Mirage, Caesars, Binion’s, etc.  They had called ahead and got the table limits at the Strat raised to their liking.  When we bought in, the boxman/floor-man immediately recognized and greeted me as old friends.   He had started out at the Plaza some year’s prior, and was working his way up the ladder here. 

Again, I’ll spare you the gory details, but my shooting was for shit!!!   Oh, I didn’t lose them any money, but I sure didn’t make them any.  I was never able to string together a long-enough hand to generate any level of real profit.  The rest of the posse kept looking at Sammy like he obviously had bet on the wrong horse.  Over a two-hour period, this went on until they all left in disgust.  I apologized to Sammy, as he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Hey it was worth a shot kid.”   

About ten minutes after they left, the dice came to me again.  I unleashed a string of numbers that amazed even me.  For seventy-two minutes I rolled and rolled and rolled like there was no tomorrow.  I was so tired both mentally and physically from shooting, I immediately headed back to home base that we had set up at Bally’s.  I ran into Sammy, but I didn’t have the courage to tell him about my epic roll.  He asked how I made out, and I just shrugged as if to say, “Hey it was worth a shot.”


Don’t try to prove anything to anyone but yourself, and even then, BE CAREFUL!  If someone says that they need you to make some money off of your shooting, or they want you to prove that you really are a skilled Precision-Shooter, or you want to impress friends or business associates: DON’T!  Play your own game to your own plan on your own time.  Otherwise, your motivation and focus will be on the wrong things at the wrong time.

I dug myself out of those potholes, and now I carefully avoid as many others as I can see on the road as I make my way to casino profit.

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

By: The Mad Professor

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