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No Sweat? Not always!29 September 2005
The Captain of Craps, the legendary Atlantic City player I have written about in The Craps Underground: The Inside Story of How Dice Controllers Are Winning Millions from the Casinos!, once explained to me his theory on how much a person should bet at whatever game he wishes to play in order to experience a high degree of thrill with a low chance of having a heart attack and an even lower chance of being totally bored.
Casino gambling for the recreational player should be a "manageable thrill." The Captain stated that a typical casino blackjack player playing for matchsticks or pennies would get bored rather quickly, since no hand really meant that much to him - losing had no sting; winning had no jolt. But, if he bet $500 a hand, he might find himself sweating profusely as he saw his rent money or food money going out the window on a sustained series of losses. He might, quite literally, drop dead from anxiety. In the case of the $500 better, the emotions would range from dread at losing to relief at not losing. Where's the fun in that?
The Captain's theory of a "manageable thrill" came down to a simple formula: The bets you make have to be large enough to make it worth wanting to win, but small enough to make losing them not cause you to think of all the things you could have bought had you not lost. That was your "thrill zone" - the range of betting that had meaning, win or lose, but was not really hurtful to your emotional or economic life.
Often players will bet a certain amount when they first start a game, but gradually increase their bets until they hit the "sweat zone" as the Captain calls it. The sweat zone is the place where the bet becomes uncomfortable to think about. Many craps players hit the sweat zone after several presses of their bets. Worse, a careful shooter who is having a good roll will sometimes start to think more about the money at risk than about shooting the dice in a relaxed and controlled manner. This makes shooting the dice no longer a thrilling exercise for the player but an agony. What if I roll a seven? What if I lose? Look at all that money! Baby needs a new pair of shoes!
There's no doubt the average casino player is a thrill seeker. Going up against Lady Luck is a roller coaster ride where your money and your emotions go up and down, up and down. For many people, going on roller coasters is a delight - but it isn't a delight if you've had a big meal and become sick to your stomach. Betting too much at a casino game is the equivalent of going on a roller coaster with a full belly. It could become a sickening experience for you and for others watching you. Then again, going on the boats that go around and around, ringing the bell, might not be thrilling enough.
Interestingly enough, I have also noticed similar phenomena among some card counters, people who play with an edge over the casinos. They may start their betting at $25 but when the count calls for it, they have to move that bet up, sometimes a lot. At a certain point, and even with that edge over the casino to boot, these card counters will begin to sweat their action. The escalation of their bets has gotten their hearts pounding and they are now entering the sweat zone. Losing such large amounts, amounts actually measured in emotions and not cash, has made what up to that point had been a pleasant pastime into an emotionally wrenching moment.
I once entered the sweat zone in the early 1990s when I found myself betting several thousand on two hands that I had split, resplit and doubled down on those resplits. The sweat literally poured out of me and one drop went right down my nose and landed on my cards as the dealer turned over a 16, hit it with a 5 and wiped me off the board. Plop, drop, and I was monetarily and emotionally soaked.
The fact is no amount of rationalizing can really stop a person from entering the sweat zone because the dimensions of that sweat zone are deeply rooted in the unconscious mind. Many of us have no control over where the sweat zone starts - it's just there! I knew a skilled blackjack player, worth millions in his businesses, who just couldn't handle a bet over $50. He used to talk about the fact that he should be able to bet ten times that amount, especially when the count favored him, but for some reason, $50 was his emotional limit. Over that and he became anxiety ridden.
Gaming writers love to talk about strategies, house edges, and bankroll requirements but rarely do we discuss the emotional bankroll that a person must have to bet at this or that level. A red chip player might wish he could play at the green level, might even be able to objectively afford to, but he just can't bring himself to do it. His hands start to tremble as he pushes out the chips. If this happens to you at a certain betting level, don't make the bet! If you know this about yourself then be content to bet within your thrill zone and don't attempt to push the envelope. It isn't worth the consternation, second-guessing, and self-flagellation such an action would cause you.
The Captain had, from years of experience, learned that some bets just aren't worth making, even bets where you might have an edge, if the fear of loss becomes so overwhelming that the act of making the bet becomes an act of anguish.
Some philosophers have speculated that man is composed of three parts: mind, body and spirit. To enjoy casino gambling, all three of those components should be utilized. Your mind should tell you which are the best bets to make; your spirit should enjoy the contest; and your body will let you know when you've gone overboard because it will start sweating!
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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