When I teach my Golden Touch Craps dice-control classes, I make a point of explaining that dice-control is both a physical skill and a mental discipline. I believe the mental aspect of the game is every bit as important as learning the proper physical techniques.
By way of analogy, a fighter with superb skills will sometimes get his block knocked off by an inferior opponent because ?his head wasn?t in the fight.? The two fights that heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis lost were just such occasions. His opponents caught Lewis with, not his pants, but his mind down and knocked him flat. In rematches, a focused Lewis destroyed both opponents.
We sometimes say that athletes who ?let their minds down? have been ?psyched out? by their opponents. Mike Tyson tended to have his opponents in just such states of mind, making them easier to throttle. The fighters who did not let Tyson psyche them out beat him and beat him soundly. Most fighters who fought Tyson knew how to fight, had practiced endless hours in the gym honing their skills, only to walk into the ring and wham! lights out!
It?s not only in boxing or athletics that we can let our minds down, but in all aspects of life that require us to put ourselves on the line. If you have to make an important speech about a subject that you have full knowledge of, you can find yourself at the podium ahing and uhming, stammering and sweating, mumbling and fumbling, until your audience is lost or completely tuned out. You have no doubt heard the expression ?his mind wasn?t in it? and it?s equally important corollary ?his heart wasn?t in it.? If your mind and heart aren?t in it, God help you! I would hate to be under the knife with a surgeon who was exhibiting an absent mind and an equally absent heart.
A slight dropping of the mind therefore can make a seasoned boxer get knocked out, a veteran stage actor or actress forget his or her lines and stand frozen like a deer in the headlights, and a knowledgeable lecturer become a blithering buffoon. Ernest Hemingway, one of America?s greatest writers, talked about ?grace under pressure,? or the ability to perform when the chips were down and the spotlight was on you.
This is precisely what happens when the stickman passes you the dice for your Come-Out roll and everyone all around the table starts putting down their hard-earned money on the Pass Line in the hopes that you?ll take them to craps nirvana. You?ll note that some players attempt to pretend that this doesn?t have any effect on them by acting nonchalant and just desultorily flinging the dice down the table as if they don?t care at all what the outcome of the roll will be. Others are so intense that a seven-out is cause for cursing and wallowing in guilt and recriminations (?if only the dealer had passed the dice to me with the 3/5 on top!?) that last through the rolls of subsequent shooters. Neither of these two types of players can be a long-term winner at craps, the first because he doesn?t even want to win, the second because he wants to win too badly.
How strong are the powers of the mind?
A recent research study reported by Jamie Talan in Newsday discussed the ?biology of meditation? and its implications. The findings were breathtaking to say the least. Researchers discovered that individuals who had undergone an eight-week course in meditation, when given flu shots, ?had a more robust antibody response to the flu shot than the non-meditators.? In short, their immune systems worked better. In a test of a Buddhist monk?s ability to maintain a meditative state even with disruptions, ?hooked to lab devices, the trained monk was asked to fall into a meditative state and, when the sound of a gun burst through the room, he did not startle. On the machines the recording of his brain was calm and balanced.?
That monk would make one heck of a controlled shooter at craps! No amount of noise would disturb his relaxed concentration, his form would be precise, and his results would be excellent.
But you don?t have to be a Buddhist monk to learn how to ?tame the wild monkey? as the mind is known in some philosophies. With practice players can get themselves into such meditative states, often called the ?zone? by craps players, where they are aware of what they are doing but relaxed and unfazed by anything that is happening around them. In such mental states, great performances are possible; great rolls a matter of course.
Controlling performance means having complete control over your body. Can such a thing be achieved? In a PBS documentary I saw about a year ago, several scientists studied a group of monks in the Tibetan mountains. It seems these monks claimed to be able to go up into the mountains for an overnight ?sleepover? wearing nothing but a ?wet blanket! Yes, in 20 degree below zero weather, with the cameras rolling, these monks went into the mountain, started meditating and not only didn?t die but were able to make those frozen blankets stay wet and then actually dry them with their body heat. The scientists studying these fellows had wired them up to judge their body temperature and it seemed that the monks had somehow, through their meditation, achieved control of their autonomic nervous system, in particular their heat regulating process. Their body temperatures went up as the outside temperatures went down! And they stayed up all night long.
Again, a craps player attempting to control the dice and looking to perform at peak doesn?t have to dry wet blankets on a windy, brutally cold Tibetan mountaintop, or not be taken aback by gunshots fired near his head. What he does have to do is keep his mind contained and focused on the task at hand. That task, while mechanical and rote, can only be executed with precision if the craps player?s mind is ?in the game.? However, knowing that the mind has the capacity to do extraordinary things helps all of us try to learn those methods that prevent us from being ?psyched out? and losing our money when we roll the dice.
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