No Sweat? Not always!
Keeping yourself in the “Thrill Zone”
by Frank Scoblete
In my book The Craps Underground: The Inside Story of How Dice Controllers Are Winning Millions from the Casinos!, I wrote about a legendary Atlantic City player known as the Captain of Craps. He once explained to me his theory on how much a person should bet at their favorite game in order to experience the highest amount of thrills without taking unreasonable risks.
He answered that 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 bettor, 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 so that losing them doesn’t make you think of all the things you could have bought with that money. That was your “thrill zone”: the range of betting that had meaning, win or lose, but wasn’t really hurtful to your emotional or economic well being.
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 pressing their bets several times. 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 an exercise in excitement but in 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 that the average casino player is a thrill seeker. Going up against Lady Luck is a roller coaster ride where your money and your emotions race up and down, up and down. For many people, going on roller coasters is a delight-but not 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.
Interestingly, I have 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, even with their edge over the casino, these card counters will begin to sweat their action-their hearts start pounding, and what was once a pleasant pastime becomes truly gut wrenching.
I once entered the sweat zone in the early 1990s when I found myself betting several thousand dollars on two hands that I had split, resplit and then doubled down on. The sweat literally poured out of me; 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.
No amount of rationalizing can really stop a person from entering the sweat zone, because the dimensions of the zone are deeply rooted in the unconscious mind. Many of us have no control over where the sweat zone starts. 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 ridden with anxiety.
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 a certain level. A red-chip player might wish he could play at the green level-and might be able to 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 actions would cause you.
The Captain had learned through years of experience 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 creates 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 bets are the best to make; your spirit should enjoy the contest; and your body will let you know when you’ve gone overboard. You’ll know you’ve hit that point when the sweat starts pouring.
Frank Scoblete is the No. 1 best-selling gaming author in America and an instructor in the new Golden Touch Blackjack course. His websites are www.goldentouchcraps.com, www.goldentouchblackjack.com and www.scoblete.com in association with CasinoCity.com. His newest books are The Craps Underground: The Inside Story of How Dice Controllers Are Winning Millions from the Casinos! and Casino Gambling: Play Like a Pro in 10 Minutes or Less! For a free brochure, call toll-free 800/944-0406 or write to: Paone Press, Box 610, Lynbrook, NY 11563.