Those of you who have attended my seminars or purchased the seminar DVD probably recall me talking about the Three “C’s” of a Good Grip of the dice. It’s a grip that provides Comfort, Control, and Consistency. But when it comes to precision shooting there’s a Fourth “C” you have to master as well and that’s what I want to talk about in this article. It’s Concentration.
Imagine yourself at your favorite shooting position. It’s roll 57 – your best hand to date – and the chips are piling up. Your six and eight are up to $1200 each, and the high roller straight out just tossed out a “$100 hard eight for the shooter.” The stick man sends the dice – already pre-set to the V-3. You take a deep breath, let it out, set, and grip the dice. And just as you’re about to toss them you hear the stick call at the next table, “Seven out – line away.” You bobble, the dice slip from your fingers, the left die leads the right to the wall and double pitches. You roll a perfect on-axis 3-4 seven.
Just about every precision shooter around has experienced something similar. You are focused on tossing anything but the seven. When the seven shows up your disappointment turns quickly to frustration. And next time the dice come to you, you find yourself distracted by every stick call at every table within shouting distance. You’ve lost your ability to concentrate – and with it you’ve lost your edge.
The human mind processes hundreds of bits of sensory information every second. It’s no wonder that we have trouble focusing. But good concentration is a mental skill anyone can develop. Precision shooters at the top of their game often talk about playing in the zone, on autopilot, or seeing good pictures. This trance-like “zone state” is when you are concentrating in the moment and experience a distortion in your sense of time. Everything seems to slow down and you can focus on the present moment easily and naturally. At the same time, your mind has speeded up and you react intuitively to the situation with total confidence.
Here are seven ways to practice to improve your concentration:
1. Focus on the positive not the negative. Pick your landing zone and visualize the soft loft of your toss. See the dice rotating on axis, softly striking in your landing zone, and rolling your number. Become a “sure shot.
2. Have a game plan. In order to get into – and stay into a focused state, you absolutely must have a game plan. If it calls for setting the V-3 and running six and eight progressions, you must know our wagers and payoffs by rote. If your plan is to play hit, regress, and down you must know exactly where you are profit-wise on every hand. You must rehearse your plan to the point that it becomes second nature and you don’t have to think about it. Thinking about it takes your out of the zone.
3. Be aware of distractions, but don’t let them distract you. Let’s face it. Distractions in the casino are commonplace. The noise, lights, players, dealers, and beverage servers are all constants around the table. The real distraction comes when your inner voice acknowledges these distractions and brings them to your attention. Control your “self talk” and you’ll control the distractions.
4. Establish a precise pre-toss routine. Golfers have known this for years. They walk around the ball, stretch, address the ball, waggle – and they do it the same way over and over and over. Using the same routine every time requires discipline until it becomes a habit. But without a good routine your results are going to be inconsistent and erratic. I set the dice, grip them, tap them twice on the felt, and then toss them. Dice Coach sets the dice, stretches his fingers, then grips the dice and tosses them. Irishsetter “dries” his fingertips on the front of his shirt before setting and tossing the dice. In all three cases, we are creating a series of movements and sensory feelings that help “program” our minds and bodies to execute the “perfect” toss.
5. Be decisive. An excellent step to add to your pre-toss routine is to add a “Decision Line.” Looking down the table, the Pass Line is your Decision Line. When the stick person sends the dice out, you do not reach beyond the Decision Line to pick up the dice until you are absolutely certain where and how you are going to toss the dice. And if anything distracts you after you reach beyond your Decision Line, set the dice down, ask the stick to take them back to the middle and give you new dice while you refocus your mind and repeat your pre-toss routine.
6. Narrow your focus to the present toss. A couple of time through the years we’ve talked about “putting on the blinders.” That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. If your mind is crowded with too many thoughts and is busy seeking solutions, you will be indecisive and not clear on what you want to create. So the first step in concentration is to quiet your mind and narrow your focus on the present toss.
7. Pay 100% attention to your preparation. The things you nurture are the things you grow. If you want to grow in the game, give it more attention. The more you focus your attention on what you are doing, the less important the other outside details and events become. The easier it becomes to concentrate. Concentration is an art. It is also a choice. When you focus on executing your pre-toss routine precisely the same way every time, concentration just happens. Then there is no worry, no anxiety and you are in total control.
Last of all, I’m going to give you an out for those occasions when you find yourself in this situation at the table and just can’t seem to refocus on the task at hand. Take a deep breath, focus on the other end of the table, then toss the dice completely over the rail and onto the casino floor. The stickman will call “No roll – both dice down outside.” At that point you say, “Same dice requested.” Then you stand there, refocus and re-center while the floor person chases down the dice, the boxman inspects them, then they get dropped back on the table and get pushed back to you. By then you should be back in the zone and good to go. And most importantly – you were in charge the entire time.