Finding Discipline When You Have None

I suppose we should get the bad news out of the way first.

No one can teach you discipline. It has to come from within.

What do I mean by discipline as regards to gambling in general, and specifically to casino craps? Simply put, it’s how you manage your emotions at the table. Do you get pissed and start chasing your losses when the casino has “your” money? If so, you have an anger-related discipline problem. When you get lucky and double your bankroll do you color up and call it a session or continue to play until you lose your winnings plus a portion – if not all – of your buy in? If that’s you, you have a greed-related discipline problem. Or how about those times when you hang in there too long trying to toss a long hand to impress your friends? Yeah, if that’s you you have an ego-related discipline problem. Wow. Thanks a lot, right?

Well, no one is going to beat you up over it anywhere near as much as you’ll beat yourself up. So just fall back on the words of the great Lyle Stuart (Casino Gambling for Winners) and remember “It’s not you against the casino – it’s you against you.”

With that said, let’s talk about some gimmicks you can use that will help you teach yourself a little discipline. We’ll call the first one the “three strikes” method. It’s really pretty simple. Any time you lose money on three consecutive shooters you are going to end that session. Period. You track it by placing three $1 chips on the left side of the back rail. Carefully evaluate where you are from a win/loss standpoint after every decision. After a shooter sevens out determine if you made a profit on his hand. If so, the $1 chips stay on the left side of the rack. But if you suffered a loss then one of the chips slides over to the right side of the rack. If you lose on the first shooter, then turn a profit on the second shooter then the chip moves back to the left side of the rack. But if you lose on the second shooter then a second chip slides over to the right. Let’s say you’ve lost two, then win one. What next? If you win one you’ll move one chip back to the left but the initial chip remains on the right. You’ll have to win two in a row to move it back to the left. And if all three chips end up making the journey from the left to the right then you have to end your session and leave the casino. Period. This is a simple and fairly effective method of tracking your wins and losses – as well as the table trend.

Another method is one I’ve discussed in the previous newsletter articles. It’s Sam Grafstein’s $30 per shooter strategy. Assuming ten players at the table Grafstein would use a $300 buy-in and break it down into ten stacks of $30. He allowed himself $30 to be on each shooter and he fed all his wins into the back rail. Then, after the dice had made one circuit of the table he would determine if he had reached his loss limit or win goal. If he’s reached either he ended his session.

One of the earliest discipline strategies I taught required the player to divide his bankroll, putting half of his table stake in the front rack and half in the back rack. All winnings were placed in the back rack with the “reserve” bankroll. All bets were made from the front rack. When the chips in the front rack are exhausted you count up the back rack to determine if you’ve made a profit or reached your loss limit. If you’ve reached either it’s time to color up and leave the casino.

A pal of mine uses a different approach. His is time-bound. He wears a digital watch and, at the beginning of his session, sets the alarm to go off in one hour. When his alarm goes off he announces that he has a dinner reservation or a meeting to go to. Then he colors up and leaves. Win or lose – he leaves the game. More often than not he walks away a winner.

In the era of cell phones it’s easy enough to do the same thing. Set the alarm on your cell phone to go off after one hour. When it rings, step back from the table and pretend to answer it. Then hang up and color up, telling anyone who is interested that you have an emergency. Your wife just called and she’s about to go shopping. That’s a loss you can’t afford. It’ll garner a laugh as you color up and head to the cage – hopefully with a profit.

Bottom line – to instill discipline in yourself you have to teach yourself to walk away from the game regardless. Once you learn to walk away a winner – you’ll have a much better idea of when to run.