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Some Assembly Required  
BY:  Michael Vernon

What I am about to share is not so much a secret as overlooked and forgotten elements of gaming strategy. It seems that there is not enough coverage written on this ignored subject. It reminds me of the enclosed directions when, “some assembly is required”. I tear into the box, barely glancing at the neatly folded directions written in five different languages, and proceed with the assembly on my own. After a while, I discover a problem. I have not put things together in the proper order. Because I have incorrectly snapped a section together, I am unable to fit the next piece without breaking apart what I have already accomplished. So it is with craps and disciplined play. Once discipline is abandoned, you do not get a second chance to reassemble a mistake.  
 
Discipline: No one can make you play with discipline. Discipline is self-imposed action. It sounds simple enough, and like the paper directions, discipline is often quick to be discarded. The casino manipulates the player subtly and blatantly. Self-control is essential for long term success. What do you have control over? You have control of when you play, how long you play, how much money you put on the line and the environment you will accept for playing. Engage discipline and you have control.  
 
When you play: You should be at your best, sharp as a tack. Be well rested and mentally prepared to focus on the game. Drinking is discouraged. Play your game right, and you will win an adequate amount for drinks, dinner and a show later. Emotionally, you must be centered, not unbalanced by “shoulds” and peer pressure. Do not play if you are angry or otherwise upset. Pick times to play when you will not have an end time constraint. To play a game just before a flight or another appointment would not be my choice. I prefer at least a four-hour window. Play when you feel free to play. One never knows how long a session may take. It can be brief or you may be in for the long haul. The idea of a deadline restriction can cause you undue anxiety to play in a game that you were better off avoiding.  
 
How long you play: How long you play depends on several factors, stamina, and bankroll and of course the direction of the game. I have won 43 units in twelve minutes and have played four hours just getting back to even. The longer you play the more exposure you have to the negative odds. There are numerous distractions in a casino, all tugging on your energy. I find that after a couple of hours standing at the table my focus and awareness begins to wane. Take a break with the first sign of fatigue. The tendency for the weekend warrior is to get in as much action as possible. Big mistake! It is better to be patient and have a plan for your sessions with designed breaks. It is better to be selective and cautious in the front end than wishing you had employed more discipline on the flight home. Remember, being in control, is how to eliminate the losing sessions.  
 
Once in a game, play alert to the direction of the game. Just because you have been in the game for only a short time does not mean you have to stand there and slug it out in a losing cause. There has to be some positive energy or financial encouragement to hang with a game. If not, have the discipline to walk. Have the courage to leave a game. Do not allow desperation to affect your desire to play.  
How much you play: How much you play is a factor of your total bankroll and your comfort with the table minimum. Never engage games under bankrolled. Never play over your head financially. Most players enter a craps game under bankrolled. Simply stated, they do not buy in with enough capital to support the kind of action that they intend to play. Playing craps requires a lot more capital than other games. Few players recognize this fact. I teach my students to think of each bet as a separate investment. As such, each bet has its own appropriate bankroll. There are numerous opinions on this one. I suggest ten times the unit bet for each bet wagered. A $5 pass line player with double odds, that also likes to place bet the six and eight for $12 each, would buy in for $390. This provides the player with two critical aspects of the game: 1.) Having enough capital invested to engage the game for a reasonable chance at profit. 2.) Providing a palatable built in “stop loss”. Limiting loss protects you from ruin. The over all bankroll is protected as well as the emotional bankroll.  
 
Reaching into the pocket to pull out more cash is chasing a loss. It is metaphysically and psychologically weak to buy in under bankrolled and then pull money from your pocket. It is smarter to put it all out, fully capitalized. Never forget you have the discipline to walk away at any time. Walking takes discipline and it is the player’s best defense. Never be afraid to pick up your chips and walk. You do not have to stand there and play it all away. You are in control and you can quit anytime.  
 
Where you play: You should play at a casino you enjoy and one where you feel comfortable playing. It is important to perceive a sense of honoring and appreciation not only from the establishment but from the employees as well. Chasing around for a game burns energy. I say, “stay where you like play”. If your action is rated, then you are there for the discounts and comps. I like to stay at Treasure Island. If there is nothing going on at T.I., it is a short walk to other favorites, the Mirage and the Venetian. Without too much effort, I am minutes away from world class casinos. Where you play does make a difference, as gaming should be a pleasurable experience.  
 
The hardest part of discipline is to play disciplined. Duh! The reason it is difficult has to do with being able to come to an agreement with yourself. The ego, intellect and emotion tend to over-ride self-discipline. Without self-discipline, it is easy to talk oneself out of what is best and what is true. You find yourself in a profitable game and then someone has a big hand. You have made a handsome profit. You know from experience that a big hand is the exception not the rule. The smart money is coloring up. If you have the discipline to color up you will have a tidy profit. However, your mischievous little voice says, “if you play longer you could have even more”. The agreement with yourself to quit the game takes discipline. It takes accepting what you have won and being comfortable with the knowing that there is always another game. It is an affirmation of abundance. There are plenty of games. You can only color up winners when you are winning. Walking away is your best gaming asset. You exercise your freedom of choice and discipline empowers you. Without discipline, you empower the casino. What’s it going to be mate?  
 
Some assembly is required. Follow the steps of discipline in your game and eliminate needless mistakes. When it comes to gaming, the odds against the player do not allow for the luxury of playing with a mistake. Having the discipline to be honest with yourself will always separate you, the winner, from the losers.  
 
Copyright © 2003 Michael Vernon  
Gaming Instructor/Author  
www.playing4keeps.com
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