Putting On the Blinders

On November 15, 1993, Dr. Tom Amberry made 2,750 consecutive basketball free throws and stopped without a miss. He tossed baskets for twelve straight hours. He was seventy-two years old at the time and had only been practicing for a year and a half. Later, he appeared on the David Letterman show and Letterman asked why he stopped at 2,750 baskets. Amberry’s answer: “They kicked me out of the gym.”

How did a seventy-two year old man he accomplish this feat? The answer is simple. As we say here in the south, “he put on the blinders.”

When we talk about putting on the blinders we’re really talking about focus and the act of eliminating distractions. In precision shooting, that means keeping the mind in the present and dealing with those things you are in control of. You focus on your dice set, your grip, the landing zone, the toss, and the follow through. These are all things you can control in the here and now. Those things you cannot control are distractions. Speculating about the outcome of the roll is a distraction. Thinking about your next press or regression is a distraction. Analyzing the last toss is a distraction. Concerning yourself with anything you are not in control of NOW turns craps into a higher-risk game. If it takes you out of the moment, it is a distraction.
To be a better precision shooter, learn to narrow your focus and eliminate distractions when shooting, and widen your focus between tosses. You don’t have to be tightly focused for the entire time you have the dice – just for those moments when you are executing your toss routine. In fact, staying focused 100% of the time can lead to mental exhaustion .

For example, if you put together a ninety-minute, eighty-four roll hand and are narrowly focused for the entire ninety minutes, you will not be able to sustain the mental energy required for optimum performance. However, if you broaden your focus between tosses and only narrow it for just the ten to fifteen seconds it takes you to zone in, set, grip, and toss the dice, your mental energy will sustain you through the entire hand. Why? You will only be sharply focused between fifteen and twenty minutes of that ninety-minute hand. The rest of the time you can cut yourself some mental slack.

Here’s an exercise that will help demonstrate the principle of putting the blinders on. Imagine you are standing at the craps table and are wearing blinders. As the stickman pushes the dice toward you the first time and on each subsequent toss, you narrow your blinders to focus only on execution. All other internal and external distractions are shut out. The blinders should shut out both internal and external distractions. After execution, widen the blinders to sustain energy. Repeat this cycle over and over for your entire hand. The mental routine might look something like this:

  • NARROW THE BLINDERS

    Decide what adjustments you need to make to set the dice on axis
    Choose your landing zone
    Calculate your toss trajectory
    Right Brain Thinking
    Visualize the flight of the dice to the landing zone
    Mentally feel the perfect toss
    Picture the dice hitting the table, bouncing gently off the back wall
    Imagine your number rolling on the dice
    Toss the Dice.

Once the toss is complete and you have achieved your desired result you can broaden your focus. The mental routine might look something like this:

  • BROADEN THE BLINDERS

    Self-congratulations
    Visually replay the last toss
    Non-intrusive small talk
    Study the dice as the stick man rakes them in the middle
    Daydream of favorite “happy” places
    Hum a favorite tune
    Deep breathing

  • When you are in this state there ARE thoughts you should avoid

    Mechanics of the last toss
    Speculating on next bets
    Self-critique of previous bets
    Replaying bad tosses or experiences
    What others think or expect of you
    Negative self-talk

Maintaining focus is a constant challenge complicated by the fact that you cannot “force” focus. But learning to control the crap between your ears can be very rewarding. Master the mechanics of the various sets, grips, and tosses you will use in the casino, then adopt a positive outlook that is free of self defeating negative thoughts. Next, develop a way to control thoughts by achieving a state of mental clarity, focus and concentration. Finally, when the dice are out, never let the mind wander. Work your established routine, both mentally and physically, and let your mind and body do the rest. If you are successful the dice will do just what you want them to do.