Fight or Flight? Handling Stress in the Casino

Fight or flight – we’ve all heard it. And it was never truer than at the craps table.
For some people stress is simply a tool to increase their performance level. Let’s face it. Most of us perform best when facing a challenge as long as we are adequately prepared for it. But for other players stress is a major obstacle. An obstacle that for some – is insurmountable.

Typically players handle stress in one of two ways. They become nervous, overwrought, and choke on the situation – OR they control their physical and mental state by going on “auto-pilot” and producing a conditioned response. This “shifting gears” can be a very powerful tool for individuals who are frequently exposed to high-stress situations. It is something to strive for. However, there is a problem.

Some people live their entire lives on auto-pilot. These are people who “thrive” on stress, individuals who, for whatever reason, see most situations as opportunities for failure instead of for success. They see people as potential enemies instead of as potential allies. And if they find themselves in a stress-free situation they must CREATE a stressful situation in order to thrive.

If you find yourself in that group, there are a variety of different strategies you can use to control the stress in your life. Exercise, deep breathing, listening to music, or simply taking a walk are common tools. Then there are the negative options – turning to drugs, alcohol, or physical violence. Have you ever seen a drunk at the craps table? Have you ever seen someone slam their fist on the table in anger after losing a bet? Sometimes simply taking a walk is the right thing to do.

How’s your stress level when you step up to the table?

The physical signs of stress are many and varied. They include clammy hands, shallow breathing, upset stomach, shakiness or tremors, weakness in the knees. There is a whole array of physical stress indicators. And there are also mental symptoms of stress. They include irritation, confusion, distractibility, loss of concentration, and loss of confidence.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably experienced every one of the above to one degree or another while gambling. The question, then, is how do you handle it? Are you even TRYING to handle it? Because the simple fact is – if you suffer from worry, fear, and anxiety – or if you lose your focus and choke under pressure, it is time to find a new way for handling the stress of the game. Otherwise the stress will continue to build – layer up on layer – until you become unable to cope. When that happens your self-confidence goes out the window and the game is no longer any fun.

Fight or flight?

You’ve heard me say it many times. But it bears repeating one more time.

“If it ain’t fun – it’s time to run.”