We’ve all heard the phrase “Music soothes the savage beast.” Music can certainly be relaxing – but it can also get you pumped up – whether it is for an aerobics class or a big project at work – or for a live session at the casino. In fact, music is one of the reasons we, as players, prefer some casinos over others. Subconsciously we recognize when “our kind of music” is playing. If you’re a Baby Boomer like me you’re probably a fan of music from the fifties and sixties and will prefer to play in a casino that features that kind of background music. If you’re from Texas you might also enjoy a little country and western music mixed in with your pop and rock. Conversely, if that same Texas Baby Boomer is playing at an urban casino and the music turns to gangster rap with an over-driven bass line his mood will likely sour and in short order he will stop play and leave the property. Music can encourage us to stay and play – or drive us away. And it can also influence how we play.
A 2005 study at the University of Windsor detailed how music increased the “state positive effect” in computer programmers, resulting in fewer program errors and greater production. The same thing has been found in athletes, students, and even mental patients.
There are essentially three ways music helps improve performance. First, during repetitive tasks or exercise such as assembly line work or distance running, music can narrow your attention and divert attention away from sensations of fatigue. This is a technique which many marathon runners refer to as dissociation.
Second, musical rhythms can meld with human movement, enhancing motor skills and creating a more productive environment – whether it is in the work place or at the dice tables.
Third, music alters arousal levels. It can be used as a stimulant or a sedative. As precision shooters at craps we are usually concerned with the latter. Calming music combined with relaxation techniques and visualization are frequently utilized to help a shooter “get in the zone.”
There are several types of music that are proven effective when it comes to helping a shooter get into the zone. Generally they are the same types of songs that are used when practicing yoga, meditation, massage or healing. The songs are both melodic and repetitive. Classical music has long been known to be effective in this area. So is the music of many ancient cultures. Much of what we call “new age” music is based on these ancient types of music. The songs are often acoustic and sometimes are set against a background of natural sounds such as the surf on the shore or birds singing in a rainforest. The most common new age instrument is the flute. It may be a Tibetan flute, a Pan flute, a Native American flute, or any of the myriad other natural wood instruments found around the world. If the songs contain lyrics they are most likely to be chants from older languages and cultures – Celtic, Sanskrit, or Native American. The popular theme of this music is oneness with the cosmos and harmony with the world. Attaining this state of harmony is one of the keys to shooting from the zone.
A good way to launch your trip into the zone is to begin by listening to music that moves you prior to going down to the casino to play. I suggest incorporating that music into a guided imagery session, which I’ve described on the Axis Power Craps forum and in our Newsletters through the years. Guided imagery is the process of creating a scene in the shooter’s mind of what he wants to happen. The shooter creates mental images, like pictures or movies, which recreate his best performance and/or define his desired performance.
While imagining these scenarios, the shooter touches on much more than the visual elements. His imagery may include kinesthetic (feelings) and auditory (sound) elements as well. With practice, skilled shooters can call up these images again and again – enhancing his achievements through practice that is very much like physical practice. With mental rehearsal, the mind and body become trained to physically perform the imagined skill.
You would not expect to be physically ready to compete in an athletic event without physical practice. The same goes for developing a mental skill such as guided imagery. For most of us, ten to fifteen minutes practice a day will suffice. Here’s a simple guided imagery exercise to get you started on the right foot.
Start out by sitting upright in a comfortable chair. Put your favorite mood music in your player. Slip on your earphones and switch the music on. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Visualize your breath being drawn in the nose, up to the top of the head, around and down the spine, and deep into your belly. Then exhale, visualizing the air rising up the front of your chest and out.
Take another deep breath, again visualizing the air moving up into the nose, to the top of the head, around and down the spine, and deep into your belly. Hold your breath for a four count. Then slowly let it out, mentally counting backward. Four, three, two, one. As the rest of the air leaves your body, say “ahhhh” and relax.
Repeat this breathing exercise four times, keeping time with the music that’s playing in your mind. As you do so, tighten the muscles in your feet, and then relax them. Concentrate on feeling the muscles relax. Repeat it again. Tighten the muscles in your calves, relax, feel the relaxation and repeat it again. Progressively relax the muscles of your thighs, your buttocks, your stomach and lower back. Then relax your chest, your upper back, your shoulders and your arms. Last of all, relax your hands, your neck, and your face.
Take a deep breath. Hold it for a four count. Let it out counting backward. Four, three, two, one, ahhhh.
Imagine yourself in a favorite peaceful setting. It can be a beach, a forest, or any place. The important thing is to make it a place you’ve been before where you felt relaxed and happy and experienced a great sense of well-being. For this exercise, imagine you’re at the beach. You’re floating on an air mattress in the surf. Overhead, the sky is a giant blue bowl. The sun is warm on your skin and its heat penetrates deep within you, adding to your sense of wellness and relaxation. You feel the gentle rise and fall of the ocean. Hear the surf rushing across the sand. Smell the tang the sea and taste the salt on your lips. And as you take another deep breath, hold it, then let it out, your sense of relaxation becomes all encompassing. Four. Three. Two. One. Ahhhh.
Stay in this place for five to ten minutes. Enjoy your music and add more sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings as you progressively relax. Experience your day at the beach as vividly as you can, with all of your senses. Then, when you are ready, slowly open your eyes. Lift your arms over your head and stretch. Stand, and if you are physically able, bend over and stretch your back and legs. Then straighten up and shake out your arms, shaking off any remaining negative energy. Then think about what just happened.
Of course, this was just a simple relaxation exercise. Visualizing a day at the beach was really a tool to aid in getting you to a fully relaxed state. But getting into a relaxed state is only the first step. Once you are adept at getting into a relaxed state, the next step is positive visualization. This is the most important step in developing your mental craps skills. This is where you create vivid positive images. If you want to become a point shooter, visualize yourself hitting point after point after point. See the dealer pushing piles of chips across the table to you. Feel the player next to you clapping you on the back and exchanging high fives. Hear the cheers of the crowd as your point comes back and it’s another hardway. Make the images so vivid and detailed that it is like watching a movie.
Last of all, utilize positive affirmations to reinforce your guided imagery. Tell yourself that you are the best shooter at the table – because you are. Affirm that you are going to double your bankroll this session – because you are. Know that you will have the discipline to quit while you are ahead and walk away a winner – because you will.
Visualization and guided imagery can be a powerful weapon in your precision shooting arsenal. Virtually every athletic training program uses some form of positive visualization as part of their practice routine. Daily use of positive visualization will help rid you of the doubts and fears that plague you when you approach the tables. Remember – each of us has unlimited potential. Visualization and guided imagery is just another way to tap into that potential and use it in a powerful way.
Just remember the magic word. “Ahhhhh.”
And don’t forget to listen to the music.