The Tau of Yogi

A few years back someone gave me a book of humorous sayings attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra. As I read it, I was surprised to find how many of them applied not only to the game of craps, but to life itself. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you, along with a few thoughts on how they apply to what we do in the casino.

First on the list is a quote that fits in nicely the idea of setting goals in the casino: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” I’ve long been an advocate of “planning your play and playing your plan.” Makes perfect sense to me.

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” is next on the list. If you’ve looked for a five dollar table on the strip lately, you know exactly what I mean. Do you find yourself playing beyond your bankroll? Then in 2005 you should either grow your bankroll – or change the way you look at higher limit games.

Talking about a switch hitter, Yogi once said, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” You don’t have to have webbed feet to play craps, though it might be an asset at the poolside table at the Hard Rock. But those of you who want to succeed at precision shooting will fare better if you learn to adapt and have more than one shooting position.

“How can you hit and think at the same time?” This is one quote everyone who has attempted a controlled toss should understand. Thinking is a left-brain function – shooting is a right-brain function. Never the twain shall meet.

“I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat. If it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?” Sometimes you’re going to do everything right – and still lose. That’s because you cannot control every single variable at the table. When it happens – change table. If that doesn’t work – change casinos. But cut yourself some slack. Getting mad at yourself will only make it worse.

“I never said most of the things I said.” This one really struck home recently when someone who has never taken one of my classes reported that I teach players poor betting strategies such as the old “see a horn, bet a horn” theory. In a sense, that’s understandable since many players have posted reports of me tossing 5, 6, 7, or 8 consecutive horn numbers during live sessions at some of the craps clinics we’ve done around the country. And yes, I am a trend bettor and we do talk about trends and streaks in the seminars. But the primary plays we teach are geared toward capitalizing on the power of the seven on the come-out, and the power of the players’ signature numbers once the point is established. We always tell players to stick to the lowest vig bets.

On playing West Coast games Yogi said, “It gets late early out there.” If you’re like me, and travel halfway across the country to play in Vegas, you know that you never really get used to the time change. Next trip, don’t even try. Get up at your normal time in the mornings – even though the sun may not be up yet over the desert. You’ll find empty tables and shooting opportunities galore, and you can’t beat those Las Vegas breakfast comps. Later, when the tables fill up, you can always take an afternoon nap by the pool.

On history repeating itself, Yogi once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Insanity has been defined as continuing to do things the same way and expecting to get different results. If you continue to bet the same old strategy and continue to lose – try something different. And if you find yourself at the table experiencing a little “loser déjà vu,” don’t stand there and continue to chase your losses. Remember, the best loss is a small loss.

“You can observe a lot just by watching,”
is another Yogi-ism I’m partial to. Despite what the naysayers think, at their worst charting tables and shooters will help you lose less. And it may help you win more. Not only will you identify skilled shooters who toss better hands than their random tablemates, you’ll lose less as you grow in discipline by watching – but not betting. Look, listen, and learn. The table will tell you whether to bet – and what to bet.

“Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”
Every seminar we do wraps up with the Saturday Night Fever discussion. Table conditions on weekend nights are atrocious. So why go play? Instead, enjoy a nice dinner and show with some friends, call it an early evening, then go hit the tables before breakfast. That’s when the real players are taking money off the tables.

“The game isn’t over until it’s over.” It can, in fact, turn on a dime. But remember not to chase your losses. We’re all long run players. Just because you lose a battle from time to time doesn’t mean you’ll lose the war.

One of the great observations Yogi made about life actually revolves around death. “You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

In the great scheme of things, craps is just a game. It’s the friends we make along the way and the good times we share – both at the rail and away – that really count.