Practicing right instills the right methods for success. Practicing wrong just reinforces our mistakes. This series of articles deals with several ways to get more out of your at-home Practice Sessions. They include:
• Preparing for your Practice Session
• Warm-up exercises
• Setting an ideal Practice-to-Play Ratio
• Making Practice-Session Notes
• How to get the most out of Casino-Session Notes
• Using a Craps-Roll Calculation Program
• Other Tracking Methods
• Other Practice Aids
• Simulated Casino-Sessions
• Finding and Fixing Precision-Shooting Problems
Keep in mind that we use our practice sessions to hone our skills. We use our casino sessions to make money.
Let’s not confuse one with the other.
Let me tell you a little bit about my own experience. I was introduced to craps about 24 years ago. When I first started Precision-Shooting about fourteen years ago, I didn’t practice at all. Well…let me correct that…I didn’t practice at home, at all. All of my experimentation and honing of skills were done right in the casino at live tables using real money. Now THAT is one hell of an expensive way to perfect your game. I don’t want you to go to the same expense and aggravation.
I always figured that with all the different table lengths, felt-surfaces, dice types, base-materials, and underlays, etc., that it was useless to practice on anything other than a real casino table. I WAS WRONG!
Practice is just that…practice. It lets you try out different approaches to the game without exposing your bankroll to risk.
It lets you hone your shooting-skills without having to wager even one measly buck. It allows you do so in a low-stress environment, where you can pause and contemplate what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong. It gives you the opportunity to be wrong without denting your bankroll. All of these are compelling reasons to do your practicing at home, while you reserve you bankroll for the in-casino struggles when you are fully prepared.
I figure that if I had started out on my Precision-Shooting journey by doing all that experimenting at home, I would have shaved at least four years off of the learning curve. More importantly, I would have saved untold amounts of money too.
So, needless to say, I practice NOW. It helps me to continuously fine-tune my game, and resharpen my skills if I’ve been away from the tables for more than a day or two. If I am playing in a new gaming jurisdiction, I will take a few dice-tosses up in my hotel room before my first casino session. It grooves in my motion, steadies my nerves and buoys my confidence. I’m talking about REAL confidence, not false bravado or machismo. It lets me walk into the gaming-arena with the almost certain knowledge that I will probably be the best shooter there. Of course, it’s never a certainty, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the players who are betting on the Don’t Pass side of the equation. I’m not there to show off my skills. I’m there to make a profit, and I like doing it quietly.
Preparing for your Practice Session
When do you usually start practicing? Is it after work? Do you practice after the dinner-dishes are done, the kids have gone to bed, and there is nothing good on TV? That’s fine. While the casino can be supercharged with noise and distractions, you can use the quiet of your home-sessions to really focus on the mechanical-side of your throw. Later on we’ll factor in ways to replicate the casino distractions, but for now let’s prepare for the “mechanical” side of Precision-Shooting.
There may be a number of factors that you haven’t thought of including in your practice sessions. Here’s just a few:
Do you wear the same shoes to practice in, as the ones you usually wear in the casino? Or do you wear those slippers that your brother-in-law gave you for Christmas in 1998? The traction, support and firm-footing that you get on the casino carpeting may be different than what you get on your painted concrete basement floor. Now let me ask you how you factor your footwear into your dice-throwing at home? If you don’t think that shoes makes a difference; then let me mention factor No. 2.
I’m willing to wager a medium-sized coffee from the Java Java Coffee Hut at the Tropicana or Nickel Nick’s at Westward Ho, that your shooting-stance at home is SIGNIFICANTLY different than the one you use in the casino. At home, you may have the sweetest throwing-motion on this side of heaven, but when you get into the casino, that sweetness is harder to duplicate because of the way you have to stand. Are your feet and body-weight distributed in exactly the same way as they are at home? Is there the same side-force against your anchor-leg knee? Is your shooting-posture the same? That leads me to ask, just how you are replicating your casino-stance at home? That directs us to factor No. 3.
Since I’m in a betting mood, I’ll bet that at some point during your in-casino toss, you are in contact with the table-rail. In fact, I’m willing to wager that the rail and padded-bolster are integral to your in-casino throwing-stance. Think about the way that you lean over it, or use it as a firm base on which to anchor your body. Now let me ask you if you are doing the same thing at home? Most practice tables don’t have a rail. Yes, I realize that you use the practice rig to dial-in your throw, and that’s a very good thing to practice. But is the throw that you dial-in at home anything like the throw that you use in the casino? The dice-grip and arm-position may be close to being the same, but is everything else? If you use the table-rail to any degree while you are in the casino; then you may want to factor that into your at-home sessions.
Hands, Arms, Legs, Feet and Toes
When you are shooting the dice in the casino, where exactly are all of your hands, arms, and legs? I’ll assume for the moment that you have two of each.
I’m pretty sure that one of your hands will be on the dice, but exactly where is the other one? Is it hanging limply by your side or is it on your hip? Is it angled across your body hanging onto the rail or “bogarting” and protecting your chips? Whatever your answer is, it should be the same thing that you are doing in your practice sessions.
How much weight do you put on your leg that is closest to the table? Does your “outside” leg remain firmly planted during the release of the dice, or does it do some sort of bowler or ballerina move on your follow-through?
When you launch the dice in the casino, do your knees give your body any sort of upward lift? How about your toes on your main “planted” leg? Do they give you any sort of “basketball-free throw-lift”? Now let me ask you if you are going through the same routine and motions at home?
Imagine a major-league baseball pitcher using his patented two-seam, four-finger “off-speed” grip. That’s a grip that takes a lot of practice to perfect, and even more practice-time to throw it with proper accuracy and consistency. Now, picture him trying to throw that baseball across home-plate, wearing his slippers as he stands very relaxed in the concession-booth line. That stance is completely different from his normal set and stance on the pitching-mound, especially without his cleats. His grip may be the same, but all the other full-wind up, total leg and arm extensions just aren’t there. Do you think the pitching results will be different? You can bet on it!
With that in mind, you may want to replicate a few more of your actual in-casino motions during your practice sessions.
Now don’t get me wrong. Any practice can be good, especially for developing a nice, smooth throw. The problem that a lot of shooters run into is that that same smoothness and sweetness is not as easy to replicate in the casino. You can have a nice smooth release on your practice rig, but when you get in the casino, that big honkin’ rail makes you contort your body into positions you didn’t practice from.
All of a sudden the geometry of your throw is totally off-kilter and your on-axis throwing percentage gets hacked up into bloody chunks of randomness.
I don’t want to discourage you. In fact, I want to encourage you to keep practicing, but I want you to recognize a few things. First, while we recognize that casino distractions are usually missing from our home layouts, we fail to recognize and take into account some of the more basic physical factors that affect our actual mechanical skills.
If you are going to practice…then at least practice RIGHT!
In our continuing quest to get the most out of our Practice Sessions, “Part Two” of this series will take a very close look at a few ways to warm-up. I’ll also show you an exercise that will be enlightening to your game and insightful to your current skill-level. Plus I’ll show you how to set ideal Practice-to-Play ratios to match your current abilities.
Remember, the practice rig is where you fine-tune and align your game; the casino is where you make your money.
Until then, Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.
The Mad Professor