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Practicing For Perfection - Part III

Mastering The Critical Tasks

In the first two segments of this article on the fundamentals of sound practice, you probably learned that there are similarities between Dice Influence and athletics or bodybuilding. A bodybuilder’s exercise resembles our kind of practices in that, whereas the treadmill may develop an entire cardiovascular network, the athlete can instead choose to isolate and develop only one or just a few muscles at once. Likewise, to be most effective, a Dice Influence Practitioner’s practice at times must focus on just one or a few assessed needs at a time. And, as do athletes in training, a Precision Dice Shooter must discipline his practice in order to be able to strengthen specific skills.

Despite the fact that the preponderance of practitioner interest rests on the Critical Tasks, such as grip and set and the like, this article submits for your consideration, the notion that the secret of attaining higher levels of proficiency rests not on the practitioner’s grip, set nor stance, but rather resides within the practitioners practice regimen and structure. Wow. That was a long sentence, wasn’t it? All right. Permit me to restate the thesis. Your success does not depend on having a perfect grip, set, toss, and wager. It depends on practicing that combination until you can do it exactly the way you want it every time you try.

The preceding two articles exist to help the shooter to instill and imbed the behaviors he wants to repeat. In fact, the remaining discourse on the fundamentals of practice (a review of the major Critical Tasks required of the expert Dice Influence Practitioner), will mean little if the reader has not digested and subscribed to the first two segments. To add injury, progress in the discipline of Precision Craps Shooting will be slow.

The tasks that are truly critical to high proficiency, high-influence, dice shooting are many, especially when tasks are segmented into sub-tasks. However, Eight of them that immediately come to mind are:

§ Dice Pickup, Set and Grip Control

§ LZ-Accuracy Control

§ Flight Path Dynamics Control

§ Trajectory Control

§ Timing (of release and in general) Control

o SRR Maintenance Objective
o On-Axis Results Objective
o Off-Axis Results Objective

§ Post-Landing Behavior (Bounce) Control

§ Observation, data entry and analysis

§ Corrective Intervention

Each of these tasks has enjoyed much attention from, and has been written about by, experts in the science. Furthermore, at least a couple of authors, various professional, For-Profit, coaches who “have seminars and will travel,” and amateur, Not-For-Profit, pals and associates who are willing to lend their dice coaching, abound.

The reader will not find in this article the answers to questions pertaining to “Well, how do I do this?” Or, “How can I do that?” It is not my intention to repackage what craps legends have given to the world and to the Precision Shooter. Rather, my purpose in reviewing these tasks is to assist the struggling player and the novice shooter in his daily battle with the science of practice and training. My only caveat is that there are two or more tasks mentioned in this third installment, which are difficult to objectively observe and record.

In advance, this author must acknowledge that, when it comes to difficult-to-study toss ingredients such as Trajectory, Flight Path and Timing Control, he has little to add that is not self-evident, anecdotal, or just plain subjective. That is precisely because, without the means to empirically define a set of circumstances (such as trajectory) and without a means of bringing such definition to the live gaming table, anything said about these issues, the validity of which is said to depend on objective observations and measurement—would be worthless.

And while strategic wagering is an inseparable aspect of profitable craps play and a powerful advantage multiplier when combined with an intimate knowledge of any given shooter’s predilections, it is not an integral component of precision shooting delivery mechanics, and will not be included in this review of proper practice; my discussion has been, and will remain, confined to the physical act of delivering dice from the shooter’s hand to the table’s landing zone.

At the craps table, when the dice are passed to a new shooter coming out, the first ray of hope for him and the bettor is his picking up, setting and gripping of the dice. Does his execution of these Primary Tasks suggest that he is about to deliver a controlled toss or not? That three-fold act is the beginning of all Precision Shooting and the beginning of the final segment in this article about Practicing For Perfection.

Naturally, it would be luxurious if all shooters were permitted as much time as they wanted to acquire the dice, study them from all angles, change the faces until satisfied and then feel them up and down until the grip felt exactly right for the kind of toss about to be executed. But that is not the way people do things in MY neighborhood. Is it really the way they do things in yours? --Probably not.

Yet, a shooter does profit from remembering what an efficacious grip “feels” like, and he would like to be able to toss the dice only after having gripped the dice in what he remembers is the “correct” way and with the desired set. Hence, Pickup, Set and Grip constitute a trinity of tasks that I have organized into one Critical Task. The training goal of the shooter is to, 100% of the time, go from pickup, set and grip, to launching the dice, within a limited time span, here arbitrarily determined to be three seconds. How does one manage to practice and train for this? He does so by taking only one step at a time.

Just about every Texas boy I know can tell a story about a person from his time as a youth, shooting himself while attempting to learn the fast draw. There must be thousands of people with Texas roots walking about this world with missing toes, slight limps or tell-tale leg scars which they either lie about or refuse to talk about, and which are the results of a fast-draw mishap. And yet there are also hundreds of older pistoleros who once carried a sidearm in open view (as uniformed police or as a plain clothed officer of the court, such as a constable) and who can still surprise an audience with great speed of target acquisition, battery, and with bullet placement accuracy. In other words, these old coots are quicker than a hiccup with a sidearm—but more lethal. And none of them have self-inflicted bullet wounds in their lower extremities. What separates these two classes of pistol-packing Texicans? Proper practice does.

The impatient fellow who wants to become an overnight success, like Clint Eastwood’s Josey Wales, will begin his practice by combining all the complex execution mechanics in his very first attempts. If he is lucky, he will succeed in learning what was known in the Sixties as “Point Shooting” with a mere minimum of mishaps. However, most professionals contend that it would be better for the beginner if he began his practice by drawing an unloaded weapon. After he has mastered that sub-task, he might then graduate to drawing and presenting a laser-equipped and equally unloaded weapon. After that, there is an “after that,” and then another “after that.” The various sub-tasks link up to the next in a prescribed sequence, and, then finally, it might be safe to reduce speed and to begin adding battery to the process. You see? Most execution of most tasks involves the chaining of many sub-tasks. And the simplest and most evident Craps application of this truism is during the Pickup, Setting and gripping of the dice.

So much pertaining to the Pickup, set and grip, has been written, drawn, photographed and filmed, that the only thing I can add is a simple prescription. Get to a practice rig, and then slowly execute this Critical Task, taking note of its several sub-tasks. Then analyze the task with the intent of eliminating non-essential motions. When you have completed this exercise, re-write the task’s fewer, but remaining, components. When you are satisfied that the task cannot be reduced to any fewer motions, and you have those motions written down in sequence, you will have designed an individualized Task Analysis for yourself. The break down of this task will contain more parts than the one exhibited in this article, and the process of breaking it down will have consumed several hours.

However the task may, or might not, break down; practice that task “for time.” Work on it until you can routinely pickup, set and grip in under three seconds. Three seconds is not a doctrine given on Mount Sinai as the result of deriving a statistical mean from the recorded setting results of a national cross-section of setters and 100,000 trials. No, three seconds is just a guess based on hearsay and upon what might be a minimally satisfactory delay of the game, in the minds of pit and box people.

For those of you who still use a two or three-step pickup, who take more time to acquire a set than it takes for Butterfly McQueen to fetch a doctor, and whose grip changes from throw to throw, for lack of acquaintance with the dice, the results of practice, as I have outlined it, will seem to you as magic—as though you have ascended to a higher level of human existence—and you will reduce the legitimate heat you might get at a table by at least 99%. That is all I have to say about Pickup, Set and Grip.

You, the shooter, must come to a point in your development at which you are able to toss both dice into a two-inch circumference, anywhere that circumference may happen to be at the end of a craps table. Must I explain why? Well, to begin with, you may wish for your dice to avoid what could resemble a picket fence of chips stacked high enough to impale a trapeze performer at the Rio. Landing inside the target zone is a “hit.” Landing outside the circle is a “no-hit.”

Furthermore, you will learn that—given a highly tuned toss—and dice that are on axis—although usually thrown to one side or another of the layout, will tend to accumulate different outcomes when thrown to the center or to an opposite side of that layout. Your objective is to land the dice together and exactly where you want them to land. By now, you should know what proper training requires of one: patience and discipline. What is your baseline in this task? How good at this task to you want to become? Hence, what is your need? How then do you structure your practice so as to move from the actual to the ideal?

It would at first seem clear that the designing of a training regimen for LZ accuracy would be accomplished according to the information already provided in the first two installments of this article. And, yes, that would be pretty much accurate. Pretty much. Yet, to tell the truth, designing a practice regimen for the task of LZ accuracy might philosophically be a bit of a sticky wicket. Please permit me to explain what I mean.

There are at least two kinds of approaches one can adopt so as to practice for, or to train in, this Critical Task, each approach depending on the level of commitment one has made to the achieving of near-perfection. As you might expect, the Critical Task of LZ Accuracy has equivalents in sports and in what people like me call “social work.”

We’ll take social work first and limit it to CQC with a sidearm. One approach, which I will call “range shooting,” does not care about what else is going on about the shooter; it is only concerned with the accuracy of bullet placement. In this kind of targeting practice, a person takes a more or less erect stance (say, “Isosceles” as opposed to “Weaver”) in a stall and goes about hitting downrange targets as accurately as possible. Conversely, the other approach does care about everything else that is going on and philosophically requires the shooter to find cover, close on a target and neutralize it, requiring as many bullets as necessary, but prioritizing self-preservation and the “anchoring” of the target over everything else, including accuracy.

Another example might be that of a passing quarterback. A quarterback may be forced to practice as a drop-back, in the pocket, type of shooter. Or he may be coached as a rollout, shoot-as-you-move type of shooter. Either discipline prizes accuracy of ball placement. Yet, the rollout shooter’s practice compounds the task of ball delivery. So it is (or so it becomes) with Landing Zone Accuracy.

Many beginning shooters practice LZ accuracy by doing such things as landing the dice into a bowl or teacup and from what I would call a beginning package of stance and delivery mechanics. That is how I began too.

I am not certain about the year in which I began to experiment with dice influencing. Perhaps the year was 2001 or thereabouts. I began by gathering information from Jerry Patterson ads and various books, and more refined material from the old Irish setter site and Axis Power. My first attempts were with a right-handed toss from SR1. I then trained myself to shoot right-handed from SL1. Soon, I began to train in the basic toss with my left hand and from both sides of the table. Later, I began to train from SO, using only my dominant right hand. Every day I practiced with from all sides and with both hands, and therewith gained enough confidence to try skill and about $100 at the Emerald Queen in Tacoma, Washington.

Like most beginners, I was operating in the dark world of speculation, trial and error. But on this one occasion, I was finding sporadic success on a weekend while at SR1 and while employing a left hand and the ubiquitous pendulum toss. I had already doubled my buy in amount and, at some point during my second or third hand, and with just a few shooters present, had begun to hit my numbers. The sensation at the time was that “this is too easy.” And, although I never perceived any difference in my toss, I have always remembered what took place next and what it signified.

While in the middle of my hand, a fresh player bought in at SL3 or 4 and, after a few more of my winning tosses, asked, “Should I bet on this guy?” The Pit Boss standing, behind the Box, [Incidentally, behold how naïve I was: I did not yet have a clue as to what it meant for the Pit Boss and two other “suits” to have gathered behind the Box Man to watch me toss the dice. I blissfully carried on without paying any attention to them,] who said these words; “You have a confident shooter over here who is hitting number after number. If I were playing, I would have money on the table.”

“Confident shooter?” Well, that put some wag in my tail. “Okay,” I thought, “I suppose that, yes, I am feeling pretty self-assured.” I went on to pass a couple of additional times and hit more numbers, but Sevened Out not long after, went home, hit the sack, and dreamed of earning money, hand over fist, at Craps and on the strength of my “flawless” toss.

In retrospect, I now see that the pit people were referring to a myth that enjoys popularity in the casino industry, that—while there may not exist “good” shooters—“confident” shooters have more success than those shooters who live their lives, and gamble, while always fearing and expecting failure. I surmise that there is historical support for this myth, although the myth (because it seems to refer to all dice shooters in general) may fly in the face of our doctrines pertaining to the superiority of precision shooting over random rolling.

These veteran pit personnel had seen such phenomena before; that is, “confident” shooters, probably Randies, rolling with more success than their less confident fellow Randies. Here I had now come, executing my delivery with control. When I began the session, I was intentionally controlled and purposefully exact. But, somewhere along the way, I loosened up. And however superstitiously the pit chose to identify my “confidence,” the fact is that the pit was correct. I felt as though I could do no wrong and executed my tosses accordingly.

I may have gained confidence by virtue of being able to wager with “the casino’s money,” and that the increased confidence had altered the way I shot the dice, and that the alteration had caused the emergence of a more accurate toss than would have been evidenced, had I not first earned a mental “cushion” of extra money. The altered, looser, toss then earned more money faster because I was willing to wager more and, more importantly, because my delivery mechanics had evolved rather than deteriorated. This insight is, as I mentioned, all in retrospect.

Once more, in 2002, I believe, after enjoying spotty success, again at the Emerald Queen Casino, I found myself to be the only shooter at the table late on a Tuesday night. The hour was later than I was comfortable with, especially since I was scheduled to work on the following morning. But, jeepers…I was a couple hundred dollars ahead, I had the table to myself and there was not another craps player in sight. I was somewhat tired. “But what a wonderful practice opportunity,” I thought to myself, as I perked up and began to roll…a 74-toss hand. I still fantasize about it, and, until 2005, that EQC hand stood as a record-long hand for me. And, although I earned very little money from that hand, I took note that my toss had evolved noticeably and had become more fluid, more relaxed, and was evidencing marked deviation from the rigid toss mechanics I had been employing for about a year.

I hypothesize that every shooter will evolve from such a beginning execution package and into one after another of succeeding packages—sometimes, as you can see, in mid-hand. Along the way, I submit, a shooter will find that his most compatible throw will have come to incorporate other Critical tasks, each of which has also evolved to a more effective level. So he at first may have enjoyed success at SR1 with a pendulum toss and a three-fingered grip, and with a somewhat inhibited release and follow-through, and was unaware that he was evolving as a shooter.

Along the way—perhaps on an evening when he was tired and had relaxed his inhibitions—he was able to witness, and then appreciate, unprecedented success with a looser, more confident, delivery. The release point was noticeably later, the follow-through was automatic and graceful, and perhaps to him it almost seemed as though the dice had gained a soul and a conscious determination to stay together and to light on the mat, six inches away from the back wall like a couple of hummingbirds. “By George!” the shooter may have thought to himself, “I have become an overnight Master of the Cubes.” Well, from that time forward, I would surmise, that shooter might be counted upon to seek out the same combination of tasks and seek to duplicate them.

I propound that the latter shooting mechanics, duplicated, would necessarily alter the shooter’s technique for placing the flying cubes into a teacup. He would be executing more sub-tasks than before, somewhat like the rollout quarterback or the CQC shooter. For it has become the case that, now, the Dice Influencer is almost “shooting on the move,” or releasing the dice after a much more highly evolved and “busier” toss.

I will say this about that: the task analysis of the actual launching of the dice is a major operation and involves so many muscles and so many sub-tasks, that it could possibly contain as many as 150 to 200 discrete steps. It is not as complex as what Willy Mayes did while fielding a baseball. But it is similar. A good place to read about the complexity of these kinds of operations might be Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s book, Psycho Cybernetics. In one chapter, Maltz compares the kind of operation that we seek to master, to a self-correcting torpedo or missile, employing millions of decisions made at lightning speed. That is one reason I am not willing to dissect the dice toss for the record and why I more at ease reading or listening to someone else’s counsel about it.

About now I hear someone thinking, “So what?”

So, my dice-shooting partner in gambling degeneracy, since the actual toss, complex as it is, is prone to evolving, so also must the task of retaining accuracy keep pace with that evolution. LZ accuracy has to be revisited and re-practiced every month, every year, until the Grim Reaper pries the dice from a Precision Shooter’s cold dead fingers. It has to always keep up with the evolved overall toss. For best results, accuracy (not the toss as a whole) is best task-analyzed; base lined, needs analyzed, and all the rest, until Criterion.

That’s my position on this one aspect of practice and I am sticking to it.

The current prevailing thought is that optimum flight path dynamics involves two dice, traveling with frontal sides parallel to both back walls and together as though joined together by a common axle run dead center through the sides, and rotating (or not), forwards or backwards, at the same rate. Hence, the mission of the precision dice shooter is to launch the dice so as to achieve this Gold Standard of dice flight.

Such a standard is difficult to measure without technology beyond the financial and operational reach of practically everyone. Nevertheless, it is possible to register “ballpark” assessments based on the presumed objectivity and visual acuity of eyewitnesses. The first such witness ought to be the shooter.

Like all other Critical Tasks, FPD can and should be TA’d and Baselined. Then all the other training-related stuff should happen. When the practitioner is satisfied that he has established a reasonable and statistically valid Baseline and a reasonable performance objective, he is encouraged to work at improving his performance to achieve Criterion. Once that has occurred, tests can be administered by employing one or more associates who will objectively score each one of 100 or more tosses.

This might be a good place to insert a caution to the fledgling shooter. First, do not be surprised if one’s flight dynamics control is revealed to be dismal. Secondly, do not be discouraged by such results. Based on anecdotal evidence and my own experience, I would speculate that most “good” shooters operate in the18% to 25% range. Just imagine what your shooting would be like if you were able to achieve just 30%. And just imagine yourself performing at 80% of Criterion..! Would the thought of achieving that level of proficiency not be exhilarating?

Of course, yes, I do know how to adjust a toss so as to advance the cause of flight dynamics control. But that is not the point of this article. The assumption is that you also know how. And the point of this article is to show you how to become habituated to the execution particulars that will imbed and train-in such an adjustment.

Since, as we have theorized, one’s overall delivery tends to evolve, the controlling of flight dynamics might also be a Critical Task that one would want to practice, and then test oneself at, as routinely as one tests his LZ Accuracy.

Along with Trajectory Control, the control of the flight dynamics can be greatly impacted by the timing of the release of the dice from the fingers. Hence, Flight Path Dynamics control will be briefly revisited within the context of discussing Timing Control.

Would you believe it? The practiced and perfect toss yields deviant results if its trajectory is dramatically altered. Gulp.

Yet, there are landing surfaces that promise more from a Low, Slow and Easy (LSE) toss. Sometimes the Stick Man and Pit mandate the lower trajectory toss. And there are other surfaces that pay better when the controlled toss has a higher arch and comes down harder. And there are those surfaces that require a controlled toss that is categorized as being somewhere in between those two. What is a shooter to do? His shooting objective is to achieve consistent outcomes, such that they can be forecast.

Well, shooter, if your highly tuned toss produces disaster at a new table that is extraordinarily harder than the one at home, the consensus opinion is that your first corrective measure ought to be the adjusting the height, or “trajectory,” of your toss. Ditto If the House demands a lower toss.

Some highly developed shooters are able to adjust to any variation in surface hardness by accurately ensconcing the dice in the crevice that divides the back wall from the table surface. But this is not a technique that I would depend upon, and for a variety of sound reasons; an important one being that the box or crew personnel at casinos where I work would tire of this gimmick after about three or four successive tosses wherein the dice are lodged in this crevice. My recommendation is for you to, this time, defer to the consensus opinion.

And now comes the bad news. Let us assume though that a shooter has determined that LSE is the answer to his problem. Now the question becomes, “How low, how slow, and how easy is LSE?” Adjusting the height of the toss without some kind of high tech devices is difficult for me to talk about with a straight face. If we could somehow affix to our throwing hands effective, fixed, front sights, and rear sights that were sight-adjustable for windage and elevation, life in the practice pit would be made easy. But life at the casino is not a Marvel comic book. A shooter is left with only the tools he has available—he has only himself and his two lying eyes.

Devices exist and can be constructed, which extend barriers, a line of cord, or a cable, across the width of the table and which create a “window” and force the shooter to fly the dice through the “window,” above or below one or two lines. Those devices can help the shooter to vary his arc while still placing his dice into a LZ, but (1) In doing so, force the shooter to negotiate an additional target zone and (2) do not, by themselves, answer the question I asked earlier: “How low, how slow and how easy?”

In this case, practice is reduced to “eyeballing” or guessing at practically everything. Because of the lack of apparatus available for us to use for the purpose of establishing criteria and measuring results, there is very little, beyond the shooter’s natural acuity, I can suggest which will give the trainee or practitioner enough objective data to guide his practice. When the issue is practicing trajectory control, too many variables are abandoned to dead reckoning for me to know how to approach it. As before, your partners in crime might be bribed into spending hours performing the eyeballing for you. But even then the job of improving trajectory control, when it comes to dice shooting, is for the time being, an entirely subjective exercise.

I have for a long time now resorted to practicing this Critical Task by focusing on an imaginary line across the back wall and letting fly the dice, all the while attempting to toss the dice so as to have my mid-range trajectory align itself with that imaginary, and adjustable, line. Elevation correction then is achieved by adjusting the height of the imaginary line. Pretty scientific, huh? Well, it’s the best technique I can offer for practice. If you can insert into this discussion of practice and training, a better and more empirically verifiable targeting and measurement system, please contact me or forward your information to the board’s directors.

The point remains that, however objectively measured, and however much it may be a “pipe dream” to be able to do so, being able to control the arc of your toss is critical to dice influencing. As it stands, we control the arc, somewhat as does a passing quarterback, by “feel” and “ghosting” one or more of the visual reference points that, combined, comprise a sighting apparatus or a visual targeting. And that leads me to the next Critical Task for which I have no good advice when it comes to practicing it.

TIMING (of release and in general) CONTROL
If the dice are released too soon, the resulting flight path is lower than optimum. Released very much too soon, the dice flight is so flat that the dice hit the back wall before they touch the layout, or—worse—strike the layout at such a sharp angle and so far away from the back wall, that they tumble along toward the back wall having lost all semblance of control. Curiously, such a toss is what may be called for by taut micro fiber layouts, I am told. Since the micro fiber offers significantly less resistance than does felt, the dice often find it “slippery.” Under these circumstances, it would help one to be able to practice a toss that permits the dice to strike the layout at an angle just acute enough to permit them to “slide” toward the back wall.

Usually, however, the too-low toss is a “tumble” and a highly randomized toss. Conversely, dice released too late can achieve an orbit around the Earth. Sometimes a less-than-optimum trajectory is the goal, such as when the type of toss called for is more of a “push” than a “lob.” But dice that are released at precisely the right moment achieve the perfect trajectory. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to time the release of the dice in your grip at precisely the right moment so as to execute the trajectory called for and at the right time.

Okay then, how does one design a practice regimen that will drill the proper timing of the release? If I am not mistaken, I believe I have predicted that doing so will be a formidable challenge. Let us defer the answer to my question for a time and long enough to ponder three DI objectives that are significantly dependent upon how well one times his release of the dice; to wit:

o SRR Maintenance Objective

o On-Axis Results Objective

o Off-Axis Results Objective

In addition to the fact that each of these objectives highly depend on timing--as dependent as each is on proper timing of the release, so are the Critical Tasks of Flight Path and Post-Landing Behavior Control.

If the shooter can master the timing of his release, he is on his way to mastering each of these three objectives and the two related Critical Tasks, all of which help to constitute the core and substance of what Dice Influencers do.

SRR Maintenance – This objective depends succeeds in direct proportion to how effective one is in suppressing the Seven during a hand. Suppressing the Seven rests heavily upon controlling the off-axis results and limiting double pitches.

On Axis (OA) Frequency – I have more say about this objective later. But for now, I submit that managing this objective, [as does managing the off-axis results, and the kinetics of Post-Landing behavior] depends very, very, much upon maintenance of the desired flight path dynamics. If dice in flight cannot be made to cease yawing (outward) or rolling inward, or to fly at a rate and height that is not dictated by the shooter, the results will be more random than if the shooter can consistently let fly a breathtakingly “together” toss.

And Flight Dynamics, to repeat myself, depends upon timing of the release of the dice. So, permit the reader to tell me: How important is Timing?

Yet, the question every practitioner has of this article should be: How do I construct a practice regimen that will permit me to program in my delivery the execution of perfect timing? That is what we are talking about, lest we forget. As I warned in the discussion of Trajectory Control, I can say nothing authoritative about such practice; for I cannot fathom the design of any objective observation or measurement instruments. I can, however, relate the process that I employ in my own practice. Remember, I have already confessed that my contribution here is subjective and anecdotal, the worst of all possible instruction. I do not even have a clue as to how to Baseline this Critical Task. I despair of attempting to write about it. Nevertheless….

Employing all of the other skills that I have drilled into my being, I execute 100 low tosses, each of which attempts to score in the target LZ, on-axis, and attempts to land so as to return from the back wall a distance no greater than twelve inches. The low toss achieves a mid-range trajectory no higher than approximately 18” from the layout or table surface. I then record the LZ, OA, and bounce results. Each toss is one in which my over-riding priority is to release the dice simultaneously and at a precise instant so as to produce the low toss. The only measurement I have is my visual assessment. My rating is subjective and expressed in terms of (1) Hit or no-hit frequency and (2) two percentages taken together [OA 100% good/ Bounce within or outside (I/O) of the 12” limit. Dice that splatter to the side are measured only from the back wall.

I then repeat the drill with 100 medium tosses, which, at the mid-range height, are no higher than a mark on my basement’s wall that is 32” above than the layout, or about five feet off the floor, or at a point somewhat below the eye level of the average dealer. I later repeat the drill with 100 high tosses, the MRT of which are always above thirty-two inches from the layout. My objective in each of the drills is to time the release so as to optimize the stability of the flight path.

At this point, I must return to a discussion of On-Axis results. I suspect that I am probably revisiting a discussion that is bound to have played out on the various message boards and threads. But I have not read those. So I will submit that, apropos of practice and training, the definition of “On-Axis” results ought to be standardized. And the standardized definition of an “On-Axis” practice result should be: “When each die, independently, achieves a result that is on-axis.” For example, let us hypothesize a “Flying V” set with a 5/1 facing the shooter. The left die is a 3,5,4,2 set (the axis is 6-1) and the right die is a 3,1,4,6 set (the axis is 5-2). The dice are tossed and the left die effectively rolls inward to produce a result of 6. The right side die also rolls in, effectively producing a result of 2. The combined result is a 6/2 eight.

Well, gee whiz; is that on axis? No. On the contrary, BOTH dice are off and that result is as off-axis as a result can be. Yet, because it scored, totals to eight, and would be on-axis if we could imagine for a moment that we just misinterpreted the landing—which maybe, could have been, a 2/6 eight…some of us would log it as an on-axis toss. Logging results in that fashion, my practices yield an on-axis percentage of 98%, 99% and 100%. Surely, that kind of scoring has the potential of making me feel good. Nevertheless, it does not help me to increase my on-axis success rate. Scored properly, my on-axis results drop to below 60%. No, that does not make me feel as good. But it does help me to refine my expectations and to isolate areas for corrective training. And that is what practice is all about, is it not?

And now we return to the issue of timing. Precise timing is the Norden Bomb Sight of precision dice shooting. When I have it, I can shoot SO from the end of the 16-foot tables at the California and never even feel the pressure of the Seven…all day long. When I lack it, woe is me. Of all of the Critical Tasks I hope to master, I consider that I am most deficient in that of timing of the release of the dice. So I work at refining my practice for that task more often than I do any other. Some day my timing will be at its optimum. As a result, some day, I will be able to call myself an accomplished shooter.

This Critical Task is the baby that we birth in precision shooting. We hope to be able to combine all of the Critical Tasks of “Precision Shooting,” or Dice Influence, so as to proximately cause the dice to land, more often than not, the way that we want them to. So we practice in such a way as to have more control over the eventual outcome of every toss. Making our task more difficult is the fact that few, if any, tables exhibit identical surface characteristics or present identical challenges.

All are acquainted with “bouncy” tables, “hard” tables, Micro-Fiber layouts, and uneven surfaces. “Sweet spots,” “holes,” “sloughs,” and landing zones that appear to be slanted in one direction or another, are also familiar topics of discussion and blamed for the costly results that we sometimes generate with our favorite tosses. In a perfect world, every LZ would be, in every way, exactly like ours at home. But in the actual world, we approach the business of craps shooting with the notion that our mastery of each of the Critical Tasks will equip us with the ability and flexibility to adapt to different bounce challenges and, thereby artificially “perfect” the landing zone with our compensatory tosses.

The only practice measurements I employ are: (1) Control of the bounce-back distance and (2) Control of the height of the bounce. Yes, other, and strange, things happen, such as colliding dice and dice that snag in the fabric of the layout and freeze in place. I do not address these kinds of deviations because they are rare occurrences in my daily regimen. If they were very common occurrences, I would be forced to address them as I would double-pitches or dice that routinely curl to one side or another. But these do not occur often enough to worry about. Hence, I only drill in height and distance of bounce. I want to be able to vary both kinds of outcomes at will. Therefore, when I emphasize these, I go through all of the steps that I have recommended as elements of proper practice. Baseline, Needs Analyze, TA, and all of the rest of the components of practice, are executed, including where possible, the fixing of a universal Criterion.

By now, very little about this Critical Task needs to be said. “He who knows not where he is, nor from where he has come, shall not reach his chosen destination.” Of course, objective measurement is preferable to guesswork. Guessing is the last resort of those who have no means to measure. Objective measurement REQUIRES accurate data entry. Only when the results of such measurement are objectively and accurately analyzed, can a practitioner or trainer assess his needs and fashion the proper practice, the practice that will extinguish the adverse behaviors and which will imbed the successful ones.

A plethora of analytic forms exist by now and are either already available by asking a fellow shooter for them, or can be created according to one’s own specifications.

When a practitioner identifies an adverse behavior, say, a wrist that is characteristically bent one way or another, such that it causes the dice to roll in a curling path to one side or another and, thereby, causes the randomization of the toss—he must then design a practice that intervenes for the purpose of correcting the toss and eliminating that kind of landing. In this case, a shooter might design a practice regimen that results in a corrective bend or straightening in the wrist and which results in bounces that return straight back rather than to a side.

Yes, I realize that what I have prescribed in this article is laborious, tedious, tiring, agonizing and a monumental taxation of one’s patience. And it is a never-ending path. I know that. And the point of one’s noting it is what?

Anyone—a two-year old—can toss dice and throw chips around. He could spend hours doing so. Do not deceive yourself into accepting that kind of amusement as any kind of practice. The only thing that one accomplishes in an undisciplined practice such as that is the imbedding of techniques that are, at best, randomly effective. At worst they are erosive to one’s over-all effectiveness.

Is there someone out there with god-like abilities, who is master of any table he surveys and who can land any number on demand—and in a stack if he has to? Perhaps such a one exists and will be in a neighborhood near to me soon. He was born with the vision of an eagle, and the motor skills of a laser-guided cyborg. Equipped as he is with superhuman skill, people like him do not need to practice.

But as for me, the workman, practice is the where “doers” are separated from the “wishers,” and the anvil upon which is forged the steely discipline of winners. And unless one is practicing with an insanely desirable mate for something like conceiving his next child, practice is almost always inhospitable drudgery and it is received by most with the about same enthusiasm that a gallon of Golytely is. Do you not remember football practice? How about practicing a difficult song as a member of your acapella choir? Jiminy, how about homework? Practice is almost never one’s chosen venue for amusement; it is almost always tenth in the list of things one wants “to do tonight”…if it is, indeed, “practice.”

So, shall you pursue dice influencing and casino craps, but only as a recreational hobby? Well then, I beg your pardon for my having burdened you with all of this mind-numbing nonsense. Please disregard my article and carry on with the business of amusing yourself at the craps table. That is, after all, all that you do, with an occasionally thrilling win and many, very expensive, buffets.

On the other hand, endure the discipline of proper practice and you will engraft the behaviors and habits that will raise you to the very top ranks of our world’s most successful dice hurlers. Therefore, because you are made of the kind of metal that permits you to have read this entire article, I know that I will see you around the practice rig. And I know that, sooner or later, I will meet you at the top ranks. Carry on and may you enjoy the best of fortunes.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 7, 2007 4:28 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Old Dog…New Tricks…Better Rewards.

The next post in this blog is DI and the Small Market Part 1.

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