When you gamble, do you know what makes you T.I.L.T.? (T.I.L.T. = Turn Inwasrd Leave Truth).
Back in 1996, I was dialoguing with Blackjack expert Allan Pell about the T.I.L.T. mechanism extant with human beings. When I told him that I spend much of my time researching and delivering Introspection Therapy (a contemporary improvementy over today's psychotherapeutic methods), he implored me to write this article for his GambleVision website (since gone offline). Because the study of psychological impact on playing performance has been so undervalued (and therefore so mis-understood), when I discovered that the GambleVision website was offline, I decided to revise the article and publish it in Boris' Blackjack library, for your reading enjoyment.
Allan Pell was fascinated by my description of "Stability-Factors" and "Confusion Theory"; two cornerstone bodies of knowledge fundamental to Introspection Therapy. The psychological aspects of gambling in general (and Blackjack in particular) have been ignored by professional Blackjack players, far too long. Casinos began their profitable study into the psychological aspects of gambling long ago. It is time we begin to consider the importance of these psychological factors ehich subtlely, yet noticeably, impact the Quality of our Blackjack play.
The Truth: Can You Handle It?
If you saw the movie A Few Good Men, you doubless remember the scene in which the prosecutor (played by Tom Cruise) shouts to the military officer on the witness stand (played by Jack Nicholson), "I want the Truth!!!" The officer bellers back "You can't HANDLE the Truth!!!". I ASK You, can YOU handle the Truth? Philosopher Jesus said "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free". Freedom is INDEED available in your play, on the condition that you possess a willingness to examine that Truth related to your play.
In 1989, I made an attempt to explain Fundamental Introspection Therapy concepts to family, friends and colleagues by recording a lecture entitled: Secrets of Survival - Awakening to the Whirrrrl'd Around You. In this lecture I introduced the above-mentioned stability-factors and Confusion Theory. When you REALLY get clear on these two aspects of human psychology, you will have a keen intuitive insight into the "reasoning" behind MUCH of people's behavior. It often suprises people to discover that human behavior can actually be explained by fundamental ideas. Let's begin with a look at Confusion Theory.
Theory is actually quite simple: when confronted with the
possibility of living in a chaotic, uncontrolled universe, we will
most always choose to live in ordered one. Therefore, at some level,
much of our personal behavior is motivated by the need or desire to
bring about order (i.e. stability) into our world. At first, you
would think this is the way life SHOULD be - there's nothing wrong
with a desire to bring stability into our lives. The problem, as
Ronald Smothermon put it, is that we will do anything
(no matter how rediculous and destructive) to bring about that stability.
Putting it another way, our "solutions" to problems often become new problems unto themselves.
Life is often QUITE confusing. Our demand for a confusion-free Existence is often so compelling that we will virtually stop at nothing to achieve it; and herein lies the problem. Sometimes, we want peace and solitude in our universe so bad that we agree to ignore the negative side-effects our method of achieving that goal often creates.
The thoughts/feelings/emotions we use to shut off the confusion we experience in a given area of our lives are colloquially known as stability-factors; an attempt to bring Stability back into our lives. Our personal gauge for the validity of a given stability-factor (S-F) is whether or not we are experiencing further confusion in that aspect of our life we are trying to "handle". Understand that just because our confusion goes away, this is NOT a guarantee that the thought/feeling/emotion which we adopted to silence that confusion contains any truth in it. The only thing we can say with assurance is that our confusion went away.
translate this into play at the Blackjack tanles by way of a true
story from my early Cmlump-track forrays to Vegas in 1992. Throughout
1992, I was returning back to the ranks of semi-professional
Blackjack play; after spending nearly 18 mos. re-examining the game
of Blackjack while I designed Boris-for-Blackjack Version 2.
During a play trip in June of 92, I encountered a player (we'll call him Keith) using a strategy that looked similar to my approach. At a Blackjack seminar (east of the strip) he played two shoes of cards against a demonstration copy of Boris-for-Blackjack and then kind of hung around me throughout much of the rest of my trip, until he suddenly but quietly disappeared.
Having this schmuck show up at a table I was playing was somewhat unnerving. You see, "Keith" was a poor player, always looking for a way to explain-away his consistent losing; and make no mistake about it, he WAS getting KILLed. He would grimace and squirm when he had a large bet at risk (for him $5 to $10 in a $2 game). His latest "kick" was that the dealers at the Imperial Palace (where we were playing - I loved their wash-cards in those days) were doing the "Bahama hole-card switch" maneuver; something he had read about (in a Blackjack newsletter) that was being practiced at Resorts' Bahamas Casino.
Essentially, the hole-card switch occurs when BOTH dealer cards are dealt face-down, then, the dealer determines WHICH card to turn up. My novice nemisis KNEW this was happening to him, because when he realized this "truth", his confusion about his losing seemed to disappear. (Oddly enough, the rest of us in that 4 player game were not being hole-card switched.) We will ignore for a moment that the month before, he had a series of different "explanations" for his losing all designed to shut off his confusion.
I was quite familiar with the Blackjack approach Keith purported to
be using, the REAL reason he was losing became instantly clear; and
the dealers had nothing to do with it. It was clear to me that Keith
did not have a CLUE about how to implement the playing strategy
portion of this Blackjack method in live casino play.
The above fact was already in evidence earlier during his play-evaluation sessions against Boris Version 2. Boris' Detailed statistics screens detailed that his Hands-Won-Ratio (a complex formula for evaluating one's card-play performance) was attrociously low (for his betting method being used) and his negative betting-performance told us that his betting increases were consistently out-of-alignment with the game.
I tried to reason with Keith over why he was losing. He wanted no part of the discussion. Why? Because it was bringing back the confusion regarding his play; the very confusion he was efforting to keep repressed.
When you put logic versus one's emotions, logic usually loses. Keith had his confusion about losing neatly shut-off until I came around to "ruin" things for him. As a therapist, I tend to be accused of that a lot. However, when patients are complete with therapy, they thank me for having shaken up their world a bit.
I've analyzed the play of hundreds of players using Boris-for-Blackjack. Among the consistently losing players, I note that their betting and hand-play are consistently at odds with one-another. How much of YOUR card-play is nothing more than an attempt to shutoff YOUR confusion? How many times have You:
your Playing Stop-Loss?
off our confusion can take on many forms (i.e. it is polymorphic).
For example, consider the following:
When you takea BIG "Hit" (i.e. Loss), which is true about you?
are non-emotional - it has NO effect on you.
any of the above items on the list (except the 2nd one) describe
you, be careful - you may be headed towards
"gambler's-ruin". You might be suprised to hear that the
1st item on the above list is ALSO a sign of trouble. The reasoning
is very simple: we are human beings, not robots. Healthy Humans FEEL.
Unhealthy people often manageto shutoff their emotions (using
stability-factors). So, if you were to come to me for therapy and
tell me that your last big loss didn't affect you, to that, I say BULL!
The TRUTH is, it IS affecting you; otherwise you wouldn't be so intent on shutting it off and convincing me that it has no impact.
It is ok to be affected by hapennings life. However, it becomes counter-productive when it impacts your play. Finding a healthy balance betwen no-emotion and excess-emotion is one of the keys to psychologically improving your play.
In addition to using software for in-depth studies of your particular playing strategy, I recommend maintaining some sort of Journal or Diary regarding your practice play as well as your live play. I can count on the fingers of one hand the players I KNOW who actually keep diaries or journals of their play; and in my opinion, only two of them are actually doing it correctly. Virtually none of these players have thought to extend Journaling into their practice sessions. As I understand it, the idea of practice sessions in the first place is to PREPARE for Live Play. If you are making mistakes in your practice, you want them corrected BEFORE you enter the casino.
I remember one player who kept an accurate diary of his playing sessions; unfortunately, they were mostly losing ones. Psychologically speaking, he was not ready for live play. However, because he never Journaled his practice sessions, he never really realized that until looking back on a year's worth of predominantly losing play.
Journals and Diaries can be VERY telling, IF we have the courage to study them closely. Stuart Perry's book Blackjack Diary is a perfect example of how a journal can be kept. The book also serves as an example of how stability factors can be invoked to rationalize poor play.
Stuart been studying his own diary as he went along, he would have
noticed several things that he discovered at the END of his 8 week
play; the most important fact being that when you amortize his 8-week
win (a mere $2300), over the hours he played (231), his average
win-per-hour was only $9.95 (considerably less if you factor in
travel and hotel expenses).
Even in 1994 dollars, $9.95/hr is HORRIBLE.
the diary, Perry details being consistently hammered in the shoe
games he played. He failed to recognize that the card-count method he
was using was consistently ilmatched to the shoe games he
encountered; although he did reasonably well in the hand-held 1 &
2 Deck games. Stuart was constantly attempting to force the shoe
games to conform to his preconceived-view regarding the way shoe
games SHOULD behave, rather than observing (and then adapting) to the
way each game REALLY WAS.
Ironically, in his book, he TRASHED a clump-track method available at the time which would have beat nearly every one of the shoe games he lost.
If your goal is to become a consistent winner at Blackjack, in ADDITION to all your theory study and practice play, it is imperative that you ALSO understand something about YOU. YOU is who the casinos are out to beat, not your betting or playing strategy. YOU is who the casinos are out to confuse. YOU is who the casinos are willing to Comp when they realize they have a slightly-educated SUCKER at their tables. YOU is the MOST IMPORTANT Factor regarding your Winning or Losing.
Before you denounce the method you have spent weeks and months learning, make a self-analysis:
you REALLY playing the strategy properly?
Some years ago, on TUESDAY & Thursday evenings, I used to host live team practice sessions in an internet chatroom. Because we often had unknowledgeable visitors, questions were often raised regarding of the logic of their plays. live dialogue is how we learn and root out stability-factors which may have crept into our play.
During the practice period lasting over a year, our team win rate was just over 72%. Individually, the players became stronger as a result. (In-casino live play with them in Vegas and Atlantic City later bore that out.) I used to study the playing logs from our games, looking for subtle clues regarding our success/failure. I am frequently amazed at the subtleties which can be deduced during an honsest search for the Truth.
us return to the Question I proposed near the beginning of this
piece: Can you HANDLE learning the Truth about your Blackjack play?
Are you willing to make the modifications necessary to improve your Blackjack play?
I get a kick out of people who rationalize losing play by saying "well, I played by the book". Unfortunately, that book didn't know A THING about the game you are sitting in right now. The ONLY correct play is the one which wins the MOST money or loses the LEAST money for each playing situation. Admittedly some of those plays are not practical, or can bring on considerable heat. However such situations are in the minority.
would be amazed at the percentage of losing hands (about 2/3's)
which could have been won; if ONLY you were paying attention to what
the game you were in was telling you. In order for this to happen
however, you must be willing to risk encountering a considerable
amount of confusion regarding your play.
The degree you are willing to step outside of your comfort-zone dictates the degree of success you can expect to encounter playing Blackjack. You may be thinking that I am full-of-it. Maybe I am. However, if there IS any truth to what I say, can you afford to ignore it?
It's your life. It's your time. It's your money. Ultimately, the only one you have to answer to regarding the Quality of your Blackjack play, is YOU. No one else really much cares. If what you are doing at the Blackjack tables is WORKING and working ADEQUATELY, then Continue! However, if you are wondering if your play can be improved to any significant degree, I assure you that it can. Whether you choose to do something about the Quality of your play is up to you.
I end this article, not by wishing you luck, but by wishing you SUCCESS.
Or, to quote Thomas Jefferson:
am a great believer in luck.
And, I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it."