You might think that your biggest opponent at blackjack is the dealer. After all, you have to beat the dealer in order to win the hand. You might think that the casino is your biggest foe. The casino runs the blackjack game and certainly doesn’t want you to win. You might even think that the others players at the table are the greatest obstacle to overcome. In all cases you would be incorrect.

The greatest opponent you will ever have to beat to become a professional blackjack player is the person you see in the mirror each day. You are your own nemesis. Many blackjack players and other gamblers have shown great skill only to see everything disappear because they could not manage their emotions and behaviors. They were their own worst enemy. In the end, they beat themselves.

A case in point is the legendary blackjack player Ken Uston. Uston created and managed one of the most successful blackjack teams in the history of the game and also authored books on card counting which have become classics. He was a prodigy and an expert card counter. In terms of skill and dedication to the game, very few players have ever matched the abilities of Ken Uston.

His success came with a heavy price. Uston was not very good at staying under the radar as a card counter. His teams ultimately were discovered by the casino and were banned from playing in many locations. Ken Uston took his battles to court, and even won a victory in New Jersey, but many will claim that the legal fighting wore him down. He became depressed and dispirited because he was now forced to disguise himself when he entered the casino. In the end, Uston died before his time in Paris. His death has long been held under a cloud of suspicion, but the truth may be that Uston simply became so overwhelmed by his emotions that the depression ended his life.

Gambling is filled with stories like this. From Stu Ungar to Ken Uston, the personal demons of talented card players have shortened what would otherwise have been very stellar careers. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to be a professional blackjack player. It is like riding a big roller coaster with many highs and lows. A professional player has to develop a strong ability to control their emotions.

Going “On Tilt”

You will frequently hear the phrase “on tilt” to describe a player who has become so emotionally rattled that they are now making very bad decisions at the card table. In the poker world, Phil Hellmuth is famous for his tilting episodes and rants. Many argue that Hellmuth, one of the most successful poker players of all time, would break every poker record in existence if only he could control himself at the poker table.

Going on tilt can happen for a variety of reasons. A player can lose several hands in a row or suffer a bad beat. A bad beat at the blackjack table would be when the dealer draws out to make 21 when he should have busted. These things happen at the blackjack table, but some players become emotionally wrecked when they do.

A player who is on tilt will make very bad decisions. He will lose the count, disregard basic blackjack strategy, and play loose and wild. Often a player on tilt will become loud and abusive, taking his anger out on the dealer and other casino employees. It can be so bad that eventually the player will be asked to leave by the casino.

Keeping your Emotions in Check

There are a few ways you can eliminate the possibility of going on tilt during a blackjack session.

  • Walk away. If things become so bad that you cannot bring your emotions under control, end the session and come back later. It is not worth staying if your emotional state is going to cause you to lose.
  • Exercise each day. Blackjack players spend a lot of time sitting at a blackjack table. This sedentary lifestyle can encourage depression and emotional problems. Make time each day to walk or run. Even better, use some of your casino rewards to work out at the casino spa. Exercise helps you to lower blood pressure and maintain a slower resting heart rate. These things will help you stay calm and focused at the blackjack table.
  • Breathe. Sometimes it can help to just stand up and take a few deep breaths. Make a slow walk around the blackjack pit or to the restroom. Breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • Take it all in stride. When the dealer wins a hand they should not have won, congratulate them! Be pleasant about it. Let that hand roll off of your back and move on to the next one.

As a professional blackjack player you must accept responsibility for you own actions and behaviors. Your mother won’t be around to tell you what to do. You have to take charge of your own discipline and manage yourself.

Further reading:

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