I Feel Good – The James Brown Approach to Casino Craps

Humor me for a few minutes. One of those singular moments that is freeze-framed perfectly in my mind was the first time I saw James Brown in concert. The year was 1964. The event was the T.A.M.I. show, a historical concert filmed in Santa Monica, California. The film also featured such acts as Chuck Berry, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Lesley Gore, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and the Rolling Stones.

The Stones were one of the hottest up-and-coming bands around and the promoters had decided that their act would be the climax of the evening. They would close the show. James Brown, late of the “chitlin’ circuit” and not exactly a household name in white middle-class homes, didn’t see it that way. He had always closed the show on his tours and argued for the closing slot but was refused. So when he went on stage – just before the Stones – he decided to give Mick and the lads something to follow. He did his usual closing routine – but took it to new heights. His performance of “Please Please Please” is the stuff of legends. And his “Night Train” dance changed the way Mick Jagger performed on stage from that day forward. Legend has it that as James left the stage he slapped Mick on the back and said “Follow that.” Here are links to snippets of those two performances on YouTube:



Take a look at those videos, and then ask yourself, “What if I could bring that kind of energy to my craps game?” I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen a player step up to a choppy table, look around, claps his hands and says, “Come on, guys. Let’s turn this table around.” I’ve caught myself wondering if this guy was a shill a time or two. But as soon as he got the dice the question was answered. He wasn’t just a talker – he was a doer.

How to you develop that sort of confidence and energy? Well, it comes from many things. Let’s look at a few.

Experience. You can look at those James Brown videos and tell it’s not his first time on stage. He OWNS the stage. And he got that way through experience. One of the ways a craps player gains confidence and energy is through experience. For all we know our “table turner” may have seen something in the game that we missed. Perhaps he is a veteran precision shooter looking to get the dice for a quick hit and run? Whatever he has going for him – he exudes confidence and energy.

Knowledge. James Brown never needed a crib sheet to help him remember the words to a song and he didn’t have little feet painted on the stage to show him how to dance. Every show might be different – but every show was the same. At craps, you have to know the game from all angles and be just as knowledgeable as the supervisors running the game. From the moment our confident player steps up to the table he takes possession of it. It is his table – and he knows it. He also knows exactly what he wants. $25 on the Line with max odds. Dealers on the line with shoes. Place $520 across. He is in charge of the table and – because of his tokes – the dealers are working for him instead of the house. Suddenly the energy of the game swings in his direction.

Attitude. James Brown could have hit the stage downhearted and depressed over having to give up the closing slot on the show. Instead, he hit the stage with a winning attitude that showed through every move he made. Winning players do the same thing. My friend Isgood still talks about the session he and I played in New Orleans this summer. When we walked in the casino I suddenly felt my energy peak and said “this is my kind of place. We’re going to win some money.” As we stepped up to the table and bought in the dice immediately came to me. And over the next half-hour, after each toss, I’d slap the table top and say “I’ve got an idea. Give me the dice!” It was definitely one of those James Brown moments.

Can you bring James Brown type energy to the craps table? Of course you can. Start out by building up your confidence through knowledge, experience, and attitude. Stand tall and look people in the eye when you speak to them. Feel good about yourself. Then make sure you know every aspect of the games you’re going to play. And remember – hope is not a strategy. If that’s all you’ve got left then it’s time to close the show.