[Editor’s Note: This post is penned by Rick “Night Train” Blaine, veteran advantage player and author of our book Blackjack Blueprint, the most comprehensive book ever written on playing blackjack for profit.]
When I was recently asked this question in the title of this post, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t beating casinos, but boxing.
I recalled 24-year-old Leon Spinks becoming the heavyweight champion in 1978 by winning a split decision over Muhammad Ali, who was 36. Was age a factor? Yes. Physical ability is crucial to boxing. At the age of 36, a fighter is in a declining stage, while at age 24 he’s typically in peak form.
Many players in their senior years who are still out there taking money from casinos will agree that both the physical and mental toll is much more challenging than it was when they were in action 30 years earlier.
Let’s address the mental toll first.
Studies show that our cognitive skills reach their peak somewhere in our 30s or 40s, then begin to decline. Typically, the rate of decline picks up its pace after the age of 60, where it becomes more evident. Many seniors experience frustration when this occurs and it’s not uncommon to be in denial. If you’re realistic and able to grasp such decline, you can sit down an do a self-evaluation.
One method is to take note of what’s frustrating you and ask yourself two questions: 1) Am I doing something that’s causing this or is it the natural aging process? And 2) Is there something I can do to minimize these effects or slow down the decline?
Here are a few thoughts others have shared that may be helpful:
- Keep your mind active by reading and other mental exercises.
- Organize aspects of your routines where repetition is the goal.
- Look into legitimate supplements (avoid snake oil) geared toward mental alertness.
- Take measures to avoid stressful situations. If you’re subject to stress, learn to manage it by researching various methods and determine what you’re most comfortable with.
- Evaluate your diet and eating habits. Different foods affect different people in different ways. Most common are foods that cause one to be lethargic during the day. While there are many published diets out there, one thing to keep in mind is how long before you go to sleep you should eat. If you have a big meal and plop yourself in bed 30 minutes later, your digestive system will not optimally function.
- Make sure you’re getting sufficient sleep. Studies produced different results on this topic, but for most folks, a healthy amount of sleep is considered between 7 and 8 hours.
- Avoid isolating yourself. Socialize and engage in conversations with friends and family. This keeps you stimulated and provides a form of exercise for your brain.
Let’s now look at how a player is physically affected by the aging process.
Players in their 60s who’ve been in the game for several decades remember pounding pavement in Las Vegas, strolling the boardwalk in Atlantic City, flying overseas, changing hotels, and putting in marathon sessions at the tables, while repeating the process over and over. While it was physically draining, the average young player’s recovery time is relatively speedy.
As the years go by, the aches and pains from travel, scouting, and sitting in one position for extended periods become more pronounced. At times all of us wonder, why am I still doing this? Regardless of how tiresome it becomes, we keep at it and do our best to maintain the mental and physical stamina that’s essential to playing an optimal game.
Many of the measures mentioned above to battle one’s mental decline from aging are also helpful addressing physical decline. Here’s what I consider a valuable recommendation … Pick up Ian Andersen’s book Burning the Tables in Las Vegas. A chapter, “On Maintaining Physical and Mental Fitness,” provides helpful advice. Ian includes his daily regimen to ensure he’s in top form when he’s in action.
Back to the above boxing scenario. Seven months after losing the championship to the younger Spinks, the aging Ali won a unanimous decision in a rematch to regain the title for an unprecedented third time. Many chalk that up to the expert experience Ali had over his younger opponent. Similarly, while we can say that going up against the casinos is a younger person’s game, older experienced players still have a few tricks left.
For me? While the Night Train may no longer be traveling on the express track, it still makes local stops and is a long way from the end of the line!