Being a fiscal conservative when it comes to playing casino games has always served me well, but there are rare occasions when it can backfire.

Here's what being a conservative player means to me: If I buy into a table game with $100, my first goal is to win $50. If I pass that hurdle, I'll play with my $50 profit and push my original investment aside. If I lose my $50 profit, I'll play with $50 of my original investment. If that money vanishes, I will leave the table with half of my playing money still intact and call it a day.

My ultimate goal is to double my money. If I manage to do that, I will preserve my original investment and play with only a portion of my winnings in an attempt to reach the next plateau. My philosophy is that if I'm fortunate enough to double my money, I want to leave the casino with something to show for it.

It's easy to see that using this method makes the proverbial "killing" virtually impossible. It takes money to win money. On the bright side, it makes losing a bundle unconditionally impossible. I'm willing to accept that. I'm not playing to make a living. I'm playing to have fun and to show some kind of profit if the fortunes carry me in that direction.

I recall a casino outing when my goal was to win $150 at the craps tables. I bought in for $100 and was lucky enough to turn over some pass line and come bets on another shooter's hot roll. In about 35 minutes I realized I had reached my goal. I gazed contentedly at the chips nestled in the rails in front of me: My original $100 plus $150 profit.

When the shooter finally "sevened out", I still had a surplus of around $20, so I stuck around for the next roll. My surplus built up to $40, all of which I had in jeopardy on the layout in the form of a $5 come bet with $15 odds on the six and a $5 come bet with $15 odds on the eight. If the shooter rolled just one of those numbers, I'd still be in business for the next shooter, but along comes "Big Red", the dreaded seven, to wipe me out.

I was tempted to stick around because the dice were passing to me next. I resisted temptation. I "colored up" my chips, left a $6 place bet on the eight as a tip for the crew, and walked away with two $100 black chips and two $25 green chips clutched in my hand.

My mission was accomplished. How often does a gambler set a win goal and attain it? Well, here, with all due respect to the late Paul Harvey, is "The Rest of the Story": The next shooter had a "monster" roll. The kind of roll that craps players only dream about. The kind of roll that comes along, well, almost never.

The shooter held the dice for almost two hours. He made number after number, point after point. I was witness to the miracle, unfortunately only as a passive observer.

When the seven finally did rear its ugly head, loud applause went up from the full gallery of players whose racks were filled to the brim with chips. The guy next to me had about $600 in black chips when I left. He walked away with a hand full of purple "Barnies", $500 chips. I estimate the house lost around $20,000 on the roll.

Had I stayed at that table, instead of retreating with my profit goal, I very easily could have won $500 or more, even with my conservative style of play.

As it was, looking back on things, I was just one roll of the dice away from staying. If I had been able to turn over one of those come bets that I had on the layout, I would have had enough ammunition to be there for the monster.

For me, the dream will have to wait for another day.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Eloise writes about food and entertainment for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight children in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.