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Dice Control - Fact or Fiction

16 July 1999

By John G. Brokopp

No matter how many ways you analyze it, the game of craps is a game of pure chance. Period. Sure, the odds make it one of the best games in the casino to play. If you couple this with wise money management, it's possible to play craps with success over the short term. Over the long haul, however, the built-in casino edge is bound to take its toll. If it wasn't that way, craps tables wouldn't be on the gaming floors of every casino in the country…and you can bet on that!

About the only thing that can be construed as a "skill factor" in craps is the act of physically picking up the pair of dice and rolling them. Even though calling this a "skill" is really stretching the point, there is a certain school of thought being circulated in gaming circles that it's indeed possible to "control the dice", that is, arrange them in a certain configuration, hold the cubes a certain way, then toss them the same way at the same speed toward the same spot on the table.

The strategy, of course, is to compromise true mathematical probability by lessening the chances of the dice adding up to seven, the number that no "right" craps player wants to see during the course of a roll. There are 36 possible combinations of the dice. Seven is the easiest number to roll (6 possible combinations), followed by six and eight (5 combinations each), five and nine (4 possible combinations each), and four and ten (3 possible combinations each). The combinations are completed by three and eleven (two ways each) and two and twelve (one way each).

It is my contention that if the dice are thrown properly (straight down the middle of the table to the back wall) it is impossible to control them. The interior sides of craps tables are lined at the corners and the ends with a material textured with rubber pyramid shapes. When the dice hit this wall, they bounce off and tumble back to ensure as fair and random a roll of the dice as possible.

"The pyramid-textured back wall and corners were designed so that the dice hit at different angles and fly off in random directions to preserve the integrity of the game," explained Jim Klimesh, director of casino operations for the Empress Casino Hammond and a former craps dealer before his casino gaming career took a turn toward management.

"Dealers are trained to make certain that the dice are shot properly. If a shooter throws them short, or attempts to bank the dice off the corner, it is the responsibility of the dealer to say 'Sir, you have to try to hit the back wall'. I know that's the way I was trained. I am aware of instances where craps players have been barred from throwing the dice because they repeatedly did not heed the warning.

"If the dice are not thrown properly, then, yes, to a certain extent it is possible to control the dice. For example, there's a term known as 'slider' for a dice shooter who attempts to control one or both of the dice by scooting them across the felt to prevent them from tumbling. Such a player, for example, may want to keep a six on one of the dice. If he plays the field, he'll lose only if an ace or a deuce shows up on the other die.

Any other number (three, four, five, or six) and he's a winner. Some casinos protect against 'sliders' by putting a 'speed bump' under the felt at the middle of the table."

Klimesh, a veteran of every phase of casino operations, maintains that it is impossible to control the dice when they are thrown properly. I go along with him. If there was a way to beat the game of craps by using a manipulative roll, the casinos would take the proper precautions or just not host the game.

Let's look at the theory of dice control realistically. Under the most dramatic scenario, say you had access to a casino craps table to practice throwing the dice. Say you experimented with different configurations of the dice before tossing them. You looked for different ways to hold the cubes in your fingers or hand (you may handle the dice with only one hand). Let's imagine you aimed for the same spot at the back wall while shooting from the same spot at the table. Even if you were able to attain a uniform speed and pin-point target accuracy, the "pyramid power" of the back wall would get you. But being able to attain such mechanical skills would be highly improbable.

Being a craps player myself, I cannot discount the fact a certain energy or aura surrounds a table when a hot roll is in progress. It's an inexplicable phenomenon. I also have found myself "handicapping" the shooters. I check out their shooting technique, and make mental notes of their past rolls. There's no rhyme or reason to it, but my experience tells me the dice get hot and the dice get cold.

But dice control? Forget about it. In casino craps you've gotta throw them bones right, and when you do it's strictly up to chance how they tumble.

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

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