A dicey subject

Aug 8, 2005 1:27 AM


If you have ever experimented with dice setting at the craps table, you’ve probably discovered that many casinos frown on this practice. In fact, some resorts will prevent you from setting the dice, as they actually have regulations on how the dice should be tossed. The dealers must adhere to these "laws" so you should not blame them. They’re just doing their jobs.

But is there merit to a methodology of rolling the dice that can control the outcome?

There are those who claim there is, but I’ve never seen any real evidence. On the other side, there are long-time players who swear that dice setting is bunk, a fabrication of the gambler’s mentality.

Regardless of the success or failure of the practice, you have to have a craps crew that will allow you to "set" the dice — position the numbers you want to appear — and toss them in a manner that somehow assures the outcome.

First, let’s look at seven regulations that many casinos have regarding the crapshooter’s handling of the dice.

1. You must handle the dice with one hand only.

2. You must choose only two dice from the five offered.

3. You cannot toss them over your shoulder.

4. You cannot toss them higher than line of sight of the dealers.

5. They must bounce, and then bounce off the opposing wall at the other end of the table.

6. They must be tossed, not slid or dropped.

7. The shooter must toss them so that he does not slow down or disrupt the game.

It is this last regulation that bothers dealers. Many people take their time when they set the dice for the number they want to see rolled, and this does take some time. When they do, the dealers will often say in no uncertain terms, "Come on shooter, toss the dice!"

If you persist in "holding up the game," a dealer can legally take the dice away from you and pass them to the next shooter. This isn’t done too often, as it tends to make the other players mad, but it can happen.

If a dealer on your table frowns on dice setting, there are only two things you can do if you want to continue to set the dice. The first is to practice at home before you go so you can set the dice in less than three seconds.

This is easier to do than it seems. If, for example, you like to set them with the sixes up and get a pair with two ones, you can flip them over, as opposing sides always add up to seven. If the dice show a four and a five, the opposing sides are a three and a two.

So, when you set the dice, now you are looking for two numbers instead of one. If you set the dice for two three’s facing up, you are looking for either a three or a four on both dice. If you set the dice for two fives, you are looking for either a five or a two.

In principle, you would think if dice setting were a genuine technique, data would have been collected and analyzed to confirm the practice.

But, unlike card counting, which can be analyzed on a computer without need for live data, dice control studies would need recording results of huge numbers of throws by different shooters under a variety of playing conditions.

Moreover, everything would have to be taken into account — from the size of the table, the placement of bets in the area where the dice land, the fuzziness of the felt, and whether the shooter was a bimbo, to the condition of the dice.

I’ve never seen a study of this kind. Maybe there’s a good reason for that.