Is dice setting a myth?

Feb 17, 2004 12:58 AM

The hot topic among craps aficionados is whether some shooters can control their throws sufficiently to reduce the number of times they throw a seven or increase their chances of throwing a desired number.

If you doubt the interest in this subject, a trip to a craps newsgroup on the Internet or a bookstore that specializes in gambling books will prove most enlightening. There are many websites and books devoted to the subject of how to set the dice and throw them in a specific manner that will either reduce the house percentage or convert the game of craps into a positive expectation game.

The "evidence" most of these pundits quote is how few less sevens must be eliminated in order to turn the pass line or place bets into positive expectation bets. Yes, no one would argue how little the laws of probability would have to be circumvented; the question is if there is anyone out there that can achieve it.

Casinos have always known of the dangers from shooters that can throw a "controlled shot." Anyone that has the patience and determination can train himself or herself to set the dice in a specific position and then throw them in a manner that keeps the dice on axis. A good mechanic can even maintain the axis as the dice roll across the table and even after the dice hit a flat wall. In Las Vegas of the 1940’s, casinos did not allow a shooter to set the dice before he threw them. Then casinos adopted a new technology that made shooting a controlled shot impossible: the rubber pyramids on the walls of the craps table.

No amount of research on my part has been able to prove what I am sure must be a law of physics, that after a cube hits those pyramids, no one can anticipate which direction the dice will travel, much less at what angle. Of course this law is only valid if the shooter actually hit the pyramids. Those gamblers that think hitting the wall with both of the dice is an option and not a requirement should read the law, at least from the Nevada Revised Statutes:

NRS 465.015 Definitions. As used in this chapter:

1. "Cheat" means to alter the elements of chance, method of selection or criteria, which determine:

(a) The result of a game;

(b) The amount or frequency of payment in a game;

(c) The value of a wagering instrument; or

(d) The value of a wagering credit.

Since dice setters hope to "alter the elements of chance which determine the result of a game" they should not be surprised when casino personnel take measures to insure that they don’t, after all, that is what dealers and supervisors are paid to do.

Of course, as I have stated, the only measure the casino needs to make is to insure the shooter hit the wall with both of the dice.

The emergence of dice setting reminds me somewhat of the interest in card counting that started in the seventies. A handful of counters that were knowledgeable and disciplined enough to alter the game of blackjack into a source of income sent shockwaves through the gaming industry for both the players and the casinos. Many books were written and sold about the subject and many players tried to learn card counting. Casinos even temporarily changed the rules of the game, such as only allowing players to double down on totals of ten or eleven.

There are two tangible differences between the dice setting phenomenon and the card counting revolution, however. First, card counting is real; it is just unattainable to the person that is unwilling to devote the time and effort into mastering it. And secondly, amateurish attempts to count cards did not generally interfere with the smooth operation of the game.

What is truly pathetic about the dice setting "revolution" is the effect it has had on many of today’s typical players. There have always been shooters that disrupted the game by not being able to accomplish the simple task of picking up a pair of dice and throwing them in manner where they will bounce lightly off of the table and then a wall no more than ten feet away. But now casino personnel are forced to endure watching some moron take thirty seconds or more to set the dice and then watch him pick up the dice and shake them in his hand! Someone please explain to me how setting the dice influences the roll after the shooter shakes the dice in his hand.

Then when "Johnny Dicesetter" does throw the dice, he hurls them in a manner that is dangerous to the people around the game or fails to hit the end wall. When he is asked to set the dice a little faster, throw them down the center of the table, not throw them quite so hard or to try to hit the end wall, he becomes belligerent and even accuses the suits of being scared of his ability to throw winners. What is particularly annoying to us grown adults who were raised to have respect for authority is when he asks to see the rules explaining why he needs to follow the boxman’s instructions.

From what I have been able to research, neither the State of Nevada nor the Nevada Gaming Commission have written laws pertaining to either how a shooter must throw the dice or what rights casinos have in enforcing their policies. The closest reference I can find is the following:

NRS 463.0129 Public policy of state concerning gaming; license or approval revocable privilege.

3. This section does not:

Abrogate or abridge any common-law right of a gaming establishment to exclude any person from gaming activities or eject any person from the premises of the establishment for any reason.

What this ultimately means to the gambler is "our way or the highway" if he is foolish enough to think that he is running the game and not the paid representatives of the casino.

Possibly what is even more upsetting to me than the effect of the dice setting has had on the way that some casinos operate. I have heard of casinos implementing "no dice setting" rules. I think this is sending the wrong message to their customers. It suggests there is something legitimate about dice setting as a method to beat the table and it punishes those that want only to set the dice promptly.

I have also worked in a casino that put foam rubber under their layouts in order to offset the effects of throwing a controlled shot. The foam rubber made it nearly impossible for the shooter to keep the dice on the table. Subsequently, it made supervisors like myself, reluctant to ask the shooter to hit the end wall since it was difficult enough for even the most co-operative shooter to keep the dice on the table.

What I fear will become the ultimate result of some casinos hysteria over dice setting will be that players will no longer be allowed to shoot the dice. I’m sure it will start by casinos hiring shills that will be the only people allowed to shoot and them the invention of some kind of dice throwing machine. The only thing worse than that will be listening to the dice setting advocates claim that is was the threat of the skilled dice setters that forced casinos to ban players from shooting the dice.