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Does the Golden Arm Exist?

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I have heard of people selling information about how to "set" dice. Is there any truth to the idea that some people can set dice and throw them in a way that will make them land on their desired numbers?

Or do you subscribe to the idea that no matter how you "set" the dice you will still get a completely random result? I believe there must be some truth to dice setting, because some casinos do not allow you to do this. W. J.

Setting dice has been practiced forever and is typically not considered illegal on a crap game. Rules or decisions about dice setting are under each individual casino’s policy. Where the practice is allowed, the only problem a dice setter might run into is a little heat from a boxman for holding up the game while finding their set.

Some superstitious players may not like seeing a seven or a craps facing them when they take the dice from the stickman, and they will rotate the dice – set them – until they have a more favorable number on top.

Of course, there is a dedicated community of craps players who believe in "controlled shooting." This goes way beyond just setting the dice to their favorite numbers before a roll. These players feel that the way they grip and then toss the dice at the correct angle, can limit the rotation of the dice. By doing this, they believe they can control the results, hence, the game’s long-term odds in their favor.

So, can some shooters set the dice in a particular way and alter the regular odds of the game? I fly on the side of gaming folklore, and hold that “it just ain't so.”

There are others in the gaming community that disagree. One of my favorite gambling authors, Frank Scoblete, wrote a very enjoyable book called, "Golden Touch, Dice Control Revolution." I’m not going to say, “no dice” to his belief, but after spending 18 years on the inside, and umpteen more years on the out, that I have to see it to believe it. And I haven’t seen it yet – not with an officially permitted toss that is.

When it comes to a player setting, and then sliding the dice across the table to get a certain result, sure, how hard is that? You could do that at your dining room table all day. But you can bet you will see crap dealers, a boxman, the pit boss or the eye in the sky go bonkers if some dice charlatan tries to illegally manipulate the cubes in any way to cause other than a random outcome.

It is illegal to cheat at craps, and there would be some substantial consequences, when, not if, you are caught. The dice must be thrown across the table with some degree of oomph. The shooter is not allowed to push, “trickle” or slide them across the table.

My personal take is that the chance of having an effect on the dice after they have bounced off a wall of rubber pyramids at the back of a 12 foot craps table are slim to none, no matter how they were set, or what axis they were at before they hit. Now, if I am playing a cup-free, laissez faire game of Yahtzee with my wife, well, that is a very different story.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The dice goad like hooks and prick like whips; they deceive and torment. They are coated with honey.” – Better's Lament, Rig Veda Hymn