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The Mad Professor's Shooting Bible
Part V

A Little More Clarity Please

 

It seems that the more I describe my various grips and tosses, the more questions that arise as to exactly how to do each one of them properly.  With that in mind, I want to add a little more clarity in regard to the following throwing-methods:

       MP’s Low, Slow & Easy

       The Mini-Table or SR-1/SL-1 Egg-Toss Lob

       The Suitcase or Clamshell Follow-Thru Toss

       The Infamous Dead Cat Bounce

MP’s Low, Slow & Easy

The description of the Low, Slow & Easy toss was originally set out in my Mad Professor's Shooting Bible Part III article.  I want to add a little more insight that should enable you to dial-in this toss a bit quicker.

Release Height

       To reach the approximate 8" recommended release height, you can start with either a “From-the-Table” or Backswing launch.

       The reason we use the 8" release height is because the L, S & E is best geared to tame bouncy tables, or to conquer extremely hard layouts.   While those two table characteristics are diametrically opposed, this toss works equally well on both extremes. 

       In either case, the less energy and the less descent-speed that the dice carry, the more likely they are to end up with a result that we intend (with an on-axis, primary-face outcome) instead of something more random.

       When the dice are released from your hand, they (and your hand) are actually angled slightly downward towards the initial touch-down target.  Think in terms of an airplane on its final approach to the runway.  The descent is moderate, yet it is gentle enough that the plane will land ON the ground, and not IN the ground.

       Your arm is extended perfectly straight towards the target so that if you drew a line from your elbow through your wrist, hand and dice, it would form a perfect line directly to the touchdown area.  This gives the dice a nice smooth glide-path through the air and improves the chances of a gentle touchdown.  The idea is to impart as little “disturbance” to the dice as possible at every stage of its motion.

       The downward angle of the glide-path is determined to a large extent as to just how tall you are, compared to just how far away the actual target is.

Throwing Speed

       You have to adjust your throwing speed so that the dice hit their target area, and then exhaust their forward momentum (energy) as they reach the backwall.  That means the dice are rapidly slowing down on their initial touchdown, and by the time they hit the lower (smooth) margin of the backwall rubber, they have completely run out of steam.

       Some people who shoot from the SR-1 or SL-1 position have trouble keeping their throwing speed to a minimum.  If this is the case for you, then you may find that a slightly increased distance from say SR-1.5 or SR-2 may be advantageous to you in imparting more control over your large muscle group.  If you find that you have more speed control from further back, then by all means shoot from there.  The idea is to get maximum consistency from wherever you shoot.

       If the dice are bouncing off the backwall and rebounding more than a couple of inches, then you are throwing them WAY too hard for the L, S & E.  In that case, you will have to reduce your throwing speed, or if that proves to be too difficult or too inconsistent, then simply move (incrementally) a little further away until your “comfortably repeatable” throwing speed matches the distance you (and the dice) are most consistent with.

Angle of the Throw

       The angle of your throw (the angle of your arm/hand) in comparison to the bed of the table is set by just how far your arm extends towards the target, and just how long your arm actually is.  Again, think of the glide-path of an airplane on final approach to landing.  That is the “approach angle”.

       Now, you also know that an airplane doesn’t land “flat”.  Rather, the back wheels touch first and absorb most of the impact of the initial touchdown.  Likewise, the back bottom-edge of the dice strike the table first.   This acts to absorb descent energy and keep the dice on a forward-tumbling and on-axis rollout.

       When the front wheels of the airplane make their first contact with the ground, its forward direction is already predetermined, and the wheels simply act to keep it on track.  Similarly, by the time the bottom leading-edge of the dice touch down with the felt, they are going to tumble in whatever direction the back trailing-edge has already determined for each cube.

Release and Backspin

       The angle at which the trailing-edge of the dice first touches the felt is largely determined by the way you release the dice, and by just how much backspin you impart on them when they are released.

       The release from your fingertips determines the starting angle, while the amount of subsequent backspin (if any) will determine the landing angle of the dice. 

       The more backspin that you impart, the less control you will have over what angle the trailing edge of the dice first strike the table.  Conversely, a no-backspin, knuckleball type throw will give you MUCH MORE control over the angle of the trailing-edge (back wheels of the airplane) on their initial touch down.

       Clearly we have to balance (and counteract) the amount of backspin with the speed at which we throw the dice.  The idea is to get the dice to exhaust all of their energy by the time they impact the smooth lower margin of the backwall.  Likewise, we don’t want the dice to thud into the table and immediately stop at their initial touchdown which will result in a short roll.  Therefore, we try to strike a consistent equilibrium between forward speed, backspin (if any), and final glide-angle.

       That is why it is so important to get to know each and every table that you play at.  Since each person has somewhat different throwing characteristics, you personally have to slightly adjust your release to match and CONQUER each table.

Square to the Backwall

       When we say that we want the dice to land "square to the backwall", we mean that the dice are at a 90-degree angle to it.  It means that both dice should ARRIVE at the backwall at the same time and hit it squarely, and not at an angle that will make them pop or scatter sideways.  

       This has nothing to do with the amount of forward wedge, glide angle, or backspin that we impart at their release.  It simply means that the two dice are parallel with the back wall, and that they will both hit the backwall at the same time and roll STRAIGHT BACK (if there is any rollback).  If the dice are rebounding at ANY OTHER ANGLE than straight back, then the DICE ARE NOT LANDING SQUARELY IN RELATION TO THE BACKWALL! 

       Let me phrase that slightly differently.  By hitting the backwall squarely, the dice should roll STRAIGHT BACK.  If they are moving IN ANY OTHER DIRECTION, then they are NOT hitting the backwall squarely.  ‘Nuff said.

The Egg-Toss Lob for Mini-Tubs or SR-1/SL-1 Positions

 

If you’ve ever been to a family reunion, company picnic or other social setting where you get into an egg-toss contest, you know that the objective of the game is for two people to toss an uncooked egg to each other as they move farther and farther away.  The objective is to NOT break the egg.  The last pair of contestants, who haven’t broken their egg, wins the contest.  It obviously takes a very soft throw and a very soft catch to succeed at this.

 

So it is with my “Egg-Toss Lob” that I find to be especially effective for the short throwing-distances of mini-tables or from the SR-1 or SL-1 position on ten-footers, twelve-footers and even a few fourteen-foot conventional tables.  As long as you remember that the longer the distance is, the less effective the overall on-axis consistency will be with this toss.

 

I find this throw to be most effective on LIGHTLY padded, but not overly bouncy tables.  Typically, this will include casinos where the table fabric is of the thicker-weight 100% pure-wool felt combined with one layer of underlay (usually a used and worn layout), and where the wooden base material is of a finished melamine surface or cabinet-quality top-grained 1” or 1” plywood.  If the base material is made of rougher, construction-grade plywood, MDF or chipboard; then you will have a sharper bounce characteristic that IS NOT suited to this throw.

The “Egg-Toss Lob” is a palm-down, from-the-table toss that uses the gentlest of throws to get the dice to land ever-so-lightly at the base of the far wall.  It’s as if you are playing “catch” with a small child.   You keep the distance as short as possible, and your throwing-force as light as possible to ensure a low-risk of damage (to the imaginary egg/the real dice) and a high-risk of a successful catch (or in this case, a soft on-axis primary-face landing).

The trajectory is a very mortar-like 45-degree launch and touchdown, but it lacks any quick movement on your part.  Rather, from pick-up to release to follow-though, your motions have to be smooth and fluid as though you are throwing the dice in slow-motion.  This can be a deceptively easy toss for mid-skill Precision-Shooters to perfect.

As always, you should be experimenting with and perfecting your grips, tosses, and trajectories AT HOME.  This is one of the easiest tosses that I use to successfully conquer lightly-padded, slightly bouncy tables; however it does requires constant practice to keep your skills in top form. 

The “Suitcase” or Clamshell Follow-Thru Toss

I received a lot of mail after the A & E Network show, “Take This Job…” which profiled the casino lifestyle of Beau (Dice Coach) Parker.  As most of you know, it included the likes of Chris (Sharpshooter) Pawlicki, Dom (Dominator) LoRiggio, Frank (I Invented Dicesetting) Scoblete, Debbie (Soft Touch) Garcia and Dennis (Hardways) Vanosdall.

Most of the e-mail focused on the seeming randomness of Sharpshooters high-rebound tosses.  Many people commented that this did not resemble the toss that he described at great length in his book, and certainly didn’t appear to be anywhere near the graceful execution that he endlessly talked about in his book.  Perhaps the presence of cameras, the glare of lights, the stress of being “under the microscope”, and the pressure of having $12 Place-bets on both the 6 and 8 at the same time had unnerved him to the point of performance-anxiety.

I don’t know if Sharpshooter has completely abandoned the half-turn backspin that he espoused in his published work because he has repeatedly said that he will not change or adapt his throw to suit a table, but rather tries to make each table yield to the power and grace of his one shot.  My people tell me that he has now adopted the "suitcase release" (as seen very briefly on the TV show) as his own.

With this type of toss, your elbow is the “hinge” and your upper arm is the bottom “base” of an imaginary suitcase or clamshell.   Your shoulder acts as the lip of the bottom part of the “clamshell”, and the back of your hand is the lip or closing-point of the upper part.  From start to finish, your arm goes through a nearly 180-degree arc.  From your pick-up point through to the release at the three-quarter closed position, to your pronounced follow-through at the 7/8th's or fully-closed position, your arm travels through the air without interruption or any rough, disrupting movements.

I understand that SS has been using this release method for a little more than a year now.  I verily believe it came to his attention after he saw someone we all know INTIMATELY, who was using this toss-approach at the Tropicana (and then later at San Remo and Orleans) at more slate-underlay tables (where SS had surreptitiously followed the shooter). 

Unimpeachable reports indicate that SS stood at the opposite end of the table with his mouth open in total disbelief as the shooter threw PL-Point after PL-Point after PL-Point, all interspersed with boundless Box-numbers.  

The Suitcase Toss is excellent for slate-underlay (non-wood base) tables, or where the felt is of the medium-thickness, low-knap variety laid over a thin smooth-finish plywood (< 1”) base.  However, on other tables, this toss will generally pop and scatter your efforts well into the realm of true randomness.  Like I’ve said previously, one toss DOES NOT work on all tables.

I guess you’ll have to wait until SS’s next book to find out if he has yet mastered this new variation, or whether the rebounds that he is getting off of the backwall continue to make Dennis Rodman, Rasheed Wallace, and Brian Grant proud.  In any event, I’m sure the revisionist history account of how he came upon this particular toss will be steeped in tales that include The Captain, The Brigadier-General and maybe even The Sergeant-Major.

Dead-Cat Bounce

Let me start by saying the DCB (as I first detailed in Mad Professor's Shooting Bible Part IV is another toss that cannot be used at every table that you’ll encounter in your travels across the dicesetting world.  In addition, you’ll find that your success with this throw grows as your Precision-Shooting skills evolve over the years.  You’ll notice that I said YEARS, not weeks or months.  Even the best shooters continue to improve and evolve their skills-set in one way or another, but it honestly does take YEARS.

To that end, let’s look at some ways that may quicken your DCB evolutionary process.

Building Up to Success

       With the Dead-Cat Bounce, you have to "build up" your skill-set a bit at a time.  Although you may determine one or two key elements of a particular throw, it is only through continual improvement and fine-tuning that you will be able to squeeze enough stability and constancy out of it to deliver steady profit. 

       To master the DCB, it is NOT the grip that is important.   Rather, it is the release, trajectory and target that is critical.

       To build up your own success with this toss, you will want to ease into it by throwing the dice high (about eye high) so that they land about 1 to 3 feet away from you on the table. 

       At this point, the distance is not important.  What is important is that through experimentation, you are going to see that some of your tosses "land and stick" without popping or splattering.  That means that the dice should be landing on-axis, and maintaining their primary-face (the same four faces that you first set them on) a high percentage of the time.

       From this distance, you will notice that a medium-strength backspin will counteract the effect of descent-speed and impact on (with) the table.

       Stick with this distance until you can consistently get them to "die" upon impact while maintaining their axis (and hopefully their primary faces).

       After that, you can start to move the touch-down area further and further away.  The actual "target" is still not important at this point.  Rather, we are looking for consistency in LANDING, not consistency in specific distance or target.  That will come later, when we eventually want to land them right at the base of the wall.

       For now, your task is to build up consistency at further and further distances while maintaining that “land and stick” outcome.   Once you work up to the distance that you normally throw from, THEN you can start shooting for a specific target area.

       At first you can give yourself a fairly large target area, perhaps the size of a single folded newspaper (broadsheet, not tabloid).  As you improve, you’ll want to shrink the target area down to the size of a large pack of cigarettes.  Again, the important thing is to maintain a high-percentage on-axis result.

       You are going to notice that as you keep increasing the distance of the throw and reducing the size of the target-area, you have to make continual adjustments to the amount of backspin, the height of your throw (the "apogee"), and the angle at which they land. 

       By the way, when we "shoot for" the base of the wall with the DCB, we do not specifically LOOK at the base of the wall when we throw.  For most people, doing so tends to flatten out the trajectory of the throw, and results in splatter and excess undissipated energy.

       Instead, we fix our vision to a point about three inches below the far-wall rail (about eight inches above our touchdown spot).  We are NOT trying to hit this spot.  Rather it gives us a visual reference as to where the dice should be in terms of their "triangulated descent".

       For greater clarity, that means that when the dice are about 3 inches below the lip of the table, they should be about 4 to 8 inches AWAY from the backwall (this forms an imaginary upside down triangle).  Remember that the dice steeply descend very close to the wall and the variance in distance (at this point in their trajectory) is due to different bounce characteristics at different tables.  By focusing on a spot just above our landing target, it gives us an artificial reference as to where the dice are at (or should be at) the steepest descent angle in their ballistic flight.   

       You will notice that a 45-degree angle RARELY works with the DCB.  Instead, you'll find that a steeper descent works much, much better.  Think in terms of an old-style parachute and that of a para-glider.  The former goes "in" practically straight down (at nearly a 90-degree angle), while the latter descends at a still steep 50-degree+ approach.   You have to experiment with this descent-variable on your at-home practice rig to get the hang of it, and to get the proper feel for distance and descent angle.     

       You will also find that you have to make continual adjustments with the amount of backspin that you impart to the dice upon their release from your hand. Remember you are using all three elements (speed, descent-angle and backspin) to balance and counteract the kinetic energy of each of those three forces. 

       Some players (including myself) find that a “pull back” type of follow-through gives the dice that added little bit of backspin without the need of “snapping your wrist” upon release.  The pull-back follow-through simply means that instead of letting your arm follow the natural arc of the throw, you draw it back so that the back of your hand ends up touching the top your shoulder when it stops.  If you were to look at the motion of your arm from the side and you traced its motion; the arc of your arm would appear to be more elliptical than round.  That means the arc would look more like half of an egg (length-wise) instead of half of a circle.  Again, smoothness is the key word to successfully repeatable throwing motions with any method.

       You have to experiment and build up your experience with the DCB in such a way that when it happens, it isn't an "accident", but rather an intentional and consistently repeatable toss.

Now, some gaming gurus will tell you that you shouldn’t put too much stock, faith or effort in trying to learn this part of the Precision-Shooting skill-set; yet they will tell you to spend more and more of your time trying to learn more and more casino games. 

It would seem to me that if you are able to move your dicesetting skills into the advantage-play mode, you would want to improve that talent as much as possible instead of learning yet another game where you may or may not be able to gain an equal or greater advantage than Precision-Shooting offers.  To my mind, that “more-games, less-dicesetting-improvement” idea actually dilutes and diminishes your ability to make more consistent money in the casino.

I guess it comes down to just why you are actually in the casino. 

Are you there to win, or do you just want to gamble?  If you are there to win; then the Dead-Cat Bounce may be another tool that would fit nicely (and profitably) into your Precision-Shooting skill-set.

In Part VI of this Series…

 

We’ll take a detailed look at:

       Grip Tightness and how it affects your throw.

       Your Thumb and how to adjust for maximum of consistency…

…and I’m going to give you a tip that may radically change how effectively and how consistently you get the dice to fly through the air as though they are virtually glued together.

Until then,

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

Sincerely,

The Mad Professor

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