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The Mad Professor's Shooting Bible
Part VIII

Natural Comfort…Natural Consistency

It's a great feeling when all the elements of our Precision-Shooting efforts come together.   

The more we let our stance, basic grip, arm-motion, release and follow-through feel natural, un-contorted and unaffected; the more consistent we can be as each roll within each hand progresses.

Let me put it another way…

If it feels natural, you are more likely to be able to repeat it throw after throw after throw, and session after session.

If it feels contorted or unnatural, you are more likely to experience inconsistency from throw to throw and session to session.

The less contorted and less tiring our throws are; the more dependable and longer lasting they become.

This isn’t rocket-science folks.

Although on-axis, primary-face reliability IS difficult, it’s not impossible.  The more natural you make it, the easier it is to repeat again and again without defect. 

Let’s be clear about this.

All of my tosses ARE NOT perfect, but I try to keep them within a fairly narrow band of error-tolerance.  The more comfortable I am, and the more natural feeling my throw is; the easier it is to repeat again and again within that narrow band of reliable on-axis, primary-face performance.

The more natural our whole stance, grip, motion, release and follow-through is; the more repeatable, consistent and profitable it becomes. 

Your Grip and Your Body’s Instinctive Tendencies

The nice thing about using a more natural way to grip the dice is that you don't have to change your basic grip AT ALL.

In fact, it is in the basic positioning of your hand (and the dice) BEFORE you pick them up or set them in their launch-position that can show an almost immediate on-axis, primary-face improvement than using the SAME grip, but positioning the dice in the more conventional (facing the far-wall) set-up.  Guys, those aren’t small improvements…those are of the caliber and grade that can make a HUGE difference in your take-home casino income.

When players discover that they've been imparting all kinds of oppositional/off-axis torque and yaw forces to the dice, even though their grip LOOKS perfect, and they start using a more natural grip where their fine-motor muscles are working in cooperation with their large muscle groups (instead of in opposition against them); they unchain themselves from the low SRR/low on-axis/low primary-face anchor that has been weighing down their performance and PROFIT.

The idea of course is to use your body’s natural tendencies in your favor, instead of working in conflict against them. 

To my mind, this is one of the chief causes of hand to hand and session to session inconsistency even though you may be playing on the same table all of the time.  One day you’ll be shooting the lights out and can’t seem to do any wrong, yet the very next day, you couldn’t keep them on-axis to save your life. 

Why does this happen?

Well, from my experience, it can be traced back to the whole natural feel or rather lack of naturalness that your entire grip and throwing motion is composed of. 

The more unnatural it is, the more difficult it is to ingrain it into muscle memory and recall it with any kind of reliability from session to session.    Though these throwing traits can be learned, your body tries to reject them because they feel foreign, and therefore that old inconsistency creeps right back in.

Moreover, abnormal dice-throwing amplifies any minor defects in your toss-mechanics.  That certainly goes a long way to explaining why it is so difficult to maintain relatively flawless performance from throw to throw within the same turn, let alone session to session, or week to week.

If your major-muscle groups are rebelling and fighting against what it is your small fine-motor-control muscles are trying to achieve; then it’s little wonder that most shooters have a hard time bringing any level of repeatability to their game for back-to-back-to-back-to-back outstanding performances.

In Conflict Or In Harmony…It’s Your Choice and It’s Your Money

All of that big-muscles versus small-muscles conflict even affects your breathing, your heart-rate, the sweatiness of your hands, and the blood-flow to and from your brain.

If everything is working AGAINST each other in your body; then based on the signals that your brain is supposed to be sending down to your fingertips; how good and reliable do you think the dice-results are going to be?

If you get everything working IN HARMONY instead of IN CONFLICT, your consistency just naturally becomes …well…MORE CONSISTENT!

When I first discussed this whole subject in Shooting Bible - Part VI and then further elaborated on it in Shooting Bible - Part VII, I was surprised by the amount of I-M's and e-mails I received as far as the astounding results that players were reporting by making just that one little change to their dice-setting grip and pick-up sequence.  When they further integrated the other elements that we discussed in those two articles; their reported results were equally rewarding.

It is gratifying when players are able to successfully integrate some of my winning methods into their own game-plan and get just as good results.

When you boil it down to its most concentrated form, this Shooting Bible series is really about the HOW and the WHY of what it is that I do to make a living in various casinos around the world.

As I share some of the things that have helped me accomplish success with my own Precision-Shooting, you may choose to apply some of them to your own game.  Though you may find that not all of them are pertinent or relevant to your dice-setting aspirations; an open-mind often leads to opportunities hereinbefore unknown and unidentified.

Let’s see if we can add even more consistency to our throwing-mechanics…

A Little Insight About Grip Tightness

Let me start by saying that a light touch in terms of Grip Tightness is USUALLY better than a tighter grip because the release of the dice will by and large be more even. 

A smooth release is based on the relative adhesion (stickiness) and surface tension (the same characteristic that lets you have a slightly heaping teaspoon of water even though logic tells us that it should be perfectly flat) that the dice have to overcome to release themselves from your fingertips.  

That’s why you’ll see a lot of dicesetting pro’s focusing on keeping their hands clean and dry.  Now let me also say that CLEAN and DRY also a VERY GOOD thing, especially when it comes to consistent dice-release.  I advocate washing your hands frequently, not just as a good hygienic practice and a way of washing the insincerities of the world off of you; but also as a far more practical application from a dice-throwing accuracy point of view.

Clean hands usually mean a clean dice-release.

Now, having said all of that…

Sometimes too light of a grip produces excess dice-wobble and unevenness upon their initial release. 

A small initial wobble tends to INCREASE as the dice fly further down the table.  That is, the more time they spend in-flight, the more the wobble will intensify before they finally touch down.  Unfortunately, that practically guarantees an off-axis result for at least one of them.

Any slight unevenness at launch gets magnified (increased) when the dice start to slow down, and therefore it’s no surprise that the subsequent touch-down and roll-out generally produce unsatisfactory results.  In other words, a slight imperfection upon release is exaggerated as they flies through the air, and becomes a MAJOR imperfection by the time they first make contact with the table-surface.

The initial speed of your throwing-motion and release tends to mask minor flaws, but by the time they get to the other end of the table and their forward-speed and kinetic-energy is bled off; that minor-flaw turns into a MAJOR off-axis instigator.

What causes the initial wobble, especially if a light-touch grip is used?

Ahhh well, the likely suspect is an uneven release…one or more of your fingers gave more “influence” to one die over the other, or your finger(s) held on for a nano-second longer on one dice than it did to the other.  

However, in a lot of cases, those reasons may not offer the complete picture, and in many cases it can be traced to something completely different.

 CAUTION: Reading The Following MAY Cause Sudden or Severe Improvements in Your Skill…Player Discretion Is STRONGLY Advised!

What I am going to discuss hereunder flies in the face of conventional dicesetting wisdom.  Therefore you may choose to ignore it completely.  However if that is the case, then PLEASE do not continue to piss and moan about the fact that you can’t seem to get any level of on-axis, primary-face consistency from hand to hand, or session to session, let alone week to week.

Most dice-guru’s suggest that you grip the dice as lightly as possible.  Some go so far as to say that your grip should be SO light that the cubes are barely able to remain in your hand during your entire pre-toss routine.

I don’t subscribe to that particular school-of-thought.

While the idea of using a light touch is an excellent one, and the fact that a light throw is often required to send the dice to the other end of the table with a minimum of forward-energy; the fact is, using an ultra-light grip is not always the best way to keep the dice on-axis and ending up on one of the four primary-faces that you first set them on.

Yes, a light THROW is often required, but it does not necessarily mean that you should grip the dice like they are radioactively-contaminated cubes of unstable explosives that the mere weight of your fingertips or heat from your hand could detonate at any second.

To control the dice to any extent, you first have to impart enough influence on them to make a difference. 

“Influence” in this context means keeping BOTH dice flying on the SAME trajectory, with the SAME amount of backspin and with the SAME amount of forward-momentum to the SAME touchdown area, and have them both have the SAME number of rotations before coming to their final stop. 

To do all of that takes A LOT of control, and TOO LIGHT of a touch (grip) often imparts TOO LITTLE influence and control over all of those things.

Now that’s not to say you have to be heavy-handed or ham-fisted about it; but when I see the fragility in which many unsuccessful wanna-be dice-influencers handle the cubes; it’s a wonder that they’re even able to pick them up, let alone loft them with any degree of control.

It should come as no surprise then, that they have incredible difficulty breaking away from the 44% on-axis random-expectancy and getting past the 50% on-axis performance level that marks a consistently exploitable advantage over the house.

To get far beyond that 50% on-axis threshold requires that you exercise even MORE control over the dice; and that usually means having to make a light THROW, but from a highly controlled and synchronized grip and release. 

An ultra-light grip often leads to insufficient control.

Insufficient Guidance…Diminished Influence

Let me use an inadequate analogy to illustrate:

       If a young child isn’t given enough parental direction and encouraging guidance in their formative years; they often end up as young adults wandering around aimlessly “searching for something”, but never knowing quite what it is they are looking for. 

       They haphazardly let whatever and whomever they bump into provide the impetus and direction for their lives, and their seemingly random peripatetic journeys mostly lead to nowhere. 

       In many cases, they eventually turn out to be fine upstanding citizens leading happy, healthy and prosperous lives.

       Unfortunately for most other disenfranchised and alienated youth, the outcome often isn’t quite as rosy. 

       In other words, when children are given no direction, no guidance and no encouragement; where they end up in life is almost entirely random.

So too with dice that are given insufficient influence from the shooter…

If you don’t give them enough initial on-axis guidance, directional stability and control; then the outcome often turns out to be almost entirely random.

Less guidance often means less influence… 

…in Precision-Shooting, just as with children; that’s not an altogether good thing.

Okay, can we leave behind any more of those pale analogies and agree that an ultra-light touch in not always the right answer because it often gives a nearly random reply?

Dice-control, dice-influencing and Precision-Shooting all require you to exert your intentions over and into the dice.

       Too light of a grip means that you won’t be giving them clear enough instructions about what to do once they leave your hand.

       At that point, it’s not their fault if they fail to do what you wanted them to do. 

       Hesitant and unclear instructions simply means the dice are going to end up doing whatever they were randomly destined to do before your deficient input was added.

       That does not mean that you have to over-power the dice with your manly vigor.  Rather, it means that you have to send clear, concise and succinct directional commands from your brain, through your fingertips, and into those inanimate cubes before they leave your hand.

       That means you can’t be too tentative or too gentle especially when the table-characteristics call for MORE control, not LESS.  

Here’s a few items to keep in mind when you are factoring in just how much input you have to give the dice in order to get the output that you want:

       Table-length

       Shooting-position

      Felt-condition knappiness and age

      Layout and/or underlay bounce, sponginess, spring, skip or leap

     Release-point and backspin

       Trajectory, apogee and landing-angle

       Landing-area recoil

      Backwall-rebound

 

In many cases (meaning a WIDE variety of tables across North America), too light of a grip and release fails to impart the necessary amount of input that is required to KEEP the dice on-axis during their in-flight trip, their post-flight touch-down and taxiing, and their final parking at the ramp when they reach their last-tumble destination. 

Weak or conflicting directional instructions (speed, backspin, trajectory, apogee, descent-angle, touch-down angle-of-incidence, roll-out speed, etc.) result in a lower degree of control, and a closer-to-random outcome.

If the dice are wobbling or insufficiently influenced as soon as they leave your fingertips; then they won’t magically correct themselves by the time they get to the other end of the table.  In fact, their in-flight journey will EXAGGERATE and MULTIPLY any tiny imperfections or lack of direction that you launched them with.

A light touch is GOOD, but if it’s TOO light; then the lack of directional stability that you give them WILL NOT be enough to keep them on-axis, let alone allowing them to turn up on one of their four primary-faces that you first set them on.

How Grip Tightness Affects Our Throw

Right off the top let me repeat:

An improper release EXAGGERATES and MULTIPLIES any defects that you have in your base-grip.

That applies equally to grips that are either too tight or too loose.

The central idea behind Precision-Shooting is to develop a stable, comfortable grip that WORKS...consistently.  From there you can make slight adjustments to your throw, trajectory and target area to ADAPT to each table.  That is how it is done by the pro’s, and that is how you can develop a shockingly high number of on-axis, primary-face results.

       If a grip is too TIGHT; then it imparts too much initial-release unevenness, and one die will leave your hand either a split-second later, or on a slightly different trajectory, or with slightly more backspin and energy.

       If a grip is too LIGHT or LOOSE, then it tends to impart initial-release wobble, and insufficient stability to keep them on-axis during their flight, touch down and roll out.

       With a Goldilocks and the Three Bears sense of balance between too tight and too light/loose; you’ll want to squeeze the dice with a firmness that imparts enough directional stability and control, without conveying uneven power or an unbalanced release.

Smarten Up and Fly Right

I can tell you quite candidly, that sometimes even after all the years that I’ve been doing this; the dice still don’t always fly properly when I release them. 

In most cases, I can trace the problem back to a tiny defect in the way I am holding them or in the way I released them.  Here again, we get back to the whole too tight/too loose conundrum.

In our continuing quest to get the dice to fly through the air as though they are virtually glued together, let’s consider a few things:

       Your grip may LOOK right, in terms of all of your fingers being lined up just so, but since each of your digits are all of unequal length; they individually apply differing amounts of pressure to each die that they are in contact with. 

       Even if two side-by-side fingers are gripping just one dice (and two more are gripping the other), each digit may in fact be imparting separate and distinct backspin, trajectory, release-point and yaw-inducing forces simply BECAUSE you’ve got them lined up perfectly tip-to-tip (and they “look” darn near perfect). 

       Even though your unequal finger-length now APPEARS to be “equalized” with this perfect-alignment grip; it also means that each side-by-side finger is actually imparting unequal pressure almost all of the time during your throwing-and-release motion. 

       When you factor in a second die, along with one or more additional fingers being involved; it clouds the whole even-finger-pressure/perfect-alignment situation that much more. 

       Even a two-finger (middle-finger and thumb O-ring) grip is not immune to those unequal forces.  The fact that our opposable thumbs have evolved in such a way (since our ancestors first climbed down from the metasequoias and sycamores) that vertical and inward pressure as exerted when used in a closing-fist gripping action; sees our thumb produce more sidal (sideways-bearing) pressure instead of vertical force.  If you close your fist tightly, you’ll see what I mean.

       Though we’re not trying to crush the dice as we grip them, we have to be aware of, and compensate for, the uneven vertical alignment and pressure that our thumb imparts.   We’ll discuss this particular segment of your grip in much more detail in a later S-B chapter, but for now it’s important that you take that oblique angle into consideration when you are first setting your grip.

It May LOOK Right, But…

The idea as discussed in Shooting Bible - Part VI, is to grip the dice in a nice, relaxed, neutral manner so that they are properly aligned, and leave (release from) your hand WITHOUT unequal or differing pressure on either die.

That's the first part of setting yourself up for consistent on-axis, primary-face results. The second part is in turning and targeting the dice towards their eventual destination.

Once you have set the dice so that your finger(s) and thumb apply equal and "untorqued" pressure on both dice; THEN you turn your hand and position the dice in the spot from which they will be launched.

YES, you still have to turn or re-angle your hand, wrist, elbow and arm in order to throw them towards the backwall (since you set them while they were facing the “boxmans-position”), but we do it in such a way so that our large muscle-groups are now working in concert WITH our fine-motor muscles, instead of in conflict AGAINST them.

So, how does all this add up to MORE on-axis, primary-face results?

       When you set and grip the dice facing down-table, you are turning your major-muscle groups into position FIRST, and then letting your minor fine-motor muscles do the detailed gripping procedure.

       That means that during the release-motion, your big muscles will usually be adding excessive off-axis yaw (torque) to one or both dice as they just naturally strain to return to their natural position BEFORE the efforts of your fine-motor muscles have had a chance to complete their work.

       While the dice will SOMETIMES maintain their axis; a lot of the time (>50%) for the modestly-skilled shooter, they won't.

       That is why many aspiring shooters check to make sure that their grip LOOKS correct, but can't figure out WHY all of their equal-looking finger-positioning is STILL imparting widely ranging finger and thumb pressure on the two cubes.

I know you may be as tired of hearing it, as I am of saying it, but the fact remains…

       Our big muscles have much more suasion over what our body does than our small muscles do. 

       When our small muscles attempt to carry out fine-motor exercises that also involve fighting against the urges of our big-muscle groups; they almost always fail to convincingly or at least consistently “lead” the big guys no matter how much we wish it were so. 

       Sometimes our fine-motor muscles succeed in their struggle; but most times they fail; and therefore our dice-throwing efforts lack the consistency of being able to deliver the same on-axis, primary-face outcomes again and again and again.

       If we structure our throwing-motion so that the big-muscles are helping to lead the charge, we are more likely to prevail when we ask our small fine-motor muscles to provide that final little bit of critical influence that is required to get the dice to do our bidding.  That is, everything is working in unison and in blissful coordination with each other, rather than struggling to battle against the greater (big muscle) forces that always seem to prevail.

       Let the big guys lead the way, and let the little guys provide that critical element of precise control.  Each group gets to do what they wanted to do in the first place, and as a result we get MORE on-axis, primary-face outcomes. 

       Instead of making our major-muscles fight AGAINST those lightweight cubes; why not let them do what they just naturally WANT to do in the first place; which is to work in cooperation WITH our small, fine-motor muscles.

       By setting the dice in a neutral grip FIRST, and THEN positioning them for their launch; the grip not only LOOKS right, but the subsequent naturally-balanced launch imparts the dynamic forces to the dice that we want, and restricts access to the ones that we don’t want.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Heavy’s use of a small hand-mirror during his Axis Power seminars.  It’s a great way to look at the underside of your dice-grip in order to see how your fingers are aligned on the dice.

I want to take you a little further down the road on Heavy’s great idea.

A few years back in Gilligan, The Skipper and The Mad Professor, I was telling you about a 30-casino, 58-day high-seas adventure that Ms. MP and I were on.   What I got used to on that voyage was the idea of doing a little in-cabin dice-tossing warm-up before debarking to play in the green-felt jungle of various Caribbean casinos.

Back then, I didn’t have a full-blown PaulSon layout to practice on, and even if I did, it sure wouldn’t have fit in my luggage.  Rather, I was doing a bit of pre-play tossing just to loosen up and to see how the dice were looking as they flew through the air.

There was a mirror on the back side of one of our state-room doors, and if I angled it just so, I could see a direct reflection of my throwing-motion.   By being able to see the dice leaving my hand and flying towards the mirror, I was able to see some things that I obviously hadn’t been able to view as the thrower.

       In doing so, I realized that some of my arm-extension, release-position, and throwing-alignment that I thought was perfect, was just plain cockeyed. 

       The mere fact that the dice were managing to stay on-axis AT ALL during some of those throws was nothing short of amazing. 

       When I saw it in the mirror, I realized that my arm, wrist and hand LOOKED flat enough (from my own eyes perspective), but when seen from the oncoming mirror position; the dice were quite a bit off-kilter from the horizontal. 

       That meant that the dice were leaving my hand uneven to the table surface, and were therefore landing uneven.  Like I said, it was a miracle that they were staying on-axis as often as they were.

       I immediately realized that if I went through my throwing-motion while standing directly in front of the mirror (without actually releasing the dice), I could determine just how “FLAT” or even the dice were in relation to the flatness of the table-top.

It’s those small but incredibly effective tricks-of-the-pro-Precision-Shooting-trade, which often spells the difference between 50% on-axis results and 75% to 80% on-axis outcomes.

I continue to do the same mirror, mirror on the wall release-alignment thing these days if my throw starts getting a little too funky and isn’t easily corrected using my more conventional corrective actions.

       As I stand in front of a full-length mirror, I set the dice as usual.

       Then I go through my full throwing-motion. 

       As I bring my arm up to the mirror I am able to see just how flat (to the floor, counter-top or table) the dice actually are.

       I continue making those fake throws until the dice are perfectly flat every time they (my hand with the dice in them) are parallel with the mirror. 

       On occasion I’ll close my eyes during the throw-motion and then open them when my hand is in front of the mirror.  That way, I can judge once again just how flat they actually are without aid of visual in-motion adjustment.

Like I said, if my in-casino dice-outcomes start to go off-kilter, and my usual micro-adjustments aren’t doing the trick as far as correcting them are concerned; then I adjourn to the mirror (whether in my hotel suite or at home, or even to the casinos washroom) and make the necessary toss-motion re-alignments.

You can do the very same thing in front of any large mirror, and you don’t even need the aid of a motor-yacht’s mirrored-door to do it!

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

Sincerely,

The Mad Professor

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