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Dice Setting is Consistency


The main point for dice setting is to develop consistency with your toss. The rest has to do with theory. It is absolutely essential that you have a baseline with your shooting style. Without a baseline, adjusting to different table conditions amounts to…well, a craps shoot.

I reviewed a video sent to me from a dice setter and I critiqued his toss. I carefully observed twelve rolls provided in his footage. Although you do not have the benefit of seeing the video, I thought my commentary which follows could benefit some dice setters with regard to using self-observation.

Anatomy notes; Medial: Towards the midline of the body. Lateral: Away from the midline of the body.

Alex, your launch pad needs to be stable. What you are using now moves around too much. Pick up a yard of green felt from a fabric store. Either wrap the felt so it is fixed to the underside of the table or you could glue it to a piece of composition board. Make it about 12” x18” inches. This will provide a stable launch pad big enough for practice.

I will address each toss and I have numbered them 1-12.

      Having an anchor point is a must in order for you to make any corrections with your toss. The anchor point is your starting position. Notice that you make a tap-tap with your hand right before you toss. This is unnecessary movement. Your hand needs to be motionless before the launch. Position your hand on the felt at your anchor point, (same place each time) this also eliminates the unnecessary movement. Also, I suggest moving your anchor point back about six inches. When you toss, you will move your hand forward like a plane taking off from the runway. Lightly dragging your hand to naturally lift off from the layout as your arm continues to move upward, taking the hand forward in a natural arc. Your arm is moving like a pendulum, with momentum to launch the dice. The way you shoot in #1, your hand “jumps” up and then you make a forward movement toward the back wall. I make this suggestion to improve your starting point (anchor point) by moving your hand back a bit and to eliminate unnecessary movement.

2.      With the second toss, you have a similar starting point and hand position, minus the tap-tap this time. The dice were on line and all looked good, start to finish. They stayed together in flight and landed without too much energy.

      This toss was okay enough to say it was consistent with the second roll.

      With this toss, you went back to tap-tap again before shooting. The tap-tap does not add to anything to your technique that I can see. Again, it is better to just put your hand down on the layout, where it needs to be, at the anchor point. Focus on the landing and shoot the dice to the target zone. Eliminate unnecessary movement. Also, you lifted you hand again, just slightly off the table, before initiating forward momentum. Subtle as it may seem, I call it jerky not fluid.

 5.      With this toss I noted a subtle wrist rotation laterally. Your hand was slightly cocked to the right, not perpendicular to the sidewall. The dice flew to your right and did not land together. Remember, the dice fly the way your hand takes them. With a consistent anchor point and motionless start, this can be avoided.

 6.      With this toss, notice how your hand is in a better starting position. Perhaps you intuit a better starting point as previously recommended. Your hand is square, motionless, and your dice fly together nicely, parallel and land together at the same time. They roll up into the back wall together and come to rest together. Nice roll and you are showing improvement with technique which means consistency. Note: Regulated self-adjustment with the starting point. You recognize when you need to adjust the starting point for example, and then observe the results. Did the adjustment help? Yes, I’d say so.

      In this toss you again start at my recommended anchor point, six inches back. However, the launch pad moved with your hand. When you review this toss, it is easy to see how you drag the pad in an errant direction. This is one reason for securing the felt or to use a more stationary board mentioned above. You do not necessarily need a professional craps table, but you need to make your practice rig as real as is possible. Be aware of a steady hand before shooting.

      This toss was okay and your dice looked good, start to finish. Review this toss for your own benefit to lock it in visually. Close your eyes and visualized the toss. Then watch it again. Train the brain with hand eye coordination.

      No roll with this toss, one die down – It appeared as though your hand rolled laterally just before the release. Hard to see it for sure with the camera angle, but it is the direction your dice took, so your hand had to have rolled at some point. The dice will always go in the direction of your hand and release. Throw them straight, they go straight. Hook your hand and the dice will take a right turn.

   Okay roll here, it looked just like roll number 8. Consistency. Lock in the feeling as well as visualizing a good toss. With consistency you are then able to make adjustments at any table because you have a baseline to work from instead of a guess.

   Miscue here – Again it appears as if your hand rolls laterally upon the release of the dice, hooking right. You also moved the launch pad again. Note: It moved in a clockwise direction indicating your hand was already rotating laterally while still in contact with the pad. Your hand was hooking to the right and that is the direction the dice flew. Consistency again, only that this consistency is developing a bad habit. Side note: Home practice is required, however, it is like the saying about data and a computer…garbage in, garbage out. If you practice a bad habit, without critique, you defeat the purpose of influencing the dice.

   With this roll you made the point 8. Your hand was anchored back at the preferred launch point. Again, your anchor point should always be at the same place. With all pieces of a toss being consistently the same, it allows you to make any modifications, (adjustments) if and when the time comes. You should be able to recognize where you need to make the adjustment in your toss with self-observation. For example, needing to move the anchor point, rolling the wrist, hooking the dice, hard right or left turn upon landing the dice. 

The movement in the launch pad was important to note here because it shows you how your hand is moving laterally at the very beginning of your toss. The clockwise movement, as you push off, confirms that your arm movement is leaving the table in a lateral direction. The two no rolls appeared to hook right which is consistent with the initial movement noted here with the clockwise rotation of the launch pad itself.

Once you have a stationary launching site with felt, you can mark your starting position with chalk. In the game, a craps layout has numerous landmarks that you can use as a starting point to shoot from to aid with the consistency of a starting point.

These little things may seem insignificant. However, consider the length of time you intend to play craps. In tweaking for consistency, try to eliminate unnecessary movement and train to duplicate all steps. Again, doing so allows you to self-critique, adjust and improve.

Mechanically your toss is connected, resembling a pendulum from your shoulder through the upper arm, forearm, and to the wrist. Because of all the joints in the lower arm and wrist, this is typically where rotation tends to take place. The dice have no choice, other than to go in the direction of the arm and hand. Shoot straight, the dice go straight.

Your grip and pick-up seem fine. Work on your anchor point. Once you pick up your set dice, take your hand to your start point and anchor. No tap-tap or adjusting movements. You are training hand eye coordination. This is similar to the skill required in archery. (If you have shot free style with a bow and arrow?) I recommend the book, The Zen of Archery. It is a quick read and although not about dice, it is relevant to hand and eye coordination as well as focused intention. I call it intuitive shooting.

Alex, the video was a clever idea. It was hard to scrutinize the release and landing in the video, but it seems that both dice are leaving your hand together. In the release, I look for follow through. Sometimes a guy’s hand clutches or whips open and it affects the dice in the last split second. Also, I can’t tell if the dice are landing flat. Better to invest in diamond rubber for the back wall. The one you have fashioned is flat and will not simulate the real thing. You can easily improve you landing surface as well.

With a couple of your shots, you pushed the dice instead of swinging them from the arm. Like a shot putt but I am over exaggerating. Go back and watch the video, you will see what I mean. All of this is subtle. However, with trajectory, just a small change in angle will miss the moon all together. If the dice fly flat instead of in an arc, they may miss the landing zone and may not have back spin. Another common issues is when the thumb pushes through the dice upon release. The dice will not fly parallel and the result becomes a random roll.

The setup you have for practice could be improved. Your dice will react differently on a craps table. Meaning, what you see in practice is not what you will see on a casino table. It is simple enough to make a diamond rubber back wall using 2x12 lumber and eleven inch diamond rubber and have a felt landing zone over ¾ inch plywood.

I had a seven foot pool table back in the day. I made two back walls, one for each end of the pool table. I would shoot six pair of dice, record the rolls and move to the other end. I’d recover the dice and shoot them back the other way. Thirty-six rolls in eleven minutes, three sets in about a half an hour. I’d record in groups of ten, 360 rolls. Practice is boring as hell and a commitment to time. However, it is necessary to become consistent with the dice. I recorded over 6,000 rolls. I continue to practice, but I have eliminated the record keeping.

We practice to develop hand eye coordination. Same thing, same thing! Look at the landing zone and deliver the dice to the area of your aim. In the game, no two tables are alike, so you must be able to adjust your toss based on how the dice are reacting and what you observe with your toss. This is the reason I focus on self-observation more than just technique. I have had numerous clients, some with okay form and good results as well as clients with great form but mediocre results. It is critical that you know how to fix your toss when things are not working.

Dice influencing is like ballet. Fluid movements linked together to create art. A good landing with desired results begins with good mechanics. When the dice leave your hand, they go the way you tossed them. 

Michael Vernon


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