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The Mad Professor's Shooting Bible
Part XII
Spin Control Chapter 1


Most talented dice-influencers find that imparting a certain amount of spin to their dice-throw not only helps the two cubes fly in perfect side-by-side tandem, but it also keeps the dice from developing all kinds of sideways hopping, popping and scattering as soon as they touch down at the other end of the table. 

Taken a step further, inertial spin also acts to keep both dice in phase with each other when they hit and rebound off of the backwall.  Simply stated, the right amount of spin will produce more primary-face outcomes and fewer random conclusions.

Whether it’s forward-spin or back-spin…we’re going to look at it in detail and explore how you can use it to gain MORE control, more on-axis results, more primary-face outcomes, more in-phase emulation and correlation, and of course more predictable results and much more skill-matched-to-efficient-wagering revenue.

Controlling ANY Amount of Spin

Creating and controlling spin is a subjective thing.

Toss-consistency becomes more difficult as spin is either artificially increased or decreased.

Let me explain...

For the sake of clarity, I'll stick with "backspin" since that is what most players use these days.

There are three different types of backspin. Within each of these types, you have some latitude (rotational speed control) as far as increasing or decreasing the amount of spin you can put onto the dice: 

       Natural Spin


       Wrist-Snap Spin


       Finger-Roll Spin

Natural Spin

This is the amount of rotation that happens when you release the dice without adding any "wrist snap" or other artificial last-second movement of your finger, hand or arm, and therefore your wrist, hand and finger speed is the same as your lower arm.

In this case, the amount of spin that is imparted to the dice is a product of your forward hand-and-arm speed, instead of any intentionally increased or decreased movement to induce more or less spin as you release the dice.

Depending on the arc of your arm-movement and where the dice are released in relation to that arc, as well as how smoothly your release transitions to a same-arc or different-arc follow-through; determines the amount of spin that will be transmitted and contributed to the dice.

Further, the direction and speed of release from your fingertips (how quickly or slowly you open your fingers and thumb), and where your fingertips were pointing to or arced towards, will also influence how much "natural" spin the dice receive.

Wrist-Snap Spin

Just as the name implies, this spin is controlled by the speed difference between the arc of your lower arm and that of your wrist as it unfurls at the point of release.

If you gracefully move your wrist from a "demure swan" position (wrist curled under) to a fully extended and straight-aligned fingers/hand/wrist/lower arm configuration (aimed at your target-area) at the point of release; then the amount of spin will obviously be controlled by how quickly you make that transition and how quickly you unfurl or snap your wrist. Less snap = less spin, more snap = more spin.

Additionally, your dice release-point will also impart more spin if the dice are held fractionally longer in the upward extending throwing-arc than if they were released sooner and more directly (in a straight line) towards the backwall.  That is, a dice-release that is flatter and more inline with the table surface will tend to have less spin than one where the dice are released when your arm has started to arc toward the ceiling.  Again too, the speed of that arc-movement at the time of release will also impact the spin-rate of the dice.

Taking that knowledge in a different direction; some skilled players use a downward arc that starts directly over but above the rail-height of their dice pick-up position and then angles the throwing motion downward on a steep glide-path towards their intended initial touch down target.  This way, spin-rate can be controlled to near zero WITHOUT the troubling off-axis popping that traditionally hounds knuckleball tosses that are gently lobbed and plopped towards the target area.

Finger-Roll Spin

If you grip the dice as you normally do, you'll notice that you can "rock" (sway, mildly wobble, or undulate) the dice within that grip by rolling your finger(s) forward or pulling them back...all the while using your thumb as the hinge (pivot or fulcrum) on which the dice can be rocked back and forth.

That rocking variance within the same grip can be used to add or subtract spin right at (or just before) the point of release.

The quicker you rock the dice or unfurl your fingertips when you release them, the more backspin you will add. If you unfurl them slower than your forward-moving hand-speed, then less spin is imparted and you end up with a spin-rate that is much slower than your arm-movement throwing speed would suggest.

Therefore, some players use this method to retard backspin or to eliminate any spin whatsoever.

Conversely, some players rock the dice or unfurl their fingertips faster than their forward-moving hand-speed, and obviously more spin is imparted and you end up with a spin-rate that is much faster than arm-movement throwing speed would indicate.

As Irishsetter has mentioned previously, the one huge problem that most players suffer when they use this kind of release, is that they tend to either "push" their thumb into the dice seam and therefore split the dice in an outward off-axis wobble, or they are so inconsistent in doing it from throw-to-throw, that they never get the reliability that they should.

As a result, all the grip-alignment that you’ve worked so hard to perfect, is shattered because of the misalignment that you render onto the cubes right at the critical point of release.  Total grip-pressure (as in too much of it or too little of it), as well as finger-to-finger grip-pressure variance (an imbalance of grip-pressure between each finger) is something that is covered in detail in Shooting Bible Part 8 and 9.

A different variant of finger-roll spin is to release your thumb from the dice slightly before releasing your other fingers, and therefore letting the dice roll-off of your fingertips.  Though you’ll usually see this kind of release done to great effect in underhand (palm-up) tosses, it can work just as effectively in palm-down “overhand” tosses as well.

Here’s how:

Because of the inertia of forward movement of your arm, wrist and hand as it is moving through its throwing arc, the dice will tend to stick to the “ceiling” of the underside of your fingertips longer than to the “floor” of your grip (the contact patch of your thumb).  Therefore, when the dice do eventually let go of your fingertips (because the forward-moving inertia carries them away), the final micro-seconds of contact they had with your fingertips (when they were finally free of your thumbs grasp); they will take some additional “roll and spin influence” with them.

The difference in the release-time lag between your thumb letting go and the rest of your fingers letting go, is where additional spin is either added or retarded.

That final little bit of fingertip contact is also what often causes one dice to lead or lag the other. 

Since our fingers are each of different lengths; even when we line them up just so, it means that one or more of our fingers is at a different angle of contact with the dice than the finger right beside it.  In trying to compensate for their differing lengths, we often unknowingly alter the contact patch size as well as unwittingly vary the grip-pressure from one finger to the next.  I’m not saying that this can’t be overcome, I’m simply saying that if you aren’t aware of it, then you may have no idea why you can’t seem to get any sort of consistency from your toss from throw-to-throw let alone session-to-session.  We explored the entire grip-pressure variance issue in Shooting Bible Part 8 .

Examining Extremes

Hyper Spin

Some players render what you could call an exaggerated amount of spin to the dice. If for example, you choose to throw like Yuri recommends, from the farthest end of the table; then a copious spin-rate is almost always required.

However, hyper-spin where you are combining Wrist-Snap, increased Arm-Speed and excess Finger-Roll; is rarely required on normal-length, normal layout tables.  One example of where it could be useful is on some of those super-long 18' to 24' land-barge layouts from the straight-out position.  In those cases, I have found that a mid-to-high trajectory, ultra-spin, steep-descent, at-the-backwall-landing seems to work quite well for me.  However, like I said, that amount of hyper-spin is rarely required in normal play on traditional-length tables.

Knuckleball No-Spin

Some players have found that the close-in positions of SR-1 or SL-1 on shorter 10’ or 12’ tables require a no-spin knuckleball throw. 

As good as this type of throw can be, it often provides a feast-or-famine level of consistency.  That is, when you get the landing-angles just right and the dice carry just enough forward momentum to bring them to the backwall; this toss can be a beautiful thing.  However, because a toss like this requires exact and precise initial touch down targeting, an imperfect throw or a positive-rebound layout can produce all sorts of random-outcome ugliness.

Further to that, many players find that their no-spin knuckleball does not transfer well from one table to the next and requires considerable recalibration as they encounter each new layout.  Due to the no-spin success they may find and exploit at one layout, they often have a hard time re-adapting it and adjusting it (and in their mind, undoing and destroying the basic mechanics that they just perfected), when they move on to a different layout.   The frustration of encountering just enough off-axis unreliability causes them to either over-compensate and destroy their toss-reliability completely, or to needlessly abandon a toss that can and should be used selectively and judiciously on certain types of table surfaces.

If a LITTLE Is Good, Then MORE is Not Always Better

I often find that if you provide a little bit of spin-rate encouragement...the table will most likely yield to what you want the dice to do rather than what the table itself wants to impart or retard.

If you have a chance to look at the principles of Insufficient Guidance…Diminished Influence that we discussed in Shooting Bible - Part 8 ...and the further exploration of Elemental Roll-to-Roll Success in Shooting Bible - Part 9...you'll see that, to my mind, subtle on-axis input is often the over-riding factor in determining whether or not you get consistent and steady on-axis outcomes.

From my perspective, backspin is only one of several elements to consider when getting the dice to land on-axis (and remain that way) without resulting in popping, hopping, splattering or any other off-axis activity.

Does the amount of backspin affect those things?

Yes, but it can't take total credit when it works nor total blame when it fails.

       The trajectory of your throw...


       The energy (speed and force) with which you throw...


       The "squareness" of the dice on their landing (in relation to the table-top and the backwall)...


       As well as the speed of rotation of backspin (or forward spin for that matter)...

ALL individually either contribute to or serve to eliminate any off-axis influence that their impact with the felt and the backwall have.

To my mind, each of those elements has to be adjusted and metered to suit not only the particular table you are at, but also the initial landing-spot that you target on the layout.

On backspin, I'll add one generalization:

When in doubt, reduce the revs.

YES, there are conditions where it is necessary to increase the rate of backspin revolutions, but for the most part, new shooters tend to over-torque the dice.  Lot's of backspin can make the dice look beautiful in the air, but as soon as they strike the table, they JUMP like drops of water in a hot frying pan.

As we find in most everything about the toss-adjustment process, the longer-term effectiveness of any adjustment or tweak is usually heightened when the adjustment is made gradually with small incremental changes.

       When experimenting with spin control adjustments for example, make only a slightly change from your current spin-rate, even though you intend to further reduce the revs more.  That way you are better able to gauge and more accurately modify your basic toss when you encounter a table that you haven’t played on before.


Otherwise, you will have essentially begun an entirely new toss with its own attendant complications instead of just making some small incremental changes to your already semi-reliable basic toss that only required a bit of spin-rate and release-point tweaking to make it perfect.

It's difficult to gauge the effect of any change if it's causing new problems. Instead, if the change is gradual, and you incorporate the necessary other minor adjustments to the tiny revision (that you just made) as you go along; then you’ll maximize the effectiveness of each increment of adjustment along the way.

When you finally produce a reliable on-axis, primary-face toss, then all the other dynamics required to make it work will have been cooperatively ushered along for the ride (instead of producing their own set of contradictory control issues), and you will therefore be able to produce a more consistently repeatable outcome from throw-to-throw and session-to-session.

Next Time

In the second part of this Spin Control discussion, we’ll be taking a detailed look at forward-spin and the huge benefits that can be derived from using it.  I hope you’ll join me for what promises to be one of the more enlightening subjects that I’ve ever written about.

Until then,

Good Luck and Good Skill at the tables…and in Life.


The Mad Professor

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