Dice control at the craps table: does it really work?

Many are sceptical about dice control. Some even call it cheating. But dice control, or dice setting, is part of any professional craps player’s skill-set.

Dice control is where a player learns to throw the dice in a way that gives them a favourable outcome. Thus, they’re able to influence a game that would otherwise be down to luck. Unsurprisingly, most casinos take measures to reduce a skilled shooter’s chances at controlling the dice, such as forcing them to hit the back wall.

Dice control (in theory) lets players claw back the advantage that the house holds over them, sometimes known as controlled shooting. In the same way as games like snooker and darts, practice makes perfect. So, assuming that precision shooting was possible, it would only take a few successful rolls to affect the edge.

Dice control theory

The shooter starts by setting the dice in their hand, placing certain numbers next to each other. He or she must then execute a smooth and consistent throw to achieve a synchronous spin that keeps the dice in rotation together. The idea is that if you use the same starting configuration and throwing technique, it’s more likely that the dice will turn up the same or similar with each roll.

How to achieve dice control

Grip and alignment

Your grip should be light, and the pressure evenly spread over both dice – think minimum contact and friction. Consider the dice as a two-part unit that you are throwing as a block. Your hope is that they stay in contact as you throw.

You must try to align the dice parallel with the table. So, if you were to lower them to the felt, both dice would make good solid contact. Then, with the aim of reaching the end of the table, use the lines displayed on the layout to help you line up your shot.

Taking the shot

In order to make calm spins more tricky. Casinos often set a rule that the dice must reach the back wall. The wall itself will have a textured surface to make the bounce of the dice more random.

Your aim with dice control is to minimise this randomness. Remember to throw in a straight line and try to let go with your thumb and fingers at the same time. If you don’t, the dice are more likely to split as they roll.

Also, be wary of clammy hands. Sweaty palms can stick to the dice, reducing your control and causing the dice to break apart. Some players get around this by using chalk or antiperspirant on their hands, but the conspicuous use of chalk will likely get you banned from the casino. Your best bet to avoid clamminess is to remain cool and collected.

Setting the dice

Practice setting the dice at home, so you’re not fiddling with them at the craps table. You’ll look a fool carefully placing them on the table and alert the dealers that you’re planning to control the dice. The idea is to set the dice in a way that significantly reduces your chances of rolling a seven.

There are many different dice sets that you can use. Here are three of the more common ones:

  • The hard ways set – offering the best protection against a seven. For this set, you place hard ways combinations all around the two dice. For example, a hard 10 on top with a hard six or eight at the front and hard four underneath.
  • 3 V and 2 V sets – also good for avoiding sevens but require more skilled throwing to achieve a synchronous spin.
    For this, you must have a hard six or hard four showing on top but aligned so that the spots create a V shape.
  • In-line six set – tends to produce a seven and so useful for the come-out roll.
    You need to place two sixes on top with the spots aligned. Make two long lines of six rather than four short lines of three.

For more on precision shooting, check out Stanford Wong’s book, Wong on Dice. It’s an interesting read that does a great job of explaining the maths behind dice throwing.

Achieving good dice control is difficult. It takes a lot of practice and even once you think you’ve got it down, unexpected surprises like clammy hands can throw you off. But once you have mastered control, both your confidence at the craps table and the respect you receive as a talented player will mount.