Are Crooked Dice an Issue at a Live Table?

crooked craps diceNowadays, as long as you play at a reputable casino, you don’t have to worry about crooked dice that favor the casino.  Generally, casinos are strictly controlled by government regulatory agencies and it’s not worth it to the casino to risk getting caught cheating its customers.  Depending on the severity of the infraction, the casino could lose its operating license, which would cost the casino a lot more in profits than what they could make on a crooked table.  However, if you’re brave enough to play at table in a dark back room of a condemned warehouse, then you might have to worry about the host introducing crooked dice into the game.

craps-dice-jokeIn all my years of playing craps, I’ve never experienced the casino or a player trying to introduce crooked dice into a game.  It just doesn’t happen anymore.  In terms of a player introducing crooked dice in their favor, the casino has strict rules for controlling the game and they ultimately always catch the cheat no matter how skilled his slight-of-hand is.

You’ll learn how to handle and shoot the dice in another article, but for now let’s talk about two key dice-throwing rules that help the casino prevent cheaters from using crooked dice.  The shooter must handle the dice with only one hand.  If a shooter brings both hands into play, the crew immediately in a strong voice reminds the player, “One hand only, sir!”  When a player handles the dice with two hands, it’s usually because he’s new to the game and doesn’t know any better.  Embarrassed, the player usually drops the dice onto the table and apologizes profusely.  The dealer does a good job comforting the player by saying, “No problem, sir, please just make sure you use only one hand from on.”

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The companion to the one-hand rule is that you can never bring the dice “outside the table.”  Imagine a vertical plane going straight up from the outer edge of the table.  The dice can never break that imaginary plane.  This rule is occasionally broken typically when a newbie player picks up the dice correctly with one hand, but then gets distracted.  For example, while holding the dice, the shooter’s friend standing in the background shouts that he wants to blow on the dice for luck, so the shooter brings the dice “outside the table” when turning to let his friend give a quick lucky puff.

These two rules alone make it difficult for a cheat to succeed at switching straight dice for crooked ones.  Some people are so skilled that they can make the switch without being noticed even with the casino’s strict dice-throwing rules.  The casino is protected from these highly skilled cheats by the mirror that covers the entire length of the table wall opposite the boxman.  When a cheat uses the back of his hand to hide the switch from the boxman’s perspective, his palm is exposed to the mirror.  The boxman simply looks at the mirror to observe what’s happening in the shooter’s palm.

When a dice bounces off the craps table because of the shooter’s poor roll, the boxman thoroughly inspects it before allowing it to come back into play.  The boxman first visually inspects it for obvious signs of irregularity.  He then checks the serial number imprinted on it to ensure it matches one of the designated serial numbers for that shift at that time of day (dice are replaced at random times every 24 hours or less).  For example, if the serial number for that particular shift is “345” and the boxman sees that the serial number on the die is “678,” then he removes the dice from play and informs the pit boss who then makes a note of it for a later investigation into how a nonconforming serial number got into the game.  The last thing the boxman does as part of his routine inspection is hold the dice at the corners with his thumb and index finger and then twirl it to feel the balance.  If it feels the slightest bit off balance, the boxman removes it from the game.

There are many types of crooked dice.  The most common are floaters, shapes, bricks, capped, painted, and loaded.  “Floaters” have an off-center hole inside them and float in water.  “Shapes” are dice that have rounded edges or points, or aren’t perfect cubes (i.e., one or more slightly concave or convex sides).  (Legitimate craps dice are unlike dice that come with board games such as Monopoly.  Craps dice are perfect cubes with sharp edges and points.)  “Bricks” are also known as “flats” and have one side cut off just a hair to make the adjacent sides smaller.  A “capped” die has one or more of its sides shaved a bit with the side(s) rebuilt back to a perfect cube with material that has different bounce properties.  “Painted” dice have any of a variety of transparent material applied to one or more sides to make it stickier or slicker than the other sides.  “Loaded” dice are weighted so one side is heavier that the others (e.g., the pips on the “6” side of the die are painted with a heavy material that makes that side just a hair heavier than the others).

All of these techniques of modifying the dice have one common purpose, which is to only very slightly change the chances of selected numbers appearing.  If the crook knows there’s a slightly better chance that one or more numbers might appear, then that slight chance can be enough to adjust a small house advantage to a small player advantage.

With all the safeguards the legitimate casino has in-place nowadays, cheating by using crooked dice isn’t worth the risk of getting caught.  Even if the cheat can gain a small advantage, it requires a long time to accumulate enough winnings to make the risk worth it.  The moral of this article is, regardless of what you might see on TV and in the movies, don’t worry about someone introducing crooked dice at a live table in a legitimate casino. Check out some safe reviewed casino such as Sun Palace, Casino Max, or Slots Plus to play craps for real money. We also have a bonus guide, and some Craps FAQ.

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Written by John Nelsen in partnership with the team of craps pros at Crapspit.org