About 20 minutes after dice were invented, fashioned from the ankle bones of hooved animals, somebody cheated using dice.
The tradition of trying to swindle casinos continues to this day, so casinos take extraordinary measures to prevent players from cheating, especially at the craps table.
Because players handle and shoot the dice, craps is the only casino game where patrons have complete control over the outcome of a wager. In other cases, it’s a machine or wheel or dealer. Dice, then, are an easy target for cheaters.
Here are 11 hastily slapped-together dice security measures casinos take to ensure players don’t cheat and every roll is random.
1. Serial Numbers
Swapping out legitimate dice with weighted or “loaded” dice is a time-honored tradition in Las Vegas casinos. To avoid “crooked” dice entering a game, casino dice have serial numbers. Typically, casino dice come in packs of five, wrapped in gold foil, each with matching serial numbers. If a casino staffer sees two dice in play with two different serial numbers, the cheater’s jig is up.
2. Sharp Corners
The next time you use dice on a board game at home, take note of the corners. Most dice outside casinos have rounded corners, but in casinos, they’re sharp. Rounded corners cause rolls that aren’t truly random, and exaggerate any bias in the dice. Sharp corners “grab” the felt and assure rolls are random and keep the odds the way casinos like them, in their favor.
3. Glow Spots
Some casinos use dice that have spots, also called “pips,” filled with special epoxy that changes color under U.V. light. Floor managers can quickly tell if dice are legit using a simple black light.
Before the advent of plastics, it was difficult to tell if dice were weighted, or “gaffed.” Since the 1950s, dice have been made of cellulose acetate, making them translucent. Being able to see inside a die makes it much easier to see if anyone’s mucked with it.
5. Key Letter Spot
This is one of our favorite casino dice “secrets,” because while we’ve held hundreds of dice at craps tables in Las Vegas and around the world, we never noticed this security measure despite the fact it’s in plain sight. Each casino die has a letter or number “monogrammed” on a designated spot before the spot is painted. While scammers may be able to replicate the exterior of a die, it’s difficult to convincingly fake a letter under pip paint. Check it out the next time you’re shooting for “boxcars” or “puppy paws.” Yes, there are a lot of nicknames for dice combinations.
6. Casino Logos
Yes, imprinting a casino’s logo on dice is actually a security measure. On its own, putting a logo on dice is fairly easy to do, but this “unique identifier” is another element a cheater has to take into account, and another way they can get tripped up trying to use counterfeit dice.
7. Diamond Rubber Bumpers
This security measure is more about the table than the dice, but we’re including it, anyway. They have lots of names, but along the sides of a craps table are textured bumps, sometimes called “diamond rubber bumpers” or “pyramid bumpers” or even “alligator bumpers.” These textured bumpers make it much more difficult to manipulate how the dice will land.
Casinos foil cheaters through a variety of means, including frequently changing out dice, just as they do with cards at the blackjack table. As mentioned, the randomness of rolls can be impacted by things like edges and corners becoming less sharp through use. Fresh dice are brought into a craps game every four to eight hours, often during a shift change. Casinos have the right to change out dice at any time, however. This sometimes happens during hot rolls, as casinos want to ensure a player’s good luck isn’t the result of dice tampering.
9. Perfect Cubes
There’s a reason casino dice are also called “precision dice.” That’s because casino dice are made to exacting specifications. Most casinos use 3/4-inch dice, and each of the die’s dimensions must be true to within 0.0005 of an inch, or approximately the length of this blog’s sexual organ. Just making sure you’re still paying attention.
10. Pip Drilling and Backfilling
Even tiny variations in a die can cause it to roll in a less random way. Pips aren’t just painted in casino dice, they’re drilled. To make sure the side of the die with six pips doesn’t weigh more than the side with just one, the drilled holes are filled with a special paint that’s the same density as the rest of the die. Oh, all right, maybe there’s a little rocket science involved.
When dice are removed from a table, casinos use a hand-operated press (or “punch”) to “cancel” the dice before they’re destroyed or sold in the casino’s gift shop. Cancellation markings, commonly in the shape of circle, make it easy for casino security, dealers and managers to see if a “retired” die has been put into play by an unscrupulous player.
Craps is one of the most exciting games in a Las Vegas casino. Now, the next time you play, you’ll know all the dice security measures casinos take to keep players from cheating.
By the way, cheating in a Las Vegas casino is a felony. You have better things to do during your Las Vegas visit than going to the big house and being passed around like a social security number at a hacker convention.