A Die Of Another Color

Martin Gardner



A Die Of Another Color

-1- Introduction Introduction Basic Tosses Classifying Controls In Closing


The Classic Palm The Pick Up Controls 1 thru 9 Rolling Any Numb~r Controlling Two Dice Addendum

Martin Gardner


The Basic Grip Finger Palm The Pick Up Controls 10 thru 13

-27- Without The Cup Controls 1 thru 12 Addendum

Illustrated by Joseph K. Schmidt


The Finish Surprise Finish Bibliography

© 1995 Karl Fulves


-1- Introduction

-3- Basic Tosses

-4- Classifying Controls

-4- In Closing

Introduction G

The literature on how to control fair dice is not only sparse, but also of poor quality. Controls are described that are impractical because of bad angles or awkward movements, and many excellent controls are not given at all. Moreover, even good controls are often described so briefly that it is difficult to understand the exact handling.

At the end of this treatise you will find a bibliography of all the references that have come to my attention. The purpose of this monograph is to include everything of value in this meager literature, and to add many controls that have never been in print before. These are original with me, but I am under no illusion that they have-not been worked out by dice mechanics, perhaps going back for centuries but without finding their way into print. After all, dice and tossing cups go back to ancient Egypt.

I am not a gambler- not even a performing magician. On only two occasions have I watched a skilled dice mechanic control cup shots. Many years ago, in a Chicago tavern, Carmen D'Amico introduced me to a dice man, and I watched in awe as he repeatedly controlled one die in Chicago's then-popular 26 game. It provided all of us with free drinks. The 26-girl who recorded his scores had no inkling of what was going on, nor could I detect what he was doing.

On another occasion in my youth, when I was visiting my parents in Tulsa, I dropped into a neighborhood bar for a glass of beer. The bartender was playing some sort of dice game with a customer, and winning easily. It was obvious to me that he was controlling one die in a dump shot because I could see the other dice bouncing off the controlled die. After the customer left, qutte a few dollars poorer, I congratulated the bartender on his skill. Instead of becoming indignant, he was enormously pleased. He told me proudly that his wife, an attractive young woman who was operating some kind of targetshooting game near the bar's entrance, had not only mastered the move, but could also use it for controlling two dice.

I offered to pay the man to teach me the move, but he declined. I -1-

was a card man, I told him, not a dice man. He offered to introduce me to a spot in Tulsa where there was lots of card action, but I said I was in town for only a few days and had to get back to Chicago. I have since regretted I didn't offer to trade him some card secrets for his dice move, though this probably would not have interested him. Card men seldom work With dice, and dice men seldom work With cards. I have no memory of the bar's location, nor did I ask the man his name, but I have often wondered exactly what technique was behind his beautiful dump-shot control.

For magicians who do gambling lectures, using a table for demonstrations' With an overhead projector if the audience is large, a demonstration of cup-shot controls can be extremely effective and entertaining. An obvious way to prove that a die is being controlled is to introduce a colored die among five or more white dice of the same size (I thought of this independently and have never seen it in print, but Steve Forte uses this idea in his gambling tape on dice). If you are shaking, say, seven white dice, it is difficult for anyone to see that one die is being controlled. But if the controlled die is green or some other color, then it will be obvious you are controlling the colored die. In what follows, the controlled die will be called the green die.

I will assume the cup is of the standard type, usually made of leather, about four inches high and three inches in diameter. It should be a cup Without a 'lip' inside for tripping the dice, although many controls, as you will learn, work just as well With trip cups.

I will also assume that the cup contains at least three dice. If there are only two, and the green die is held outside the cup, the single die inside will not produce a convincing rattle. It is possible for the green die to be in a finger-palm position in the hand covering the cup's mouth while the cup is shaken, so that a single die inside rattles against the palmed one, but even this sound is not quite the same as the sound of two dice 'cackling.' I recommend that in demonstrations the green die be among at least five or six white dice. Controls seem ~ore impressive when many dice are tossed, and the moves are just as easy.

I shall also assume that the reader is right handed, and accustomed to tossing the dice With his right hand. In what follows the cup may be shaken in either hand, but the final toss is always made With the right. If you are left handed, and feel more comfortable tossing the dice with your left, then in all that follows you must reverse left and right.


Basic Tosses

There are two basic ways of tossing dice that I will distinguish by the terms slide and dump. The slide toss is made by holding the cup horizon tally. only an tnch or so above the table. and giving the dice a slight toss.

The toss may be either to your left. or forward. or in a northwest direction. At the same time. whlle the. dice are falling. your right hand draws the cup backward. The toss should be made smoothly arid carelessly. and always the same way.

Regardless of whether the green die is held underneath the cup. or is inside. the toss is made in the same way. If the green die is inside. it slides out with the others. If held beneath. it slides forward to Join the white dice. If this toss is properly done. all the dice appear to come from inside the cup. and it is impossible to see that the green die did not. As I Said. I will call this toss the slide. regardless of whether the green die is held below the cup or comes from inside. If the surface is smooth, you can give the cup a wrist twist so that the dice emerge with a slight spinning motion.

The dump toss is qutte different. The right hand inverts the cup and forcibly throws the dice downward. The dice hit and scatter. The green die, which has been held out during the shaking of the dice, is allowed to slide into the cup so that when the dump shot is made, the other dice bounce off the green die and prevent it from turning over.

Dump controls are not much harder to master than slide controls.

They are the most convincing of all controlled shots because instead of sliding. the dice obviously tumble about after they hit the table. There is a chance that a white die may remain balanced on top of the green one, but this rarely happens. In actual play such an event of


course renders the toss invalid. But if the dump shot is made with sufficient force. the danger of this happening is m1n1mal.

Classifying Controls

One could classify controls into two main groups. slides and dumps. but it seems to me more convenient to divide them into three groups based on three different ways of holding out the green die while the cup is shaken; the classic palm. a curled little finger grip. and a palm at the base or middle of the middle and third finger. As we shall see. these holdouts can be made with either hand even though the final shake of the dice is always with the right hand.

Controls have been described in which the green die is thumb palmed in the way a coin is thumb palmed. in the crotch between the thumb and index finger. I will not describe any of these controls because I regard them as too awkward and impractical. Any control that uses a thumb palm can be better executed with a classic palm.

In Closing

You should practice these moves in front of a mirror to make sure that at no time can anyone in front of you glimpse the held-out die. Most of the controls have the great advantage that the green die. when held out. cannot be seen even by persons on your left or right. or behind you.

If you use any of these controls in a gambling demonstration. you may expose them or not as you wish. If your lecture is solely for entertainment, I recommend that you perform several different controls without explaining the methods. In all cases you must of course make clear why one die is green. Be sure to let the audience (if small) examine the die to make sure it is not mtsspotted. If you are using a projector, turn the die about slowly to show all six faces, and howoppostte sides add to seven. There is no need to do this with the white dice. Because they are not controlled. questions about their fairness never arise.

In actual play. surfaces can vary; dirt. newspaper, bar counter. wood floor. cement. rug. felt, linoleum. blanket. wooden table top. and so on. The exact handling of a move. as well as the choice of


control, will depend on the type of surface. A large blotting pad is ideal for lecture demonstrations and also makes a colorful surface. It should not be the same color as the controlled die. I will assume throughout this manuscript that the surface is similar to that of blotting paper- neither as slick as a kitchen counter or as rough as a blanket.

Dice moves have a different feel from moves with other small objects like cards and coins. If the reader is willing to put in the time needed to master the moves in this manuscript, he will have on hand a ready supply of material that is different, thought provoking and entertaining.


~. ~ .!



The Classic Pal

·6· The Pick Up ·8· Control 1

·10· Rolling Any Number ·11· Controlling Two Dice ·12· Control 2

·13· Control 3

·14- Control 4 Little Finger Palm ·15- Control 5

·18· Control 6

·17· Control 7

·18- Control 8

·19· Control 9

·20· Addendum

The Classic palmL;]·

How do you palm the green die. without arousing suspicion. during the act of picking up the dice? This is one of the most important aspects of any holdout control. For the classic palm there are several methods.

In lecture demonstrations the simplest way to get the green die in a good position for palming is to display it in your hand. then put it down at a spot where it is southwest of the other dice. Figure 1. Alternatively. you can shift the dice about with either or both hands while you talk. then leave the green die nearest your left hand.

The pick-up is made as follows. Rest the heel of your left hand on the table. As you slide your hand forward. fingers slightly raised. Figure 2. it is easy to pick up the green die in the palm simply by resting the palm directly on top of the green die. Without hesitating. continue to slide your hand forward. still on the surface. and grab the remaining dice. Drop them into the cup. retaining the green die in a

~ ~


Gre~n Die


classic palm position. Figure 3. When you sweep up the other dice. the movement of the thumb is concealed by the simultaneous pick-up of all the remaining dice.

In actual play. it is of course not desirable to rearrange the dice. However. in such play it is not necessary. as it is in a demonstration. to palm a partlcular die. Suppose the die you wish to palm is near the center of the dice on the table. Proceed as follows.

Either hand can pick up the dice near you and drop them into the cup. leaving the desired die at a spot where it can be easily palmed as the left hand scoops up the remaining dice. .

I should add that in a game the reason a particular die must be selected for palming is that one of its faces- either the top. bottom or right side. depending on the control you use- will be the face that will show after the shake. If there are many dice. as in Chicago's game of 26. you can make several pick-ups by either or both hands. Because the palmed die remains secure. it can bepalmed during any pick-up. not necessarily the first or last.

If you find it awkward to classtc palm a die in the act of sliding the left hand over it. there is a method suggested by Carmen D'amico in the Eddie Fechter book. As your left hand starts a pick-up. the ring finger slides the green die back into the palm as shown in Fig. 4. then straightens while your left hand continues to pick up more dice and drop them into the cup. The other dice are then picked up by your right hand and dropped in~o the cup.


It has also been suggested that the palm can be obtained by first stacking four or five dice, then palming the top one in the act of picking up the stack to drop in the cup. I do not reconunend this. It is too peculiar a way of picking up dice. There is also a danger of the stack toppling when you try to palm the top die.

Control I

The number you call is the number on the bottom face of the green die. All dice except the palmed one go into the cup, which either rests on the table or is held by your right hand. As soon as the dice are in the cup, take it in your left hand. It is gripped at the top, thumb on one side, little finger on the other, with your first, second, and third fingers covering the opening as shown in Figure 5.

The palmed die is pressed against the back of the cup where it is invisible from all angles. Be careful not to let the die 'talk' when it goes against the cup's side.

Shake the cup with your left hand. Your fingers covering the cup's mouth should be spread slightly to show that no die is finger palmed. Mter shaking. turn your wrist so the cup is parallel to the surface and pointing northwest. Grasp the side and lower end of the cup as shown in Figure 6. The lower end of the cup presses against the base of your palm. Your -left hand continues to cover the cup's open mouth. If you like. you can give the cup a few shakes while you hold it with both hands.


Pressed into palm

The palmed die is easily clipped underneath the cup between the tips of your right second and third fingers.

This move is usually described by saying that the right hand covers the bottom of the cup rather than grasping the side of the cup as shown. Unless the cup is extremely shallow and you have long fingers, it is impossible to reach the palmed die without twisting your left wrist to an awkward position. Figure 7 shows the positions of the hands with the cup removed. The left fingers are shown extended for clarity. rather than closed over the mouth of the cup. Those looking down on the cup will see nothing unusual.

With cup removed '\.

If you shake the cup while it is held by both hands, you can take your time in Clipping the palmed die. I prefer not to make this shake, but to clip the die as soon as the right hand grasps the cup and the left releases it. there should be no hesitation. Don't take the cup in your right hand, then pause while you feel for the clip. The clip should be made quickly so it looks as if you have merely passed the cup from one hand to the other.

After removing your left hand, with the green die clipped beneath. lower the cup- it is still parallel to the table and pointing northwestto an inch or so above the surface.

If you prefer, you can point the cup due west, but I favor the north


.. 9-

west direction shown in Figure 8. Make the toss in the direction of the arrow, followed at once by a quick movement of the cup backward for six or more inches. The white dice slide out of the cup. If the toss is made slightly above the surface, some of the dice will tumble. Because the green die, which of course is released when you toss, is nearer the surface, it slides forward withou t turning over, to join the white dice. It is impossible to see that it does not come from the cup with the other dice.

This is one of the easiest, most convincing of all dice controls. Its angles couldn't be better, and the result is certain.

Rolling Any NUDlber

Now for some refinements. In the act of palming the die, it can be given a secret quarter-tum in any of four directions. To turn it left, rest the left edge of your palm on the left edge of the die and tip it over. A similar quarter-turn to the right is made by tipping with the fleshy part of your thumb. To rotate the die backward, tip it over with the heel of your hand as you draw the hand slightly backward. To tip the die forward, use the flesh just below your fingers as you move the hand forward. The tipping is silent on all but a smooth, hard surface. With practice, a tip can be done smoothly, blending in with the act of picking up the dice and palming the green one.

You can set up exercises to sharpen this technique. Set up several dice in a row on the table. Go from die to die, using the heel of the hand to tip each die backward. Then start at the beginning of the row, bu t this time use the left edge of the palm to tip the left edge of the die over. Repeat the exercise for each of the other quarter-tum directions. Develop this skill so you can do it rapidly, without fumbling, without


having to stare at the dice to perform the move.

The tipping allo'N's you. in a demonstration. to roll cmy face called for by someone in your aUdience. First. call out the bottom number of the green die. then proceed to roll it ctS described. Now ask someone to call out a dffferent face. If the number called is on the bottom. there is no need to tip the die. If the number 1s on a side. tip the die accordingly to put the desired face on the bottom,

This is very effective because you can repeat the shake and throw with exactly the same handling as be.fore. If you prefer. you may re-quest any face including the top one. If the top is asked for again. simply go on to one of the other controls in which the top face ts the one that shows after the dice are thrown from the cup.

Controlling Two Dice

Control # 1 will also take care of two dice. though it is somewhat more challenging to get them into the classic palm position. They can be palmed either parallel to the thumb. Figure 9. or crosswise. Figure 10. The fight fingers then either clip them parallel to the fingers. Figure 11. or crosswise.

The clipping is not difficult. but getting both dice palmed during a pick-up, without suspicion. is not easy in actual play. For a demonstration. you can have two green dice that you simply place on the table in a good position for palming .

. 11.



This is the same as the previous control up to the a POint just after the left hand shakes the cup. The difference is then as follows. Take the bottom of the cup in your right hand and turn it so it points due west, parallel to the playing surface. Your left hand remains completely stationary while the cup is turned until its opening presses against your left palm as shown in Figure 12.

Other dice bunched up near

~~ bottom of cup.


Die inside of rim.

This allows the palmed die to go inside the cup where it rests on the cup's rim. Your curved left fingers hide this transfer of the die to the inside of the cup.

As soon as the cup is turned, release the die by raising your thumb. Don't release it by lowering the fleshy part of the hand that presses against the die's underside because there may be a tendency for the dice to stick to the thumb. Raising the thumb prevents this, allowing the die to fall silently on the cup's Inside rim. The cup remains parallel to the surface throughout this move.

Take away your left hand and make the toss. This time, draw the cup more rapidly backward, with only a slight forward toss. All the dice slide out, including the green one.

Note that the face that shows on the green die is the face on the right side of the die before it is palmed. Of course that is the number


you announce before the pick-up.

To shake any number called for, the simplest way is to hold the green die in your hand while you request any face, then place it on the table with the desired face on the right.

Control 3

This is the same as the above control up to the time you release the green die to the inside rim of the cup. Instead of letting it remain there, tip the cup slightly- very slightly- allowing the green die to slide toward the other dice unt1l it is stopped by them.

Remove your left hand and make a dump shot, ,the more forceful the better. The white dice will fall on top of the green die and bounce off. This prevents the green die from turning over. As dice men like to say, the die is 'killed.'

It will show the face that originally was on bottom before the pickup. This of course is the number you announce. If you like, you can call out a number on, say, the right side, then tip the die accordingly be- fore you palm it.

This is perhaps the finest of all dice controls. It is extremely convincing because all the dice seem to hit and tumble, and all clearly come from inside the cup. The control is not absolutely certain, but with practice it can be almost certain. If you like, you can peek into the cup before the dump shot to make sure the green die did not rotate during its slide. If it has rotated, change your call to the face opposite the one you see.

There is also the possibility that after the dump shot a white die will remain balanced on top of another die. In an actual game this of course would mean 'no dice.' Eddie Fechter recommends raising the cup slightly above the height of a die, and moving it forward before you lift it. If a die is on top of another one, this will knock it off. Unfortunately, the falling die makes a sound. I prefer to lift the cup straight up, and if one die is on top of another, repeat the shake.

If working for an audience that is not familiar with dice games played with a cup, there is no need to call attention to a die lying on top of another die. After all, audience attention is on the green die, not


any of the white dice. Audience interest focuses on just one issue- did you roll the green die out of the cup so the correct number came up? All other issues are secondary.

Control 4 - Little Finger Palm

The technique of the pick-up is different from what has come before. The green die is picked up by curling the left little finger around it. The thumb and other three fingers sweep up the remaining dice and drop them into the cup, or they pick up a few of the dice, then the right hand picks up the rest.

The green die remains palmed in the curled little finger as shown in Figure 13. The hand should appear to be relaxed, the fingers slightly curled inward as they naturally would be in the rest position.

Cover the cup's mouth with your left hand, thumb on one side, your curled little finger on the other side, and three fingers spread slightly apart across the opening. As you shake the cup, either tum the vertically held up so the little finger is in back where it can't be seen, or hold the cup horizontally with the palmed die beneath it while you shake the cup.

The cup must be parallel to the surface as you take the bottom of the cup in your right hand. The palmed die, pressed against the cup's underside, is now closer to the right hand than when it is in a classic palm. This allows your right hand, when it clips the die from beneath, to be at the extreme end of the cup as shown in Figure 14, rather than on the side.


Before clipping the dte, extend your curled little finger. This will sUde the green die even farther to the right, making it easy to clip at the Ups of your third and fourth fingers as shown in Figure 15. (The cu p is left ou t of this drawing to show the finger postttons.) Follow with a slide shake as described in Control 1. The number you announce in advance is the number on the green die's right side before the pick-up.

As explained earlier, you can throw any number called for. The simplest way is to hold up the die while you ask for a number. then place it on the table with that number facing right. If the die is on the table when the number is called. the side of your little finger can tip it to the left before curling around it. bringing the bottom face to the right if that was the face called.

Cup removed to show clip

If a side face is requested. the die can be rotated by the left thumb as it presses the die against the little finger just before it is palmed. Front and back faces can be brought to the right by one quarter-turn in the proper direction. A full half-turn is required if the desired face is on the die's left side.

Control 5

This is the same as the previous control up to the time your right hand takes the cup for a toss. After shaking the cup with your left hand. take it with your right and let your left drop to the table if you are seated.

The left fingers should be slightly curled to make the hand look natural. and also prevent the palmed die from being seen by anyone on your right. If you are standing, drop your left hand to your side while the right shakes the cup .

• 1 f\.

Now place your left hand on the table, resting on its side, with the thumb pointing northeast as shown in Figure 16. The fingers are slightly curved to conceal the palmed die from those in front, or closed almost into a fist if there are observers on your right. The hand is put there to prevent the dice from rolling off the table as you throw them vigorously toward the hand.

Just before the dice hit the hand, open your fingers to allow the dice to bounce off the palm. Your right hand and the cup hide the momentarily exposed green die from those who may be on your right. The toss should be a partial dump shot so the white dice land on top of the green one and tumble off. The instant the dice hit your left palm, remove the hand. The green die of course remains on the table with the same face up that was up when you palmed it. Needless to add, that is the number you announced in advance.

Eddie Fechter and Audley Walsh both suggest the following variation. Instead of tossing the dice against the left palm, invert the cup and dump the dice on top of the green one or just to one side. I prefer the throw against the hand because it provides an excuse for the left hand to be on the table.

It is not necessary to hold out the die in the left hand while the right hand shakes the cup. In actual play, if someone suspects a palm, there is the danger that he may grab your left hand. To avoid this, after the left hand shakes the cup, it turns the cup horizontally and lowers it to the table. The left hand rests on the table and the green die. in the little finger. also rests on the table. Take the cup in your right hand and either toss the dice against the left palm. or dump; them' on top or on the side of the green one as previously described.



This is a variation of the Fechter and Walsh handlings described in the previous control. It is one of the easiest shots to learn, and has the merit of justifying the resting of the left hand on the table.

With the green die in a little finger palm, shake the cup With your left hand. Lower the hand to Within an inch of the surface, tipping the cup to an almost horizontal position so that its bottom rim rests on the table. Grasp the cup in your right hand and draw it quickly to the right. At the same time, your left hand lowers, leaves the green die on the table. and immediately Withdraws. The white dice slide out of the cup to tumble on top of the green die.


In this control the die is palmed by the right little finger as the hand picks up dice. Shake the cup in your right hand in the manner earlier described for the left. turning the cup so the curled little finger is partly in back. or holding the cup horizontally so the little finger is on the underside where it can't. be seen. If you like. transfer the cup to your left hand for. more shaking while your right. With the palmed die. rests on the table or at your side.

Take the cup in your right hand.

With your first three fingers across the opening. thumb on the cup's left side. and little finger (with its palmed die) on the right side. While your right hand remains perfectly stationary, grasp the bottom of the cup with your left (Figure 17A) and give the cup a quarter turn toward you (17B) so that its opening faces you but with the cup slanting slightly upward to keep the dice from falling out. Your right fingers and



thumb serve as pivots while the cup is rotated, so that after the turn they are at the same spots near the cup's mouth where they were before. Remember, the right hand does not move while the left hand turns the cup to the position shown in Figure 17.

Remove your left hand. Invert the cup with your right hand, at the same time tossing the dice forward. As the toss Is made, release the green die so It slides forward to

join the others.

Instead of rotating the cup while the right hand holds it, Eddie Marlo suggests this variation. The left hand shakes the cup while the right, with the palmed die, rests on the table. The left hand now passes the cup to the right hand, turning It so the right hand takes It in the position shown in Figure 17. The toss is made as before.

I should add that in both this and the previous variation, the green die can be in a classic palm, but for me the controls are easier if a little-finger palm Is used. These are beautiful controls when done properly. But practice in front of a mirror!


I would never have thought of this clever control before I came across it in John Scarne's book on dice. The green die is in a left little finger palm as the hand scoops up the dice and tosses them into the cup Shake with your left hand, but instead of keeping the green die on the outside of the cup, the curled little finger goes inside as shown In Figure 18. This is concealed during the shake by


holding the cup vertically. but turned so the little finger is in back. or holding the cup horizontally.

After shaking. the cup is held horizontally so your right hand can seize the other end for a toss. As your right hand grasps the cup.your left pinkie releases the die so it remains on the cu p's rim after the hand is removed. You can now follow either with a slide shot, or allow the green die to coast down a slightly tilted cup to join the white dice for the dump shot described in Control 3. In the first case the number to be thrown is on top of the green die at the outset. In the second

case, it 15 on the side facing right. .


The green die is in a curled little finger palm while your left hand covers the cup's mouth and shakes the cup either vertically or horizontally. Ifvertically, turn the cup horizontal before you lower it until it rests on the table. This puts the green die flat on the surface. Seize the other end of the cup with your right hand, let go with the left, and simultaneously fling all the dice forward by a quick rotation of the cup as shown in Figure 19.

As you do this, the cup's rim hits the corner of the green die. This


is shown in Figure 20. Thts action knocks the die forward with a counterclockwise spin to merge with the scattering white dice. It takes practice to catch the corner of the green die at Just the right spot to kick it forward with a spin. Practice Just this aspect of the move as a separate exercise, until it becomes second nature.

The anonymous pamphlet How to Control Fair Dice calls this a 'kick-off shot,' but makes the mistake of having the die in a middlefinger palm. If the die is held by either middle or third finger (these palms are discussed in the next chapter), the die is too far above the table when it is hit, and is likely to turn over in unpredictable ways as it is kicked forward. With a little-finger palm, the die rests flat on the table and the shot is sure fire. It is not difficult to master, and when done properly is extremely convincing.


Another variation of Control 7 is demonstrated on Cassette 4 of Steve Forte's marvelous Gambling Protection Series. After shaking the cup with your right hand (the green die in the curled right little finger). simply take the cup in your left hand and turn it mouth down on the table. Lift the cup with your right hand. letting the palmed die stay on the table to join the other dice. As you start to lift the cup. allow its left edge to shove the dice to the right so that all the dice will be bunched together when the cup is raised. A gambler would. of course. use this control only if he habitually inverts the cup and lifts. Because tossing the dice is more customary. I prefer turning the cup for a forward toss.


The Basic Grip

-21- Finger Palm

-22- The Pick Up

-23- Control 10

-24- Control 11

-25- Control 12

-25- Control 13


Basic Grip 1··.1

In the following controls. the green die is held in a finger palm while the same hand covers the cup's mouth and shakes the dice. We will continue our assumption that the dice are tossed by the right hand.which means that the palming is done by the left. The die may be in any of four positions; at the base or the middle of the middle finger. or the base or middle of the third finger. The die is held not by curling the finger. but by pressure of the fingers on both sides. Figure 21 shows a typical grip.

This allows all your fingers to cover the cup's opening for a shake that looks natural. The finger above the die will necessarily be slightly raised.but this bulge is made less noticeable by curving the fingers slightly and by holding the cup horizontally while you shake it.

Controls using third or middle finger palms are harder to master than those using a classic palm or curled little finger. Much depends on the size of your fingers relative to the size of the dice. If your fingers are too wide to hold a die firmly, you had best avoid these controls, You can keep the die more firmly in place by letting it rest on the cup's lip. or even by pressing it against the cup on the far side. but this makes the palm easier to detect and is not recommended. The great danger is that your fingers may have spaces between them that allow a glimpse of the die. To prevent this. you must keep your fingers pressed tightly together. Of all the controls in this book, these call for the most practice in front of a mirror.

John Maskelyne, in Sharps and Flats (1894) describes how a finger-palmed die can be kept firmly in place throughout a shake by pressing it against the inside of the cup. This is practlcal only if the cup is small. as the book's illustrations Indicate. Small cups were common then for shaking Just two dice. but for cups of the size most used today. there is no way a finger-palmed die can be pressed against a cup's Inside and at the same time keep the fingers over


the cup's opening.

The Pick Up

The easiest way to get the die in the proper grip is by covering the green die with your left hand, fingers extended forward and close together so there are no gaps between them. The die is pushed into the desired palm with your thumb, either against the middle or third finger, where it is gripped by the fingers on both sides as the hand moves a forward to pick up one or more dice. The hand appears more natural if the fingers are slightly curved.

Let's assume your left hand, with the green die palmed, picks up one more die between thumb and fingers at the same time. Scoop up the rest of the dice with your right hand. Both hands now simultaneously drop dice into the cup, but your left hand drops only the single white die. By dropping dice with both hands at the same time, you conceal the sound of only one die falling from the left hand.

Another way to get the palm is to stack two or three dice, with the green one on top, then finger palm the green die as you grasp the stack from above.

A third way to get the palm is to pick up the green die with a curled little finger. The same hand picks up more dice and drops them in the cup. As your left hand, with the green die still in the littlefinger palm, moves toward the cup, your left thumb rotates the die upward to a third-finger palm.

A fourth technique is to pick up the green die between the thumb and second or third finger. While your right hand picks up some dice, your left thumb rotates the die to a middle or third-finger palm. Pick up more dice with your left hand. Drop all the dice into the cup with both hands, retaining the green die in the left.

A fifth pick-up, which Karl Fulves tells me he once observed, is to move your left hand over two dice as shown in Figure 22, and stmul-


taneously grasp both. the control die between first and third fingers. and another die between your thumb and first finger. Figure 23. The white die is held so it is clearly visible to onlookers. Of course only this visible die is dropped into the cup. At the same time. drop the remaining dice into the cup from your right hand to conceal the sound of only one die falling from the left.

I will not complicate these instructions by explaining in each case which side of the green die to call before you start the pick-up. This will vary from control to control. and is easy to figure out. Note that in all pick-up techniques the green die can be rotated by the thumb to put another face in a desired position. With a little experimenting you will also see that it is almost as easy to finger palm two dice side by side. either parallel with the fingers or crosswise.


The green die is palmed at the center of the left middle finger. held by pressure of the first and third fingers on its sides. The cup is held in the left hand for a shake .. all fingers covering the opening. The hidden die is pressed against the outside of the cup on the side facing the viewers.

To conceal the fact that your middle finger projects farther from the cup than its adjacent fingers. hold the cup horizontally whUe you shake. thumb on top. other fingers below. Your right hand now grasps the cup as previously described. clipping the green die


between second and third fingers. Remove your left hand and make the usual slide toss. It is almost as easy to control two finger-palmed dice in this way.

Instead of pressing the green die against the outside of the cup. it can be kept finger-palmed inside the cup as your lefthand covers the cup's mouth and shakes. The danger that the rattling dice will dislodge the palmed die is minimized by holding the cup horizontally. After the shake.the green die is left on the rim of the cup for a slide shot. or allowed to slide down to meet the others for a dump shot.

The green die can be placed on the cup's rim in two di1Ierent ways.

You can let it slide on to the rim or you can tip it before it goes on the rim. using the cup's lip as a pivot. The same applies to two dice. For more details about this control. see the Eddie Fechter book.

Note that this variation allows you to control one die among just two. The other die rattles against the palmed one to give a reasonable. though not perfect. sound of two dice cackling.


The green die is palmed by the third finger. This finger and your little finger are curled on the outside of the cup as shown in Figure 24. The cup's mouth is covered by your first and second fingers. spread apart as shown to prevent the dice inside from leaving the cup when it is shaken vigorously.

The palmed die is then clipped by your right fingers when they take the cup for a slide shot. As in previous controls. two dice can be similarly handled.


Control 12

Although this is easier than the previous flnger-palm controls. it requires an eccentric way of shaking the cup. It is described in the Fechter book as follows.

Your left hand. with the green die in a middle-finger palm. picks up the cup by the rim as shown in Figure 25. Your first. second. and third fingers go Inside the cup where they press the green die against the cup's side. Shake the cup vertically and gently. taking care not to shake so hard that the dice jump out.

When the right hand takes the cup for a toss. it turns the cup horizontally. and the die is left on the rim for a slide shot. or allowed to slide down against the white dice for a dump shot. For a slide shot. it is just as easy to handle a pair of dice as a single die.



Scame calls this a favorite of cheats. even though it requires an unusual pick-up. Hold the cup at its rim in your right hand. thumb on one side. little finger on the other. leaving your first. 'second and third fingers free to snap dice backward into the cup as shown in Figure 26. The green die is apparently snapped in last. Actually it is pushed


against the cup's lip by the tip of your middle finger, With the first and third fingers against its sides as shown in Figure 27.

Having the die on the cup's lip is a much firmer way to hold the die than in a finger palm. You can now shake as hard as you like Without fear of dislodging the die. Since half the die projects into the opening, a shake of only one white die in the cup, especially if the cup is shaken in a horizontal position, produces a fairly convincing cackle as the white die bounces off the green die.

The toss is made by keeping the cup horizontal. an inch or so above the surface, and tossing forward or northwest. As the white dice emerge. your raised fingers allow the green die to slide out among them. As Scarne points out, because the die is never inside the cup, this shot works just as well With a trip cup. It also works just as well for two dice.

Audley Walsh gives the following slight variation. During the shake. your left hand covers the right as shown in Figure 28. After the shake. turn the cup horizontally. keeping your left hand in place. Now either slide the die onto the inside rim. Without rotating it, or give it a quarter-turn by pivoting it on the lip. Without your left hand, and follow with either a slide or a dump shot.


Without The Cup

-27- Control 1

-28- Control 2

-29- Control 3

-29- Control 4 Whip Shot

-31- Control 5 Inverted Whip Shot

-32- Control 6

-32- Control 7

-33- Control 8

-34- Control 9

-35- Control 10 Blanket Roll

-36- Control 11 Greek Shot

-37 - Control 12

-38- Addendum

We turn now to the art of controlling a pair of fair dice when shaken and tossed by a hand. In a lecture demonstration it is probably . best to show these controls before you show cup shots because the cup controls are more dramatic and seem more difficult.

I shall not go into a discussion of craps or other dice games. or comment on what faces should show or not show to provide the best advantage in various games. If controls are demonstrated for entertainment or instruction. it is necessary to have two dice of different color. say one white and one green. Of course you announce in advance of each toss the number you wish to appear on the green die.

Control 1

The green die is picked up in a curled little finger palm in the right hand. The other die is held loosely in the fist. When you shake your fist. the white die cackles against the palmed die to give the impression that both dice are tumbling about in the hand.

Toss the dice to the left. Figure 29. with your fist upright so that the green die and your little finger slide along the surface. Figure 30. Because the top die is higher above the table. it will travel farther left. tumbling as it goes. The eyes of your audience tend to follow the tumbling white die rather than the green die which slides not quite so far .

.("0- I


I( ~==-


Green Die


Even if someone notices that the green die merely slides, it means little to him if he thinks the dice were genuinely shaken in the fist. As Scarne points out, if three dice are shaken and tossed in this way, the cackle is stronger and the sliding of one die is even less noticeable.

Control 2

This.is the same as the previous control except that in tossing the dice, your hand rotates clockwise to give both dice a clockwise spin, Figure 31 and 32. The trade calls this a 'whip action'. The white die is thrown the farthest, tumbling as it rolls. The green die. released close to the surface. will spin and not tumble. The spin makes the shot look more convincing.




I found this variation in Burton Williams' book. Instead of spinning the dice by a whip motion of the hand, you do the following.

After the shake, bend your thumb so that the nail presses against the green die. Your right hand rests on the table as before. See Figure 33.

As you toss the dice forward, your thumb snaps the corner of the palmed die and gives it a clockwise spin. The top die tumbles forward, and the green die spins forward without turning over.

The advantage of this move, which is not easy to perfect, is that the hand does not show the whip motion that in fast company tends to

indicate a whip control. .


This is the classic move known as the whip shot. It controls both dice. Though easy to describe, it requires considerable practice to master. If you practice this move on a table, push the table against the corner. Prop up a couple of pillows in the corner to act as a backstop. Open a newspaper out flat and place several pages on the table. The newspaper sheets provides a little give and is not too smooth a surface.

To make the pick-up, put the white die on top of the green. The top faces of each die are the ones you wish to throw. In putting the white die on the green, you can of course turn it so the desired face is on top.


The green die is held in the curled third finger, and the white die is held in the curled middle finger. See Figure 34.

If the dice are held loosely in the fist, but close together, it is possible to rattle them against each other without either die rotating.

After the shake, push the dice with your thumb until they are gripped between your thumb and the tips of the second, third and fourth fingers as shown in Figure 35.

Fling both dice forward, your hand resting on the surface, giving each die a

clockwise spin. With prac-

tice on a soft, padded sur-

face not too smooth, each

die will fall with the same

face on top as when they

were held.


Both dice should be spinning like tops when they hit the surface. This is necessary to overcome the forces of gravity, momentum and friction which would otherwise cause the dice to tumble randomly when they hit the surface. This control, if you can master it, enables you to call out in advance the numbers thrown on both dice.


We can call this an inverted whip shot. The number you wish to show is now the bottom face of the green die.

Pick up the dice by putting the green die on top of the other, rotating it so the desired face is on the bottom.

Adjust the dice with your thumb so that the green die is held by a curled first finger. The fist is loose so that when you pretend to rattle both dice, only the white die tumbles about, striking the fixed green die to give the cackle. You are now ready to

perform the toss.

Turn your fist upside down so your thumb touches the table, Figure 36. fling both dice forward with a counterclockwise spin as shown in Figure 37. In this case, the white die, higher above the surface, tumbles as it goes, following by the green die which spins away from the curled first finger.

As in the whip shot described in Control 4,you can control both dice by keeping the white die in a curled middle finger palm, with enough space between the two dice to let them clack against each other without turning over.

Both dice are given counterclockwise spins as close to the surface as you can manage. Controlling both dice in this way requires lots of practice. The throw is idiosyncratlc, but players often have unusual ways of tossing dice.


Control 6

Scarne describes this subtle variation of the foregoing slide and whip shots. The two dice are shaken fairly, with the hand partly open so everyone can see that the dice are actually tumbling about. Just before the toss, take a quick look at the bottom die and rotate it with your thumb so the destred face is uppermost. If it is already on top, then of course you need not do this. If you intend a standard slide or whip shot, get the dice into a curled little finger and toss as previously described.

If you intend an inverted slide or whip shot, rotate the top die with your thumb until the desired face is on bottom, then secure the die

with a curled index finger. . .

For demonstration purposes you can avoid this thumb adjustment entirely. After the shake, which you make sure the audience sees it genuine, pause to make some remarks. While you talk, glimpse the top face of either die (depending on whether you toss with an upright or inverted fist), then announce the number you wish to shake on the green or white die as the case may be. The shake is so convincing, both visibly and audibly, that no one thinks to object if they notice one die sliding or spinning.

Control 7

This control, based on a money slide with dice, is briefly described in Ed Marlo's book. See Swindle Sheet for more information on this controlled shot.

The green die is picked up by clipping it between the tips of the third and fourth fingers as shown in Figure 21. Pick up the other die. With a little experimenting you will find you can produce a good cackle by letting the white die rattle against the clipped one. Of course you must keep your fist turned so no one in front sees the palmed die. If you shake with the back of your hand uppermost, the clipped die will be invisible from all sides.

Toss the dice forward. palm of hand u ppermos t as shown in Figure 38. The free die rolls a foot or so. and the green die. released close to the surface. slides forward without it turning over.

In Figure 38 two different grips are shown. Pick the grip that feels most comfortable and generates the best cover for your particular way of handling dice.



This is an original control that has not. so far as I know. been described before.

The green die is classtc palmed in the right hand. The top face is the one you wish to throw. Pick up the other die. then turn the fist over. back of the hand down. and fingers partly open. Figure 39. The fist must be so loose that. as you shake. the dice cackle. and the white die can be seen through your fingers as tumbling about.

Turn the fist over so the back of your hand is up. Hold the fist close to the surface. perhaps even touching it. As you tum the fist. let the white die fall to the tips of

-3s.. .

your fingers, Figure 40.

Throw the dice northeast, Figure 41. The white die travels a long distance, tumbling as it goes, but the green die slides forward without turning. Of course you can, if you prefer, fling the dice forward or to the left. A slight twist of the wrist willlmpact a slight spin to the green die as it slides.


This curious control exploits the same principle involved in a dump shot control with a cup. The white die falls on top of the green die, preventing it from turning over.

The green die is held by a curled little finger, its top face the one you want to throw. The white die is loose in the fist so that it turns randomly and rattles against the green die during the shake. The thumb then shifts the dice to your fingertips as shown in in Figure 35.

Instead of throwing them. give the dice a slight toss (in any direction). At the time of the toss. your hand should be only a few inches above the surface so that the dice travel about six inches before they fall. the white die riding on top of the green.

When they hit the table. Figure 42. the white die bounces off the green die. Figure 43. preventing it from rotating.

Gr~en Die

This control is unreliable and the throw is funny looking even when it works. I include it here only because it is in the literature and because it is an easy controlled shot for the beginner to master. Perhaps someone can devise a way of using the dump-shot principle in a more efficient manner.


. This classic control is often called the blanket roll because it requires tossing on a cloth surface like a bed blanket. In military services. men often shoot craps on the tops of bunks.

The two dice are held loosely by the curled middle and third fin-


gers as shown in Figure 35. They have been picked up so the four faces you do not want to show are the tops and bottoms of each die. For example, you can't crap out on the first throw if these four faces are the ones and sixes. The probability of tossing a total of seven also rises from 1/6in a normal roll to 1/4.

Pretend to rattle the dice by letting them hit against each other without turning over, then toss them in such a way that they roll like wheels, Figure 44. The four faces you wish not to show are at the ends of each die's axle of rotation. For demonstration purposes, announce in advance the numbers that will not show.

A good discussion of the blanket roll, and how to position the dice to increase your odds in making a point, will be found In John Scarne's book on dice, chapter 15. During actual play it is essential to pick up the dice quickly and carelessly. Pausing to think about how to tum them gives the control away. Any turning of a die should be done by the thumb while the die is picked up.

The blanket roll looks easy bu t it requires practice to make the move look like a casual toss of the dice.




Sometimes in crap games dice are tossed against a wall where they hit and rebound. It is still possible to control one die. After pretending to rattle the dice, they are flung against the wall so that the bottom die strikes the wall exactly at the spot where the wall meets the floor, Figure 45.

There must be no (~arpet on the floor. When the dice hit the wall, the top die prevents t..1!~ di~ beneath from turning over. The top die

. bounces off and tumbles randomly, but the bottom die bounces off with a spin that keeps the top side the same as it was in the hand. The throw can be made either with the thumb up, in the usual manner, or the hand can be turned upside down and the toss made backhanded.

The closer your hand to the wall, the better, but even at close range It is an extremely difficult shot to learn because the toss has to be so accurate. I have never been able to master it, but it has been described so often in the literature that I assume it can be learned with sufficient practice. In his dice book Scarne calls this the Greek Shot. He says it is the reason why casino dice tables have rubber rails against which the dice must be thrown. Presumably the rubber prevents the pinned die from remaining stable when it bounces away.

Control 12

This whimsical control only increases slightly the probability of obtaining one or two desired numbers. A players sometimes 'talks' to the dice by holding the fist to his mouth and calling out encouragement. Under cover of the hand, secretly lick the face of one die or both. When the dice are rolled on a smooth surface, the saliva makes the sides sticky enough so that a die tends to stop with its sticky side down.

The dice should be tossed from a height of a foot or more because the more they tumble the more chances for the moistened sides to stick to the surface. Another obvious way to get saliva on a die is to lick the tip of your middle finger before you pick up the die and transfer the saliva to a face.

This one is not recommended as part of any demonstration. I mention it here only because it does not involve dice that have been biased in any way, such as loaded dice, shaped dice, miss potted dice, rounded edge dice, and so on.


Regarding Control 4 (the whip shot). Steve Forte beautifully demonstrates on Cassette 4 of his Gambling Protection Series that the whip shot works even when the dice are bounced off a padded sideboard. If the dice are tossed on a padded surface boxed in on all four sides with padded sideboards, the whipped dice (as Forte shows) can even rebound from three sideboards and still preserve their initial spins.

In what Fortes called the 'helicopter' whip shot, he showed how the two dice can be tossed high in the air, to land on a padded surface without losing their spins. Although both dice can be controlled in whip shots. it is worth noting that the shake has a much more genuine cackle when only the bottom die is controlled.


The Finish

-39- Surprise Finish

-40- Bibliography

Sumrise Finish

It is good to end a demonstration of controlled dice shots with a magical surprise. The best surprises are the production of something unexpected under the cup. Here is one of many possibilities.

You need two oversize dice, one red, one green, the larger the better, provided they will fit under the cup and can be conveniently palmed. The large green die is in your left pocket. The large red die is in the right pocket. You have just finished your demonstration of controls, with the white dice and one green die on the table. Put all the white dice into the cup.

Explain that you will put the green die in your pocket and cause it to return magically to the cup. As you put the die in your left pocket, palm the large green die. With your right hand shake the white dice, then toss them on the table. Eyes will be on the dice to see if the green die has returned. With this as misdirection, transfer the cup to your left hand, loading in the large green die.

Move the white dice about with your right hand as if searching for the green die. At the same time put the cup mouth-down on the table with your left.

Appear to be annoyed that the green die has not returned. "Maybe it w1ll work if I put aU the dice in my pocket." Scoop up the white dice and put them in your right pocket. The hand emerges with the large red die palmed.

Lift the cup with your left hand. "What do you know? The green die is back, but look at how it has grown!"

With attention on the large green die, transfer the cup to your right hand, loading in the large red die. Put the cup brim down on the table.

"Like ordinary dice," you continue, "big dice also come in pairs.

Here's the other one." Lift the cup to display the large red die.



Sharps and Flats, by John Maskelyne (1894). A chapter on cup controls is the first good discussion in print of the topic.

The Game of Craps Exposed, by E.T. (Faro) Gannon. New York:

F.F. Moore, circa 1930.

How To Control Fair Dice. An anonymous, undated pamphlet of 16 printed pages. It was sold decades ago, at high prices, by gambling supply houses with ads greatly exaggerating its merits.

Shoot the Works, by Ed Marlo. Magic Inc (1943). Mainly about magic tricks and dice stacking.

Scarne on Dice, by John Scarne. Stackpole Books (1974). Mostly about dice games and their percentages, and about crooked dice and controlled dice shots.

How You Are Cheated at Dice, by Willard King. New York:

Wehman Co (1951).

Dice Dexterity, by Audley Walsh and Ed Mishell. Edited by Bruce Elliott. Louis Tannen (1953). Part 4 of this 32-page booklet is about fair dice controls.

Eddie Fechter's dice Holdout Methods for Magicians, by Jerry Mentzer. Published by Mentzer (1974). This 63-page book is devoted entirely to fair dice controls.

Dice: Squares, Tops, and Shapes, by Burton Williams (a pseudonym). Las Vegas: GBC Press (1982). Almost entirely about crooked dice.

Gambling Scams, by Darwin Ortiz. Dodd, Mead (1985). Includes a good section on controlled hand and cup shots. .

Steve Forte's Gambling Protection Series, by Steve Forte. BTA Joint Venture (1984). Volume 4 of this superb videotape series deals exclusively with dice.

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