Cheating at Craps is illegal, of course. Nevertheless, it seems that someone is always willing to bend if not break the rules in order to gain the upper hand. Many methods of cheating involve Craps equipment—the dice or the chips used in play. Others revolve around ways of throwing the dice—so-called “dice control—which is not actually against the law, but can be cause for expulsion from the Pit area.
Cheating by the casino is rare, indeed. The House edge guarantees a profit, so there is no reason to risk losing a gaming license. When employees do cheat, it is usually for their own advantage, not their employer’s. Casino Security is just as focused on catching any dealer who cheats as they are wary of players who are up to no good.
By far the most risky and least successful way to try and cheat a casino Craps table is to attempt to change the dice. With a crew of four watchful dealers surrounding the table, the “eye in the sky” surveillance cameras in the ceiling above, and the Pit Boss ready to call in Security at the slightest suspicion of cheating, it is mind-boggling that anyone still tries to sneak their own bones onto the table.
Indeed, cheating with crooked dice is much more common in private games. Some typical ploys include using a file to round the sharp corners of dice so that they roll differently, weighting or hollowing dice to cause them to land on one side more often than the others, and “capping” one face of the die with a softer substance to make it bounce differently.
“Tapped dice” are a very sophisticated cheating technique. Each die contains an hour-glass-shaped hollow that holds a bubble of mercury. One end of the chamber is in the very center of the die. If the mercury is in this part, the die rolls normally. But tapping on one side of the die will dislodge the mercury so that it flows into the other chamber and unbalances it. The face opposite the mercury will show up.
Other ways of modifying dice include shaving or beveling edges, making one surface slightly concave or convex, raising an edge so the die has a “lip,” scoring one edge with tiny cuts, and even “painting” one side with a sticky substance. Many terms are used to describe crooked dice, such as loaded or gaffed, and even “mis-spotted” for a die that is missing a certain number (commonly sold in magic stores).
Plenty of Ploys
Players that have perfected ways of throwing the dice to gain an advantage are often referred to as “Mechanics.” Elsewhere on this site, in the section on “Craps Shooting,” some the techniques they employ are described, such as “whip shots” and “blanket rolls.” Being skilled at dice control is no crime, of course, but if a Pit boss or Boxman thinks a mechanic is a threat, they can have him/her ejected and no specific cause is required.
Real cheating at the Craps table usually has more to do with the chips than the dice. Dealers have been caught removing idle “Off” chips from the table, shorting a player’s winnings, or moving a proposition bet to a losing area and then pocketing it as a tip. But as stated above, such actions are self-serving, not condoned by the casino, and exceedingly rare nowadays.
Much more common are attempts by players to gain some extra winnings by “past posting.” This occurs when a player slips another chip or two into a stack of wagered chips, often on the Pass Line or the Free Odds Bets behind it, after the result of the roll is known. It takes very quick hands and a less-than-observant crew in order to pull this off successfully.
Some thieves don’t even try to rip-off the casino, but instead cheat other players. When a shooter is intent on rolling the dice and not paying attention to the chip tray, they will quickly snatch a handful of chips, hoping they will go unnoticed. Crew members watch for such cheats, but it is really up to each player to be mindful and protective of the bankroll at all times. As the adage goes, “Use both eyes when playing Craps—keep one on the dice and the other on your chips.”