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Three Parts to Every Good Toss

Three Parts to Every Good Toss 

And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."

-- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

It's pretty easy to remember the rules for a good structured toss. Every good toss needs exactly three things.

1. A solid stance.
2. An accurate, balanced grip.
3. A consistent, repeatable, focused arm swing.

Seems easy, right? Maybe not. As Irishsetter has been know to say, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”


Without doubt the most overlooked of all the aspects of a good toss is the shooters stance.  How many of us are guilty of practically laying on the padded arm-rails around the table, like some lunging, sun-baked lizard on a warm rocky ledge?  Just as a golfer relies on a solid stance and a batter balances his weight in preparation of his swing, and a tennis player stays centered over her feet, or a skier…well, you get the picture.

Tossing the dice is a physical activity.  As with all such activities, the body must be properly positioned to set the foundation for a solid, steady, and repeatable action. Similar to the way an athlete pays close attention to the balance of his body, the DI must also think about how his stance affects the rest of his toss movements. In order to generate a good proficient and consistent toss, the body needs to be well centered and composed.  The craps table itself can become a tool for establishing a solid stance.  Once the feet are properly set, the arm, hand, hip and even belly can be used as a "third" anchor point by grabbing the rail or by firmly pressing up against the rail.  Caution should be exercised to ensure this anchoring is used as an extra balance point that is supporting a squared up stance, and avoid using the table as a crutch.  It should be as clear as a neon sign in a church when you find yourself laying against the rail that you are fatigued and should end your session until you have rested

There are three basic stances and each of the three is customized to fit the individual physique and shooting style. Left-handed, right-handed, back-handed, under-handed, stick-left, stick-right, straight-out, from the hooks, each requires a careful positioning to ensure solid footing and a consistent toss-to-toss delivery platform.

Solid not ridged, consistent but pliable.


To get a good consistent toss, the DI needs to get a good, comfortable grip on the cubes.  There are as many grips out there as there are spots on a dalmatian.  Different grips work better for some shooters then other grips.  Although some grips are a bit more conventional and reasonable then others, there is a surprisingly wide variety of grips and grip variations from which to choose.  Everyone needs to experiment and select a grip that is the most comfortable and thereby easiest to replicate reliably over and over.

The most important aspect of any grip is the ability to pick up the cubes in an identical fashion consistently, quickly, and by touch alone. The shooter is not going to get a good consistent toss if one time he grips the dice high (near the top edge), the next time he grips deep (near the felt), next time in the middle with the thumb to the left, and the time after that high with the thumb slipped to the right. It should be intuitive that to accomplish a consistent release, the grip needs to be IDENTICAL each time, one toss to the next.

One practice technique that both Heavy and Irishsetter teach, is to grip the dice and then to LOOK at the grip. Pick the dice up, turn your hand over and look at where your fingers are on the dice. Are the fingers evenly placed? Are the dice solid, with out any gaps between the cubes. Are the dice evenly squared one against the other without one die shifted in position compared to the other die? It is good practice to set the dice to your favorite dice set, grip the dice just like you would for a toss, and then check them. Rinse and Repeat for as long as it takes until getting your preferred grip on the dice becomes second nature and you are sure you are gripping the dice identically every single time. One tip I would add to Heavy’s and Irish’s teaching is to do this practice as if you were at a table shooting. The angles are different if you practice sitting down vs if you are standing up leaning over an arm-rail.

Thoughtlessly consistent grip!


The third element of every good consistent toss is a consistent swing. The swing is where most of the energy for the dice delivery originates. A consistent gentle low energy arm swing is what we are trying to manage. Hey, it doesn’t take a lot of strength or effort to get those little cellulose cubes down the table. But it does take some effort to both keep the energy down, and at the same time do it consistently one toss to the next.

There are a few different ways to begin the toss swing. I’ve seen tossing directly from the table felt. I’ve seen lifting the dice straight up about 3 to 6 inches and beginning the toss. I’ve seen the ole’ pendulum swing where the dice are brought back and then move forward into the swing. I’ve even seen ‘extreme’ pendulum swings where the dice are brought back and up to the level of the table rail before beginning the forward motion of the swing. I prefer tossing them directly from the felt, but any style can be made to work with enough practice.

As with all other aspects of the good toss, consistency is the key. With whatever motion the shooter swings the dice; we are going to want to see a steady consistent movement that is perpendicular to the back wall and that send the dice in a perfectly straight trajectory with a consistent amount of ‘muscle’ energy driving the dice down the table.

Sound like a lot to keep ‘straight’ (pun intended)? It is. The swing is where the most variables are in play and where the shooter has the most opportunities to spoil the overall toss consistency. Even with a good solid stance and well practiced consistent grip, it can all be ruined by an erratic swing. A twist of the wrist, a dice release too soon or too late, an arm swing that bows inwards towards the side-wall, a burst of adrenaline that drives more energy into the swing, and so on. It can appear an unmanageable list of variables to tame. But with focus and practice the swing can be tamed and made into an action that takes minimal effort to execute in a consistent manner.

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

Remember the three; Stance, Grip, Swing. Three elements of every good toss.


Bridgekeeper: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.

Sir Lancelot: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I am not afraid.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your name?

Sir Lancelot: My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your quest?

Sir Lancelot: To seek the Holy Grail.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your favourite colour?

Sir Lancelot: Blue.

Bridgekeeper: Go on. Off you go.

Sir Lancelot: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.

Sir Robin: That's easy.

Bridgekeeper: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.

Sir Robin: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I'm not afraid.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your name?

Sir Robin: Sir Robin of Camelot.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your quest?

Sir Robin: To seek the Holy Grail.

Bridgekeeper: What... is the capital of Assyria?


Sir Robin: I don't know that.

[he is thrown over the edge into the volcano]

Sir Robin: Auuuuuuuugh.

Bridgekeeper: Stop. What... is your name?

Galahad: Sir Galahad of Camelot.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your quest?

Galahad: I seek the Grail.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your favourite colour?

Galahad: Blue. No, yel...

[he is also thrown over the edge]

Galahad: auuuuuuuugh.

Bridgekeeper: Hee hee heh. Stop. What... is your name?

King Arthur: It is 'Arthur', King of the Britons.

Bridgekeeper: What... is your quest?

King Arthur: To seek the Holy Grail.

Bridgekeeper: What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

King Arthur: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?

Bridgekeeper: Huh? I... I don't know that.

[he is thrown over]

Bridgekeeper: Auuuuuuuugh.

Sir Bedevere: How do know so much about swallows?

King Arthur: Well, you have to know these things when you're a king, you know.

-- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 21, 2007 1:57 PM.

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