This article originally appeared on VICE US
Dominic "The Dice Dominator" LoRiggio is the greatest craps player to ever live, a complete chancer, or both—it depends who you ask.
According to the 63-year-old gambler, his method of "dice control" has won him so much money he's been banned from most casinos in Las Vegas and Mississippi, and the many disciples to whom he's taught this method regularly make tens of thousands of dollars shooting bones.
If you believe him, he's used hours of practice to turn the random act of rolling dice into a game of skill. And, allegedly, you can too.
"Craps is a simple physics problem; it's a moving projectile in the air," LoRiggio told me when we met in Las Vegas. "A bunch of people who were taught by me are out there now playing professionally, beating the game of craps with the throw that I developed."
LoRiggio's company, Golden Touch Craps, recently hosted a two-day seminar in a drab ballroom at the Fortune Hotel, east of the Las Vegas Strip. There, his team of instructors coached eager-faced gamblers—each of whom had paid about £1,280 for the privilege—on setting, gripping, and tossing plastic cubes.
Mastering the Dominator's coveted throw is an eight-step process that involves commandeering a specific table slot, holding the dice a certain way, and releasing them in a manner intended to eliminate lateral spinning, minimise bouncing, and encourage the dice to tumble in unison so they don't show 4-3, 5-2, or 6-1—a "crap out" seven.
"I'm not Einstein. I'm not going to rewrite the ideas behind physics," said LoRiggio. The goal of dice control, he explained, is to alter the odds of landing a seven from one in six to one in 6.23 rolls, the point at which shooters gain an advantage equivalent to that of card counters at the blackjack table.
It's a tantalising theory—one I wanted to buy. And clearly I wasn't alone. Golden Touch's two dozen students had flown in from around the country, some to take the class for a second or third time. They practiced on full-sized tables fitted with lights and cameras that allowed instructors to scrutinize each student's form through slow motion replay.
The mentors—"certified" instructors who've proved to the GTC board they can do the roll consistently—went by noms de guerre like Golden Arm, Alligator Rose, and Mr. Fineness. The company had dice-rolling practice rigs (available for £400) and a snack bar that included chocolate-covered cannolis. Everyone knows the house has an unbeatable edge at craps. But what LoRiggio's apparently profitable business presupposes is... maybe it doesn't.
He told me that traveling the country with a team of "rhythmic rollers" (as dice controllers call themselves) in the early 2000s got him banned from most high-stakes resorts, including Caesars Palace, the Paris, and the Bellagio. So, his story goes, he went public with his technique, selling books and videos on dice control. In 2002, he launched Golden Touch Craps to win vicariously through other shooters—plus, of course, to collect from those willing to pay to win.
"If I can't play, I want my students to beat the hell out of them," LoRiggio told me. "One texted me just last week. From here in Vegas actually. He bought in for 500 bucks [£400] at the Bellagio and cashed out with [£22,500]."
LoRiggio's attributes his rarified skill to loose wrists and strong hand-eye coordination gained playing piano as a child. He said musicians, athletes, and other people with experience developing muscle memory tend to make the best dice controllers, though he insists anyone can learn "precision shooting."
LoRiggio isn't the first or only gambler to claim he can control dice enough to win at craps. According to a glowing 2004 History Channel documentary about him, he learned from Chris Pawlicki, who wrote the book Get The Edge At Craps: How to Control the Dice under the name Sharpshooter. LoRiggio said that portions of the documentary were dramatised, though, and that he honed his take on the craft independently before forming a dice control team.
But as long as there have been dice controllers, there have been dice-control skeptics. Every casino requires craps shooters to hit the table's wall of a roll, and those walls that are textured with raised pyramids, making it extremely difficult, to say the least, to actually control how the dice land. Casinos generally aren't worried about these people the way the are blackjack card counters or players smuggling in loaded dice. LoRiggio believes that is because dice control rejuvenated an interest in craps, and superstitious players insist on setting dice if they'll play all.
But more likely, as he attests, the reason casinos often allow craps shooters to practice rhythmic rolling is that most supposed dice controllers are actually terrible at controlling dice. Chances are they'll do it wrong, and the house wins again.
It's next to impossible to definitively prove that dice control doesn't work. But most gambling experts who aren't trying to sell you books or courses on it say it's a waste of time.
"I don't believe in it," Bill Zender, a gaming consultant who advises Las Vegas casinos and a former manager of one, told me. "There are too many variables... If the dice turn just a fraction of an inch, they're going to roll off that axis. I hate to say it, but I think it's a big scam."
"No one has ever done dice control in a laboratory condition; they always say their arm would get tired after a hundred throws," he added. "But they're not tossing fastballs here... My feeling is they write the books and sell the program and that's how they make the money."
For his part, LoRiggio said he's never refused to demonstrate his throw, and can prove its effectiveness through GTC's own tracking software.
"I say yell it from the treetops that dice control doesn't work," he added. "Why? Because then my students and myself can play to our heart's content doing what we do... If it wasn't true I wouldn't be banned from the Bellagio, I wouldn't be banned at the Paris, I wouldn't be banned from every casino in the state of Mississippi."
But practicing dice control isn't officially prohibited in casinos, though pit bosses can ban people at their own discretion. According to Alan Silver, a former casino executive and professor who focuses on the gambling industry at Ohio University, "Casinos are aware that craps players are superstitious, and if it takes certain idiosyncrasies to get players to play and play longer, they let them do it because the house knows it has a huge built in advantage."
LoRiggio wouldn't let me watch him play in casinos, where he says he'll go as far as to disguise himself as a homeless man or tattooed biker to get a few turns in at resorts like the Bellagio. So I had to rely on former students who'd caught him in action for anecdotes on his skill. One, an airline pilot who preferred to remain anonymous, said he thinks GTC is "sort of a scam" because of its aggressive pricing, but that dice control is real.
The pilot said that when he spotted the Dominator and his cohorts shooting dice at the Rio in Las Vegas, they rolled 20, 30, and 25 times before crapping out. This student went on to take advanced courses and says he practices their technique in his basement for an hour each day. He claims to be one of 50 or so people in country who can consistently execute the Golden Touch roll—one in 50 out of thousands who've tried.
"Business is great," LoRiggio told me, adding that every seminar in 2016 was full and the first one in 2017 in Atlantic City has already sold out. The company will soon publish a new book about the Dominator's exploits. Despite the skeptics, he says his method of dice control is real, and it's spectacular.
"I've always said this is going to be on my gravestone," he boasted. "That I'm the guy who developed the throw to beat the game of craps."
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