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Precision dice and dice cups

Last updated on April 14, 2021

This Deluxe Backgammon post is about precision dice, dice cups and their use to prevent cheating. Backgammon is a difficult enough game as it is with the challenges of decision making given the randomness of the next roll. However, it becomes more difficult if your opponent is using rigged dice or they are throwing dice by hand and manipulating the result. In a formal setting, such as a tournament there will be rules stipulating precision dice and cups or baffle boxes. In a casual setting, those rules may often be ignored. This is fine for social play. However, when backgammon games are played for money there may some unscrupulous characters trying to win advantage by using rigged dice or throws.

There are backgammon hustlers out there that are willing to cheat with the dice. There are several ways that they might do this.

Tops and bottoms

The first is known as tops and bottoms, where the numbers on the dice are changed so that only three numbers represented on each die (each number will be represented on two faces of the die). This can be difficult to spot for an inexperienced player. For example, consider a set of two dice one with the numbers 4, 5, & 6 and the other with the numbers 1, 2, & 3. Using these dice, you cannot roll 2, 3, 4, & 11 and the most likely numbers are 6, 7, & 8. A hustler can use this tighter range of numbers to increase the probability of making the correct move. A close inspection of the dice prior to play should spot the irregularity. However, slight of hand could see this type of dice switched in and out of play.

Loaded dice

Another form of cheating is using loaded dice, this can be much more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to spot. The numbers remain as per a standard die, but the weighting has been changed. For example, some of the spots on one face could be drilled out and the holes filled with a heavy substance. The die is then more likely to land with this face down. If you were to drill out and fill the number one, the number six is then more likely to appear, as the six is always on the opposite face to the one.

Controlled throws

Finally, there is another way of cheating which don’t require manipulated dice at all but involves learning how to throw in a very controlled way. This can involve effectively sliding or dropping the dice so that they fall on the desired numbers. This takes a lot of practice, but a skilled operator can be incredibly accurate with their throws. There are a number of online resources which discuss and demonstrate the techniques of controlled throwing. If this is done by a skilled practitioner, it can be very difficult to detect. If you can throw the precise numbers that you need, at will, you will be very difficult to beat at backgammon.

At Deluxe Backgammon we recommend two simple rules to prevent cheating with the dice.

  1. Insist on using precision dice, preferably provided or inspected by a third party. This will eliminate the likelihood of your opponent using manipulated dice.
  2. Never allow your opponent to throw the dice with from their hands.  Always insist that the dice are thrown from a dice cup, preferably one that includes a trip. This will prevent your opponent from making a controlled throw.
Leather Dice Cups.

Precision dice

Precision dice are manufactured to ensure that all rolls are completely random. Typically, they are made by drilling each pip to an exact depth. The holes are then filled with an epoxy or paint. The filler equals the weight of the material removed by the drilling.  Precision dice also feature rounded ball corners to promote a roll rather than a bounce.  In simple terms, precision dice facilitate fair play because the dice rolls are truly random.

Ball cornered precision backgammon dice.

Dice cups

Dice cups are designed to eliminate the possibility of a controlled throw. The interior should contain ribbing or a trip to ensure that the dice rolls are truly random. Dice cups with smooth interiors still allow for the possibility of a controlled throw as the dice can be slid from the cup.

Tripped Cup.

Ultimately, for social play amongst friends, any dice will do and dice cups are nice, but not essential.  However, for anyone considering serious backgammon play, even if not for a money stake, precision dice and dice cups with trips are required. 

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