Whip Dice and Cup
As a general rule, any type of crooked dice are relatively easy to spot, if one takes a moment to take a closer look at the dice. This is why, generally speaking, crooked dice are always switched in and out of play, during the course of a game. So, if a sucker decides to examine the dice, the crooked ones have most likely already been switched out. However, this is not necessarily the case with whip dice. Out of all types of crooked dice, whip dice are likely to pass close examination by an untrained eye, even if crooked dice are suspected. Also, they are relatively easy to make. Any razor-edge dice can be gaffed, in no time, with a couple of passes on a dice edger.
Whip dice work on a principle involving the center of gravity. In theory, if one wanted to balance a perfect cube on its edge, on a perfectly flat surface, the cube would have to be placed on its edge in such way that both adjoining sides of the cube are at a 45º angle, relative to the surface. In theory a cube would have to stand still in this position (although, in practice, the experiment would be more or less like trying to balance an elephant on the tip of its tail). The preceding description relates to precision-made casino-style dice, with 90º razor-sharp edges and is illustrated in the graphic below.
However, dice with razor-sharp edges are rarely used in private games. This is due to the fact that, more often then not, private dice games are played on hard surfaces. Dice with razor-sharp edges would get banged-up very quickly, if not used on properly-padded surfaces. So, dice used in private games are usually of the varieties that have rounded corners or shaved corners. This in itself does not mean that the dice are crooked in any way.
Dice with shaved edges should have all 12 edges shaved at an exact 45º angle. In theory, a uniformly-shaved cube should behave exactly like a perfect cube, with 90º edges. In other words, it should produce random results. This is because, once again, the center of gravity falls exactly through the center of the edge onto which a cube would have to be placed, to be balanced on its edge. This is illustrated in the following image; as in the previous example, the adjoining sides are at a 45º angle relative to the surface but this time the die is not balanced on a 90º, but rather lays flat on a straight surface that cuts through the 90º edge, at 45º. Technically speaking, a die with shaved edges is actually not a 6-sided cube, as it also has 12 elongated rectangular edges all around.
Whip dice also have shaved edges, but since those dice are crooked, all the edges are not uniformly shaved at an even 45º angle. This is illustrated in the following diagram.
If you study the illustration above, you will see that if you were to place the die flat on the edge, so that the flat surface of the shaved edge lays flat on the ground, the adjoining sides of the die would not longer be tilted at a 45º angle relative to the surface. In this case, on side would be at a 30º angle and the other side at 60º, relative to the surface. But if we place the die in the same 45º position as the two previous examples, you can clearly see that the vertical center of gravity does not fall through the edge onto which the die meets the ground. This means that this die is not even balanced; in other words, this die could never (not even in theory) stay balanced on this edge, in this exact position, relative to the ground. Instead, the center of gravity would pull the left side of the die down and the die would trip and land flat on the left side.
To an average observer his slightly-tilted shaved edge may seem like it could not possibly add up to much if one were to just toss and roll the dice. It seems as if the momentum of the dice in motion should greatly overpower any such slight variations in the shaved edges. If this is what you think... you are absolutely right. In fact, this is the beauty of this gaff. If these dice are tossed and rolled in any "regular" fashion (in other words, without any special handling) the dice behave as close to random as any other dice. If there are any deviations, in such rolls, those are not noticeable in the course of an evening's play. However, in the right hands these dice can produce an advantage that exceeds 50% over random rolls. The exact percentage is almost impossible to figure out, because it greatly depends on each individual handling, as well as some other factors, but the point is that a skilled mechanic can control these dice with such advantage that any elements of chance are completely eliminated throughout the course of an evening of play.
Part of the secret is in the dice, but the other part of the secret is in the cup. The cup is in a way also gaffed. Although some may argue that the cup lacks any gaffs, due to the fact that there is nothing added to the cup. On the contrary, a whip cup lacks any of the security features (such as a ribbed interior or the lip around the rim) that would be standard features in any good dice cup and would serve the purpose to circumvent controlled dice shots.
it is not my intention to disclose the secrets of the handling of whip dice, at this time. The most important thing to understand is that these dice behave randomly unless some secret handling techniques are used. The techniques are relatively easy to learn, but still take considerable amount of practice to master and to execute properly, without telegraphing the moves.
After reading these descriptions some may be under the impression that the unevenly-shaved edges may be quite easy to discover. This is not the case. First of all, the edges in the illustrations above are greatly enlarged, to better illustrate the principle. In reality, these edges are only shaved slightly and it is really difficult to see if any edged deviate from a perfect 45º angle. Also, the gaffed edges do not necessarily have to be shaved at a 30/60 degree ratio. Any divination from a 45/45 ratio will throw the center of gravity off. The best way to examine dice with shaved edges, if whip dice are suspected, is not by looking closely at the edges, but rather by doing a few simple tests.
Whip dice are used for cheating in private games. The most common dice game where one may encounter this gaff is a fast bar game called Ship, Captain and Crew, or also known as 6-5-4. In a nutshell, the object of this game is to score high points, in 3 rolls or less, after establishing an initial combination of 6, 5 and 4, with three of the five dice. For obvious reasons, whip dice made for this game are gaffed in such way to favor rolls of 6, 5 and 4.
For information on how whip dice are made, please see our chapter on dice edgers.