There’s one in just about every class – the student whose thumb or fingers just don’t quite work right when gripping the dice. Sometimes it’s just a result of the natural shape of the player’s hand. Other times it’s something else.
Take my pal G.H. down in Houston. G.H. has developed one of the prettiest tosses you’ll ever see. He can toss from stick right or straight out with equal ease and his dice are a thing of beauty as they fly through the air. It wasn’t always that way. You see, years ago G.H. had a shooting accident that put a bullet through the end of the middle finger on his right hand. The bullet took the bone from the end of his finger with it – but left the finger itself. Well, the doctors were able to save the finger, but that didn’t prevent him from having grip problems. Not only was the bone missing from the end of his finger (resulting in what I referred to as Flubber Finger – dice guys show no mercy), there was also nerve damage that meant he couldn’t feel the dice. It was a bit of a challenge to say the least.
We addressed this problem with a little grip training tool. No, I’m not talking about the tin snips. I’m talking about a Grip Bar, which is essentially a block of wood you rest the dice against when setting them during practice sessions. With the Grip Bar, G.H. was able to train himself to grip the dice the correct way the first time – every time. And that is a beautiful thing.
Another player who attended the seminar a few years back had broken his middle finger playing baseball as a kid. He’d never gone to the doctor with it and the finger had grown back with a sort of dog-leg turn at the last joint. Imagine a finger shaped like a golf club and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. It almost hurt to look at this thing. Worse still, this fellow had convinced himself that he could not shoot from any position other than stick right and he had to toss with his bad hand.
In this case, there was no quick fix. Rather than re-break his finger so it could grow back straight we converted him to a backhanded left-hand toss from stick right. He was reluctant at first, but his toss turned out to be a thing of beauty. Since the backhanded toss felt a little awkward and he was tossing with his weaker arm, he slowed down his delivery and tossed the dice much more softly. By the time the weekend was done he was good to go as a Southpaw.
Recently I’ve seen several students whose natural hand shape makes it difficult to grip the dice with their fingers and thumb perpendicular to the table top. In most cases, when these students align their middle fingers on the split between the dice they find that their thumb comes in across the back of the dice at an angle. As a result, they end up with more “meat” on one die than the other. The dice ultimately come out of their grips at different times, which frequently results in the dreaded double pitch.
There’s really no “good” way to address this problem. The only way to correct is – short of breaking your thumb and having it re-set at a better angle for gripping the dice – is to adjust your thumb position to the left or right of its current position in an effort to “balance” the amount of skin contact on the dice. Of course, most of us can’t just look at our grips and determine how much of an adjustment we’ve made. That’s why the good folks at Sharpie make the Fine Point Permanent Marker.
One of the ways we teach players to check their grip is by drawing a single line down the center of their thumbnail. Then gripping the dice the line should center on the split between the dice. But if your thumb comes across the dice at an angle rather than straight down this won’t work. Instead, we’re going to make a series of lines on the thumb nail. Make these lines about an eighth of an inch apart. Then use the lines as reference points as you make adjustments to your grip, toss the dice, record the results, and then toss again. Continue to move your thumb through the various positions you’ve marked until you find one that eliminates the problem. Make note of that thumb position, then stick with it until you’ve tracked a few thousand rolls and recorded the results. If it works – wear it out.
The other common grip problem players experience is most evident with the three finger grip. With this grip the player positions three fingers along the top front edge of the dice and the thumb in the middle on the back of the dice. The culprit that causes us so many problems is the ring finger, which is inherently weak and tends to end up farther down the front face of the dice than the other fingers. Once again, the Grip Bar is an excellent tool for correcting this problem. For those of you who don’t have a grip bar, a simple visual check from time to time will get you on the right path. Set the dice on the Straight Sixes set with the sixes facing down table the hard ten facing up. Grip the dice, then pick them up and look at your fingers on the front of the dice. Your finger tips should just cover the top row of pips on the sixes. If one pip is shining through you are probably gripping too high with that finger and should adjust accordingly. But if you’re all the way down onto the bottom row of pips you’ll need to adjust your grip upward on the front face of the dice.
Remember, in precision shooting your grip is what gets the gold. Practice it until it becomes second nature, then go out and toss some dice.