The Right Stuff

Like a lot of dice influencers, when I first decided to buy some dice and cobble together a practice rig, the end result wasn’t anything to write home about it. In the early days I had what I referred to as my “junk drawer practice rig.” It consisted of a spare drawer from my dresser, a towel, and some egg crate foam from an old mattress pad. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

The next step was to build an honest to God practice rig. I’d looked at some of the break-down rigs other players used and wondered what the point of that whole break-down thing was. I opted to build not one, but two “permanent” rigs – each with a different bounce characteristic. By permanent I mean they were screwed together and weren’t coming apart or breaking down. As for bounce characteristics – I used felt directly on the layout of one, and put a thin layer of foam under the second one. I also ordered a slab of pyramid rubber for the back wall put half of it on each rig. They were 2’ wide by 3’ deep and even with a rig THAT big I had trouble keeping the dice on the “table.”

It was about this time that I decided that used/cancelled casino dice just were not up to snuff for practice, so I started buying small quantities of new dice from places like Gambler’s General Store. I’d only buy a couple of sticks a year and I must have racked up a hundred thousand tosses or more on some of those dice. Then I started experimenting with different colored dice and, for awhile, had myself thoroughly convinced that “amber dice are different.” Until the day I sat down in a Dallas casino supply store, took a set of calipers and a scale and measured and weighed a couple of hundred pairs of dice in assorted colors and finishes. At the end of the day – there wasn’t a hair’s difference in any of them. So now I believe that amber is just a color. Okay, it sucks when they put amber dice on those gold microfiber layouts because they keep getting lost on the table – but hey – the same thing has happened with green dice for years.

Somewhere along in here my pal Shootitall decided he was going to get in the practice rig building business. Lord know why he made that decision. Considering the cost of his supplies, tools, and the value of his time – there couldn’t have possibly been a dime’s worth of profit in it. Nevertheless, I’m delighted he made the decision. In his quest to find the perfect rig design he made a few mistakes – many of which are sitting in my garage to this day. Then, one day I asked him if he could make a break down rig that would fit in a briefcase. I gave him the dimensions and a few days later I had it. The entire rig was about 11 inches wide by 17 inches deep. The sides were made out of a piece of scrap stockade fence lumber. Now the challenge was to keep the dice in THAT small of a landing zone.

I took that rig with me to the next Vegas seminar and showed it off. By then I really COULD keep the dice in the rig. Before the weekend was over Shootitall had orders for four or five of them and in fairly short order was born. Over the course of the couple of years SIA built practice rigs for dozens – maybe even hundreds of board members. He continuously experimented and improved his design so that he could get the maximum number of rigs out of a sheet of plywood, get the most out of that always expensive pyramid rubber, and make the rigs fit in an off-the-shelf shipping box. And, of course, I ended up with most of his prototypes. Today I have around a dozen different practice rigs tucked away here and there, including one of the rigs our pal Pablo built for back in the day. Fact is, I never use that receiving station – but the toss station gets used quite frequently.

Speaking of toss stations – my first one was a bar stool. I know some folks who use ironing boards as their toss stations. Still others toss on a pool table or dining room table. Some have removable toss rails they attach to their toss station so that they have to reach over something – just like in the casino. Shootitall made these too, in an assortment of styles and sizes, and at one time I had three of them hanging around here. Somewhere along the way I gave a few away as “post of the month” or “no-sevens” contest prizes.

Eventually Shootitall tired of making the rigs, though, and decided to pass the website along to a new kid on the block – Aloha Jonny. Jonny had been posting photos of a craps table he was building on the craps forum, and I remember SIA saying “this guy knows what he’s doing.” Using SIA’s original designs, about the only thing Jonny has changed is the type of wood the rigs are constructed from. The wood Jonny uses comes pre-finished and looks great.

Meanwhile, over in East Texas I moved up from practice rigs to a tub table – big enough to practice on – small enough to fit in what used to be the formal dining room. That Christmas everyone in the family gave me casino chips to use on the table. In short order I had a full compliment. Of course, Christmas dinner was served in the breakfast nook, since the dining room was taken.  In time I also added a couple of slot machines and a little craps “art” to complete the “look” of the home “casino.” It’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry from a junk drawer practice rig.

What’s the point in this article? When you’re first starting out at dice influencing there is nothing wrong with starting small, with a cardboard box or junk drawer receiving station. Used dice are fine. But if you want to take the next step you’ll want to move up. You’ll want to build or buy better equipment. That includes your practice rig, the type of felt you use for the layout, the rail rubber, the dice, the toss station . . . even the environment you practice in. Add an audio recording of casino crowd noise, slot machines chirping, music playing, the PA system blaring. Make it as realistic as possible – and eventually you’ll reap the rewards of your investment. In this game, you absolutely have to have the right stuff.