||1 August 2009
||A story about using cups and a baffle box.
About 20 some odd years ago, Bob Glass and I were instrumental in getting
cups-through-the-baffle-box instituted at the old Cavendish West Club in
Los Angeles. The story about how it happened is quite funny.
Back in those days (mid to late 80's), we had some pretty juicy high-stakes
games going on. The problem was that there were a few players that were
having much better results than their skill would have indicated and it was
consistent for quite some time. A baffle box was standard in all games and
had been for over a decade.
The baffle boxes were old and not in the greatest condition and some of the
boxes were less baffled than others. Some were home-made. The "skilled"
rollers would actually seek out a less baffled box, explaining, "the dice
don't get stuck in this one as often." The dice were placed into the box
by hand and no shaking was required.
There were many methods by which people attempted to manipulate the dice.
Most of the "skilled" rollers would covertly set the dice before they
rolled them. Each had his own technique of delivery. One with very long
and thin fingers would stick them way down into the box before releasing
the dice. Another would drop the dice so that they would bypass the
baffles, as much as possible--it could be done if you dropped them straight
down near the front lip of the box.
When Bob, other strong players, and I would complain or ask them to shake
the dice they would say; "you can"t control the dice through the baffle
box." We unsuccessfully lobbied for the rules to be changed for a couple
of years, asking for shaking before rolling or cups-through-the-box,
One day Bob and I arrived at the club before anyone else. We decided to
conduct an experiment. We put the dice on the edge of a box with doubles
set on every side. We would then use a pencil to push the dice over the
edge and into the box. The theory being that if the dice respond to the
baffle box and board surface identically, even a small percentage of the
time, we would roll doubles more often than expected.
The results were amazing. In a brief trial (about 200 rolls) we rolled
doubles about 28% of the time. I realize that this is a very small size and
we would have continued the experiment had we not been interrupted by a
Persian gentleman, that rarely played in our games, who inquired as to what
we were doing. When we told him that we were testing to see if setting the
dice was effective and he replied, "Ha ha, there is no need to test that,
it is easy to do."
He proceeded to pick up the dice, set them, and say this is how player X
rolls and he slammed the dice straight down through the box, like player X,
and called out double 5's and rolled them. Then he said when player Y needs
to roll a 1 he does this and set the dice, mimicked player Y's rolling
style, and rolled a 1. Then repeated it and rolled another 1. Then he did
the same for player Z. The demonstration went on until Bob and I said
uncle. Seeing an effective dice mechanic that was impersonator of other
mechanics was it for me. I was convinced. We had to do something to make
Bob and I came up with a plan. During the chouette that night, anytime we
played a "skilled" roller, we would slowly set our dice, on every roll, and
make it obvious that we were doing it. If they complained we would reply;
"I thought you said it was impossible to control the dice through the
There was a lot of complaining by the "skilled" rollers that night. For
some reason they were terrified of us setting our dice. I don't know if it
had anything to do with us setting the dice or not, as I doubt we were very
skilled at delivering them into the box properly, but I won over 80 points
that night and Bob over 60. It took one more hour of me being hot the next
night to get cups-through-the-box agreed to in our chouette and it soon
became a club standard that is still in effect in all clubs in Los Angeles.
With a proper baffle box, cups may not be needed. There is a tradeoff
between baffling effect and the dice getting caught in the baffle box.
Cups-through-the-baffle-box requires very little getting used to, little
shaking, and is just as fun once you adjust to it. Actually more so because
it is faster and removes doubts about fairness.
Another benefit is that since both players roll on the same side it is
better for taping matches or webcasting matches. Also, the dice get cocked
much less often as they roll into the center of the board and you always
roll on the opposite side of bearing off, which is usually less congested.
I think baffle boxes should be used in all major events, starting in the