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A story about using cups and a baffle box.

Posted By: Joe Russell
Date: Saturday, 1 August 2009, at 1:11 p.m.

In Response To: How to best use a baffle box. (neilkaz)

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, without success. 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 things change. 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 baffle box, but if you wish to use cups through the box I would be happy to do so'. 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. The 'skilled' rollers suffered through their unbiased results after that. It has been very nice to play without worrying about fair dice for the last 20 years.

With a proper baffle box, cups may not be needed. There is a trade off between baffling effect and the dice getting caught in the baffle box. Cups through the baffle box requires very little getting used to, no or very 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 semifinals.

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