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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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What if They Put Computers in Dice?

10 November 1997

They can put powerful computers into anything. Take a $5 wrist watch. It has more capacity, speed, and accuracy than the "giant brain" I first saw in college - around the dawn of prehistory - which occupied a whole building and drew so much electricity that lights dimmed all over Cambridge when anyone asked it a question.

So I had this idea. What if they put computers in dice?

Here's how it would work. "Intelli-dice" would be cubes with no permanent spots showing the numbers. The embedded computers would control the displays so you'd think you were looking at ordinary dots. You could pick the dice up, "set" them, and apply your personal "English" when you sent them flying. On landing, the computers would activate the final numbers. Of course, all this would occur at mega-speed so the human eye wouldn't see anything different from what happens with the old mechanical dice.

Something similar is done now with slot machines. Gears, springs, and ratchets are gone. But you can't tell. Reels turn and stop, looking like they got wound up and ran down. But there's a computer inside, executing a program called a "random number generator," which decides the result of every spin - in advance.

Intelli-dice could use random number generators, too. Think what this could mean. Casinos could set payout menus so some games would be looser than others. Maybe they'd program a few extra yo-elevens on come-out rolls, or cut back on sevens to pump up excitement by letting solid citizens hold the dice for marathon sessions, or give lots of repeats so bettors would load up on their comes or press-press-press those numbers.

Gaming gurus would no longer pooh-pooh players who swear that sevens usually roll after dice go off the table, or hit someone's hand, or knock over a stack of chips, or the pit boss tells a hot shooter to "slow 'em down" or "keep 'em below eye level." Sensors hidden in those bumps around the tables could detect such things, and signal the computers instructions to make it happen.

Of course, craps played with intelli-dice would have to be scrutinized by the regulatory folks. Otherwise, some holdover from gambling's Neanderthal past might rig the computers to cheat players. Say by having too many sevens. Or sensing when a high-roller stacked purple, orange, and grey chips on the five and nine - then hitting everything else before turning up seven.


It's also possible that unscrupulous players could cheat by slipping their own intelli-dice into a game. Or that hackers could crack the code and anticipate the random number generator output, or transmit overrides to the computers. But sophisticated electronic and other security measures could be implemented.

The concept could be carried a step further, eliminating physical dice entirely in favor of virtual-reality computer-generated holograms. I haven't a clue how they'd make the virtual dice "feel" real when a shooter picked them up. But I haven't the foggiest notion how they make light waves from lasers look like three-dimensional objects, either. So who says it can't be done?

One more thing. A thought for blackjack and other card players. "Cash cards" with embedded computers are being tested in selected markets. It's not much of a stretch to imagine playing cards whose faces are high-definition liquid crystal "screens." The dealer has a six-up, turns over a nine, then draws. Another six. Only, how do you know the shoe wasn't all blanks, programmed to display a three-card 21 on that particular round.

I'm almost sure nobody's gone anywhere near this far. Yet. But I haven't been able to check because little green aliens following me around in flying saucers keep warning me to mind my own business. Still, if you think it's lunacy, ponder what the perceptive poet, Sumner A Ingmark, said about one great inventor:


Before a new idea you jettison,
Remember they once laughed at Edison.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.