In Part 3 of this series, we presented :

All These Stats Give Me a Headache – A Simplified View of Dice Mechanics

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Have you ever heard the expression, “No dice”? Most of us have. But do you know where the expression comes from? Urban legend or not, here’s the scoop. The skinny. The real dope. Which, of course, starts with a story …

WARNING! Don’t try this at home. (or anywhere else)

Joe Bob checked his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes and slipped it back into his pocket. Tony was late, like always. But this time, it really had Joe Bob worried.

He should have been here by now. Where is he? The boss’ll be angry if he doesn’t show.

But, right then, a delivery van rounded the corner, slowed, and Tony hopped out carrying a satchel. He snugged his cap down in front to give the signal. He was all set. He had the dice with him and the money from the cross town game. Maybe Joe Bob would keep his job after all.

The two men met at the curb and brisked back around the corner and into an alley. It was getting dark and the air was crisp and clear. The kind of night that bats love. As long as they don’t stay out too long in it. The end of summer and already a hint of frost.

The door opened before either man knocked and a goon the size of an icebox hurried them inside and down a long flight of stairs then through a curtain and into the game room – an abandoned cellar filled with moldy boxes of who knows what and shelves that sagged under the weight of rotten cans filled with what smelled like cabbage. An air-raid shelter from the first war. Before they became stylish.

Set up over there, on that stack of crates. The guys’ll be in shortly. As soon as they’re done with their beer.”

So the men did as they were told. They upended the crates and threw down a few boards to form a table. Covered it with a sheet and marked several X’s in a row across the center with a piece of chalk.

And that was it. A makeshift casino. Craps for a dime. And more if you had it. No limit really. And no arguments with the boss. His word was law and his decision final.

You don’t wanna know what happened to the last guy that crossed him. Don’t do it and there won’t be any trouble.” Joe Bob had heard it all before.

And it was good advice. Words to live by. And Joe Bob always listened to good advice.

The guys from the other room emptied their beers, pushed past Joe Bob, and laid down their money. More than either he or Tony had seen in a long time. Wonder where they got it from?

But he didn’t have to guess. He knew. These were Brown’s men. Gun runners and bootleggers and worse.

And what did he care anyway? Their money was good, Wasn’t it? And hadn’t they kept him alive this long? Sure they had. And kept a roof over his head and food in his belly. Why should he have to worry? He shouldn’t.

So, just don’t think. Bring the dice, set up where they tell you, and look the other way. Simple. And safe – except for the law.

But he hadn’t been caught so far, and that was a good thing. So Joe Bob sat back and drank it all in. The good life. Right here. Heaven on earth. Even if he was hidden away in a dingy basement filled with cabbage.

Then he stretched out on a plank and fell sound asleep.

Meanwhile, Tony and the other men played on and on. Well past midnight. And by then, the air was filled with smoke and the floor was littered with match sticks and cigar stubs as well as spilled tobacco and wasted beer. But these were gambling men. And they didn’t seem to notice.

Or to pay any attention at all when two tall strangers came down the stairs and surveyed the room. Quiet strangers that just stood there and didn’t say a word.

It was right about then that Joe Bob awoke and figured it all out. They were coppers and they were nothing but trouble.

Joe Bob had to act fast. He had to escape. He had to warn Tony. They had to escape together.

But it was too late, the torches were lit and the room was filled with fresh light. It was handcuffs and paddy wagon rides all around. The raiders had just discovered an illegal dice game.

Now Joe Bob was no lawyer but he was no fool either. He had been in court a time or two in his life and he knew what was going to happen.

The judge would ask for evidence and the cops would blather on about how heroic they had been and how tough it had been breaking up the dice mob and … blather blather blather. They always said it was a mob and they always said they were heroes and they always … blather blather blather. Well, it was enough to make Joe Bob sick. And he just wasn’t havin’ it. Not this time. And not ever again.

But he did end up in jail. And he did end up in court. And the judge did ask for evidence, just like judges always do. And the cops got up and did their duty, as they saw it, and they testified six ways from Sunday that they were outright heroes. Who had just brought down a dice mob. “You should all be thankful.” And everyone present really was.

Until Joe Bob asked to say a word or two in his own defense. Which, of course, got him laughed at. Why would anybody think they could do their own lawyerin’? It was plumb foolish. But the judge gave in in the end and let Joe Bob speak his piece. It might just be entertaining.

The room grew quiet when Joe Bob rose to his feet and started to hum. And fidget. And act the proper fool. All on account of bein’ so nervous.

But when he finally spoke, it was the cops that were suddenly nervous and fidgety. And all Joe Bob said was, “Well, your honor, if we were playin’ dice, then how come nobody’s showed any of us the dice we were supposedly playin’ with? We’re all good men and we come from good families. All we were doin’ was visitin’ with one another. And enjoyin’ a good smoke.”

The courtroom exploded with laughter. Everyone present knew what was coming next. The cops would show the dice and the men would all be sent back to jail and they’d all have to pay great big fines. Serves them right. Nobody should gamble in the first place. Dice are from the devil! They’re all gonna burn.

But none of them did. Not that we know of. And not on account of that particular fiasco.

And why?

Because, in the end, the cops could neither produce the dice the men were accused of playing with nor produce any other pair instead. It was as if the dice had never existed. They had vanished into thin air. Disappeared. Melted away. Been eaten. Consumed. Swallowed at dinner. And maybe they had been.

So the case was thrown out for lack of evidence. * [ Which, by the way, is a real thing. A legal necessity. That some evidence of a crime always be presented. And while laws change and while dice law in particular is full of worm holes, the dice that are used in a game can very well be called into evidence in most jurisdictions. With more or less weight given to each piece of evidence according to how that state’s laws are written. Each state is free to arrange their own gambling laws and, because there is no universal standard, many of the states have gone back and forth on what is gambling and what is not. And on what is gambling equipment and what is not. And even on what is evidence and what is not. And on what particular evidence is required in the first place. Some of these gambling law histories can be enlightening as well as quite entertaining. So, if you want a peek at what’s out there, I suggest the online resources of your favorite law school. And if you don’t have a favorite law school, the libraries of Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern will do quite nicely.]

And as the judge dropped the final gavel, he said in a clear voice, “No dice. And without them, no conviction. These men are free to go.” Wham! You could have heard a pin drop as Joe Bob and the other men picked up their hats and tiptoed out of the courtroom before anybody changed their mind.

And there you have it, fact or fiction. The entire truth of the case. And if you remember nothing else from this little tale, please always remember the warning we gave at the onset, which goes double now that you know about Joe Bob and his day in court :

WARNING! Don’t try this at home. (or anywhere else)

Dice should never be eaten. They are not toys for very young children to play with and in fact are not toys at all. They are game pieces. Just like chessmen and checkers are.

Dice are also very collectible. Just as tea cups and silver spoons and snow globes are.

But at the same time, dice are educational and can be found in schools. And they are used to teach math and statistics and even general creativity. But only in some schools and only under adult supervision.

Take it from me, dice can be a lot of fun. But be forewarned, dice can also lead to storytelling. 🙂

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In Part 5 of this series we will present :

Your Invention Really Matters – How Inventors Have Infused New Life Into a Dying Industry

The year was 1935 and the nation was at war, with itself. As a nation emerging from one international crisis and about to enter another, the US people were desperate for change. They had gone without for long enough. Rationing and deprivation had worn them thin. And 80 hour work weeks were literally killing them off. They wanted something different. They deserved something better. For themselves and for their sons and daughters. These dark days should not last forever.

And they didn’t. Not without let up. And not without relief.

Largely, some would say, because a few fledgling game companies led the way.