The term psi comes from the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and is used as an informal abbreviation for “psychic phenomena”. As such it covers all uses of the mind beyond the reach of accepted science. Psi-power should not be confused with ESP, which stands for “Extra Sensory Perception”. ESP covers phenomena known as “anomalous cognition.” This might take the form of precognition – knowing what’s going to happen before it happens – or mental telepathy – the communication of thoughts through the use of the mind only.
Psi-power is most commonly associated with psionics – what we sometimes refer to as “mind over matter.” While some elements of psionics may sound like the acceptable, proven theories of using visualization and imagery to affect change, it is really a subset of a branch of “science” known as parapsychology. That alone should tell you all you need to know about it.
When it comes to all things dice, the proponents of psionics invariably paint themselves into a corner called psycho-kinesis, or telekinesis. PK, as it’s known among parapsychologists, is the act of making physical changes to reality by the power of the mind alone. And therein lies the rub.
David Blaine may be the greatest street magician of our age. At any given time you’ll find him demonstrating amazing feats on the sidewalks and in the showrooms in Las Vegas. But you won’t find him levitating the dice at the craps table.
Scarne was a wonderful magician and card manipulator who enjoyed pulling aces out of unprepared decks under the noses of security people in Vegas casinos. He also had the distinction of being the first card counter ever banned at Bugsy Segal’s Flamingo. He could not, however, move the dice with the power of his mind.
Uri Geller claimed that he obtained his psychic powers from . . . are you ready for this? Extraterrestrials. He also claims to have influenced the outcome of a major soccer game by mentally moving the ball from the penalty spot just as it was about to be kicked. Do you think he had any action on the game? Somehow I doubt it.
Telekinesis is a great plot element for fiction, but the fact is it just doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. The videos are photo-shopped, the magnets are exposed, the strings cut, the parlor tricks revealed. So why is it that so many people at the dice table actually believe you can turn the dice with the power of your mind? Well, look no further than the Internet.
The first site I Googled onto featured the old “page turn” trick as proof that telekinesis works. Essentially the huckster sets an open book on a table, then through the “power of his mind” causes the pages to turn when he waves his hand over the book. Right. Even someone raised in Arkansas (that’s me) can figure out that the air stirred by the hand movement is what causes the page to turn – not the power of the psi-guy’s mind. In fact, I once saw the Amazing Randi debunk this trick on television. Other tricks this guy utilizes include the pencil roll – causing a pencil to roll across a table using essentially the same trick as with the page turn. Then there’s the old “bending a candle flame” trick. Yeah. I’m holding my breath.
I recall standing at the table at the Golden Nugget one morning when one of these psi-guys approached and bought into the game. He had a particular ritual he went through every time the dice were tossed. He’d chant under his breath and wave his hands around cryptically. About the only thing he accomplished was distracting the shooters. Finally the pit asked if there was something wrong with him and if he needed someone to call a cab for him.
Manipulating the dice through psi-power? If you’re depending on it to help boost your wins then I have bad news for you. If it really worked the tables would be filled with tuxedoed men with white tigers and scantily clad assistants – men whose pockets bulge with rabbits, doves, and endless strings of colorful scarves. Personally, I’d prefer to belly up to the table next to that weasel who took my spot at stick right. At least I’m fairly sure the only thing up his sleeve is his arm.