Counting Pips in Backgammon

It can be important to know whether you are ahead or behind while playing backgammon, because if your opponent doubles, you want to know how to respond. To tell if you are ahead or behind, count the number of pips it would take to move all of your pieces off from the backgammon board. A pip, by the way, is a dot on a die.

Number of pips at beginning of play

At the beginning of play it would take 167 pips to bear all of one side's pieces from the board. Of course, it can get worse, if enough pieces get placed on the bar, it could get far worse. But most efficient players will not let this happen. The average roll on two dice is 7. Without any direct contact with the opponent, 24 dice rolls will be enough to end the game.

Although you want to keep track of what kind of pip advantage (or disadvantage) you have relative to your opponent. It does not pay to be overt about it. Obvious counting is considered bad form, especially if it takes a great deal of time up after every roll of the dice. You can keep a relative tally in your head, simply by keeping a running total, every time you roll, add to the total, when your opponent rolls, subtract. When a piece is placed on the bar simply add or subtract six for every quarter of the board the piece is sent back, plus one for every pip. With practice, keeping track will become second nature.

When the game is winding down and both players are bearing pieces off, if a simple glance does not reveal the relative advantage, a quickly tally can be made by counting one pip for every piece on the one point, two on the two point, etc.

Counting pips in backgammon is not absolutely vital, but can be handy information when the game is close.

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