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Backgammon Pip Counting Shortcuts

In backgammon, especially competitive backgammon like we see in online gaming parlors, pip counting is as much an integral part of the game as the dice. If you don't know where you stand in the race, you could well be left behind, as well as a whole lot poorer. Online games will often display the pip count, but relying on an automated count is dangerous. Pip counting is a skill you will need if you ever hope to play in the real world.

At the most basic level, pips are the spots on the dice, and the pip count is the total number of those pips you would need to roll to bear off your remaining checkers. If it will take you 120 and your opponent only 75, you might want to resign rather than accept that double offer...

Obviously counting all the checkers and all the points and coming up with your total, then repeating the process to see where your opponent stands would be tedious and likely take longer than your opponent will have patience for. This article will discuss two quick tips that should help speed the process greatly and help you on your way to mastering pip counting.

Opposite Points -

Opposites are among the easiest checkers to count, and since they're common in backgammon, a big time saver. The backgammon board is laid out with 24 triangular points, 12 points to a side opposite one another. Point 1 is opposite point 24, 2 opposite 23 on down to 12 being opposite 13. Visualizing those opposites, it's easy to see that two checkers positioned across from each other on opposite points, regardless of which pair of opposites they occupy will always total 25 pips. Count your opposites first and you should have a good start on your total count.

Blocks of Checkers -

Blocks are a bit trickier to explain, but once you get it, it will make perfect sense. First, consider a block of four checkers, two on the 1 point and two on the 2 point. Counting quickly, we see our pip count is 6. 6 is our base count for blocks of four. Now, let's say rather than the 1 point, our block of four starts on the 9 point. Simply count the open points (1 through 8) and multiply by the number of checkers in the block (8 x 4 = 32) and add to the base count of 6 for a total of 38.

This works with larger blocks as well. Ten checkers, arrayed two per point, starting at the 1 point will give you a base count of 30. Start that block on the 2 point and you have one open point multiplied by ten checkers and added to your base count of 30 for a total of 40. The base counts are: blocks of four = 6, Blocks of six = 12, blocks of eight = 20 and blocks of ten = 30. Blocks of consecutive points with two checkers apiece is a common occurrence in backgammon, so knowing the bases and formula can be a big help in counting pips.

There are many other great time savers when counting pips, but these two tips should be more than enough to get the beginning backgammon player off to a flying start.

About the Author: The author, Eathan Mertz, is a backgammon player and enthusiast who hosts a variety of backgammon tips and information at the backgammon pages at

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