Backgammon Study: Three Shortcuts to Pip Counting

The importance of counting pips in backgammon weighs heavily on how one can efficiently handle the doubling cube in a race. However, the advent of Internet backgammon has placed less relevance to pip counting because of auto counters integrated into the game. But as many Internet backgammon players would attest to, the lack of pip counting skills is a big disadvantage when they move on to a live game. The good news is that there are shortcuts to pip counting that help us get used to it quicker.

Each player starts off with a pip count of 167 that's needed to be covered in order to bear off all their pieces in accordance with the game set-up. And as pieces are advanced or hit, pip counts change as one player leads and the other player trails in the race.

Position is the key in visualizing and computing how many pips a player's remaining pieces must cover. And three of the quickest shortcut positions for counting pips are a split pair, five in a row, and opposite pieces.

A split pair describes two pieces each on a point separated by a center point. So two checkers each on the six-point and eight-point are called split pairs on the backgammon board. The shortcut to determining the pip count here is that it's always four times the center point. From the example given, the pip count of that split pair is seven (from the center seven-point) multiplied by four or simply, 28.

The pip count of five checkers in a row can quickly be computed by multiplying the center point by five. Let's say, you have a checker each from your eight-point to four-point. The pip counting backgammon shortcut is to multiply six (the center point) by five and you'll get a pip count of 30. But if each of these five points in a row is resided by a pair, the shortcut quickly changes to multiplying the center point by ten.

Opposite pieces are the easiest out of the many backgammon shortcuts to counting pips because it always totals 25. So if you have two pieces left on the board and they're directly on opposite points, your pip count is 25.

Game skills learned from playing Internet backgammon is fairly lacking when it comes to playing the game live. Pip counting is a skill required to maximize the use of the doubling cube in a race that's why shortcuts to pip counting are developed. Three of these are for counting a split pair, five in a row and opposite pieces. Opposite single pieces remaining on the board totals 25 pips. Pip counts for split pairs are always four times the center point. And lastly, single pieces in a row of five points have a pip count of five times the center point.