Mathematics and Backgammon

So you like backgammon but never liked mathematics ?

Then i’m afraid that you will not like what I am about to say. In order to become a great backgammon player it is very important to have a good understanding and be able to apply the mathematics that are involved in the game. No matter how talented you are, or how many matches you have played, believe me you will not raise your game beyond a certain level if you do not.

Were talking primarily about the concept of match equity. Mathematcs in money games is pretty straight forward. If you can win about a quarter of your games and the backgammons and gammons even out or are not too much of a risk then you can take a double. You can use similar calculations to consider whether you should double, but take into account your ability to perceive the opponents strength and weaknesses in relation to the doubling cube.

However when it comes to the use of the doubling cube in match play there is only one way that will help you achieve success. You have to understand and be able to apply match equities and be able to estimate the odds and risks of different positions on the backgammon board.

Achieving this is the work of a lifetime. Players that have played for 25 years including myself are still having difficulty calculating the odds on different positions.

Here are some of the basic things that you need to know.

You have to know the match equity tables. You need to know what the odds are of winning a 5 point match if you are behind 2-1 as opposed to being behind 3-1 to give a simple example. How will you be able to decide if you should take the double at say 1-1 if you cannot calculate the odds?.

You have to know how to calculate take points. Once you taken a look at the match equities, you will to be able to calculate the take point. In a money game, your take point lies around 25%, but in a match take points can vary a lot.

You must know what the price of a gammon is. If you look at the board and estimate that you will be gammoned about 10% of the time then this will mean that you will lose double the cube making the price of a gammon in a money game 2. In a match however and this depends on the the score, a gammon could possibly cost you the entire match or in other cases not hurt you at all. You have to take this into account when you are making your calculations.

You have to be able to estimate your percentage of wins and losses in any situation. This figure is never calculated exactly except for in simple bearoff positions but the world best backgammon players are able to get pretty close and this is what makes them the worlds best players. There is no simple formulae to use , its a combination of study , skill , experience and good memory.

Finally you have to be able to put this all together. For example, you have determined that your take point is thirtyfive percent, and that your equity in the position, after considering the price of gammons and backgammons is fourtytwo percent. Then its up o you to make the decision and take the double even if you dont “like” the actual position that you are in.