by Phil Simborg
28 September 2006
Here's a way that helped me understand this aspect of luck. In the above simple bear-off position, red was unlucky to just roll a 1,1 and 4 pips and is now in poor shape. They will need to get lucky to win.
But, they aren't lost yet. For money, they should take the cube that white will be sending over. And then they need to get lucky. First they need white not to roll a double, and then they need to bear off.
But, what's the best play? If they know they'll roll a 6,2 or 2,2 next turn, they'd choose to leave the checkers on the 6 and 2 points; while if they know they'll roll a 5,3 or 5,4 next turn, they'd choose to leave the checkers on the 5,3 points. And, I guess, if they know they'll roll either a 2,2 or a 5,4 but not which one, they'd choose to leave both checkers on the 4pt.
So, do you have to be a psychic to guess which is right? Is it all luck?
Nope. Better players play the odds. By leaving the checkers on the 5 and 3 points, they win the most often. So, in the long run, they will win more often than someone who leaves the checkers on the 6 and 2pts or both on the 4pt. And, they will be lucky every time they win. So, they will be luckier.
Or, as Phil Simborg put it in this article, by playing better, they roll better.
Many years ago two of the then best players in Chicago faced each other in a chouette. The Captain turned to Craig Chellstorp, his expert partner when the play above came up, and said: "You know how we have to play it!" The Captain was Gene Chait. I have seen many arguments over who owns the roll 62. I don't know who first staked a claim, but I know that Gene was famous for rolling 62 at least thirty-five years ago!
Craig knew that leaving 53 was correct, but he looked at The Box, Greg Defotis, and he also knew that by giving up one number (53 bears off 14 times in 36, 62 only 13) he was gaining on two! The two times Gene rolled the 62 Greg would be so steamed they had made the wrong play and been rewarded that it would more than pay for itself.
They left a 62, and Gene did roll it (and of course, if they left a 53 the 62 Gene rolled would not have worked). And Greg was steamed!
Just one more case of good players rolling better. ;-)
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