Backgammon is Nothing More Than Prioritizing

by Phil Simborg
3 August 2017

Phil Simborg

luck comes along.

For example, when you teach your children to drive, you stress the importance of wearing a seat belt, signaling before turning, not speeding and not texting while driving. When they do those things accidents are less likely to happen, but if they do, they are less likely to get hurt or get blamed for the accident.

But what we are really teaching our children about life, and about playing backgammon, is prioritizing. If they didn't understand prioritizing, or how to place different values on different options to determine what is more important at a particular time, they would never do their homework, clean their room, or be kind to their little sister.

The single best measure of "maturity" is the ability to prioritize intelligently. A mature person learns when it is better to hold your tongue than express your opinion. When it is more important to work, or study, than to play or relax. Whether to buy an expensive car or save money. How much of the weekend should you spend catching up on some work, spending time with the family, or relaxing or playing. There is a time and need for all, but there are times when one or the other must have a much higher priority.

Back to teaching children backgammon, when we teach our children how to choose one checker play over another, we are helping them develop prioritizing skills that will be useful in all areas of their life. BACKGAMMON IS PRIORITIZING.

That is the true essence of a checker play decision. Should I hit or make the point? In the Position 1 below, which has a higher priority?

As you can see, the computer tells us that in a normal (money) situation, hitting has a higher priority, and we have learned that this applies to most plays in the early game where we have a choice of hitting or making a point. In fact, we have a general "hierarchy" of plays in the early game:

1. Hit

2. Make a point

3. Make a strategic play

4. Play safely

Position 1 (Click To Enlarge)

There are exceptions, of course, to just about every rule of thumb. For example, in the position above, you would not hit with a 3-1 but instead make the 5-point. Making the 5-point is much more valuable than making the 4 point….it is a higher priority, but also, hitting with the 3-1 strips the 8 point and makes it harder to follow up by making the 7-point or hitting back on the next roll if hit.
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