Cube Handling

Forum Archive : Cube Handling

Rough guidelines

From:   Michael J. Zehr
Address:   tada@ATHENA.MIT.EDU
Date:   1 December 1993
Google:   2dijda$fvs@senator-bedfellow.MIT.EDU

> I would like to get some advice on doubling actions....

There's no question that the doubling cube is the most complicated
aspect of backgammon.  There isn't any way to handle the cube correctly
without "calculating probabilities" as you said.  More precisely, you
absolutely have to have some idea of your chance of winning a game to
have any idea how to handle the cube.

Here are some rough guidelines to start out with though.  (NOTE: this is
very simplified.  Entire books are written about cube handling.  It will
take lots of practice.)

1. If you have less than 25% chance of winning the game, drop a double
if offerred by your oppoentn.  If you have more than 25% chance, accept
the double.

2.  Since your opponent will still accept a cube until you have a 75%
chance of winning, don't double until you are close to that and have
some rolls that will put you over 75% chance.  (This is called losing
your market -- when your opponent would take before you roll, you roll a
good number, and now your oppoent will drop.)

3.  If you are leading in a match, you should in general double later
and drop earlier.  If you are behind, you should double earlier and
accept later.  This is only a rough guidline though.  See Kit Woolsey's
"How to play Tournament Backgammon" for a much better description of
cube handling at match play.

4.  Always play backgammon for affordable but meaningful stakes.  This
is surprisingly important.  If you play "just for fun" you'll take
doubles "to see how they'll turn out" and win some of those games
anyway, giving yourself incorrect reinforcement.  Likewise you'll drop
doubles you should take because "you dont' feel like playing it out."
If something is riding on the game, you're much less likely to do that.
In short, it hones the senses and makes you think about the cube all the
time.  There is also definite penalties and rewards for correct cube

5. Practice practice practice.

Good luck,
michael j zehr
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Cube Handling

Against a weaker opponent  (Kit Woolsey, July 1994) 
Closed board cube decisions  (Dan Pelton+, Jan 2009) 
Cube concepts  (Peter Bell, Aug 1995)  [Long message]
Early game blitzes  (kruidenbuiltje, Jan 2011) 
Early-late ratio  (Tom Keith, Sept 2003) 
Endgame close out: Michael's 432 rule  (Michael Bo Hansen+, Feb 1998)  [Recommended reading]
Endgame close out: Spleischft formula  (Simon Larsen, Sept 1999) 
Endgame closeout: win percentages  (David Rubin+, Oct 2010) 
Evaluating the position  (Daniel Murphy, Feb 2001) 
Evaluating the position  (Daniel Murphy, Mar 2000) 
How does rake affect cube actions?  (Paul Epstein+, Sept 2005) 
How to use the doubling cube  (Michael J. Zehr, Nov 1993) 
Liveliness of the cube  (Kit Woolsey, Apr 1997) 
PRAT--Position, Race, and Threats  (Alan Webb, Feb 2001) 
Playing your opponent  (Morris Pearl+, Jan 2002)  [GammOnLine forum]
References  (Chuck Bower, Nov 1997) 
Robertie's rule  (Chuck Bower, Sept 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Rough guidelines  (Michael J. Zehr, Dec 1993) 
Tells  (Tad Bright+, Nov 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
The take/pass decision  (Otis+, Aug 2007) 
Too good to double  (Michael J. Zehr, May 1997) 
Too good to double--Janowski's formula  (Chuck Bower, Jan 1997) 
Value of an ace-point game  (Raccoon+, June 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Value of an ace-point game  (Øystein Johansen, Aug 2000) 
Volatility  (Chuck Bower, Oct 1998)  [Long message]
Volatility  (Kit Woolsey, Sept 1996) 
When to accept a double  (Daniel Murphy+, Feb 2001) 
When to beaver  (Walter Trice, Aug 1999) 
When to double  (Kit Woolsey, Nov 1994) 
With the Jacoby rule  (KL Gerber+, Nov 2002) 
With the Jacoby rule  (Gary Wong, Dec 1997) 
Woolsey's law  (PersianLord+, Mar 2008) 
Woolsey's law  (Kit Woolsey, Sept 1996) 
Words of wisdom  (Chris C., Dec 2003) 

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