Playing When you're the Dog, by Phil Simborg

You just rolled 6-6 and you have to decide whether to close your board and guarantee the win, or make the prime and hit to get more gammons.  What great choices!  You are happy to have such choices to make, and you carefully weigh the advantages of each, consider the score, the risks and rewards, and make what you think is the better play.  Most of us do pretty well in these situations....we roll a joker, or we even have a fairly average roll but we are in a very strong position and have to choose between two or three really excellent options.

It's not fun, however, when you roll a really bad number and you are going to be forced to leave a blot or two that might get you gammoned.  Your first reaction is "Why me?"  Why are the Dice Gods ALWAYS picking on me?   You can't remember the last time your opponent got a bad fact, at that moment, you can't even remember the last time you ever had a good roll.  You are angry, hurt, depressed.  Now you turn back to the board and you look at the alternative plays and you realize that no matter what you do, you're in trouble.  That smirk on your opponent's face isn't helping much either, and you certainly didn't need to hear him say "Wow, what a bad roll," as if you didn't realize it on your own!

So, back to reality.  The rules say you have to make a move even though you'd love to have the option of saying "I pass" and not move at all.  And you have to choose between a terrible play and a horrible play. 

All too often, in this situation, players really don't take enough time to consider the options "intellectually."  Since they feel they are pretty much sunk with any play, and they are "emotionally defeated" by the roll, they simply take a quick look at the plays and reluctantly make their best guess. 

It's human nature to react this way, but it's really a big mistake to let the dice get the best of you.  The fact is, when you have a choice between two good plays and one gives you 5% better winning chances, or 5% more gammons, and you have a choice between two bad plays and one gives you 5% fewer losses and 5% fewer gammons, AT THE END OF THE DAY AND AT THE END OF THE MATCH, BOTH PLAYS WERE EQUALLY IMPORTANT!

5% is just as big in the total scheme of things whether you lose that equity when you are winning or when you are losing.  The affect on your "match winning chances" is the same.  It is JUST AS IMPORTANT to make as good a play as possible in both situations.  But again, most people don't take the time to consider cutting their losses as they do maximizing their wins simply because it's not as much "fun" and they get sidetracked by the bad dice.

The trick to keep from falling into this rut is simple:  recognize, intellectually, the importance of maximizing your equity in both situations, and think only about what is the best play in all situations.  Don't focus on the luck or the Dice Gods or that smirk on your opponent's face.  When you get a really bad roll in a really tough position where you're losing the game or match, don't think about where you're going to have dinner later--focus on which play has the best chance of preventing you from losing the game, the gammon, or the match. 

Just because you're the dog doesn't mean you have to end up in the dog house!