Rockwell's Rules of Slotting

Rules of Thumb for Early Slotting/By David Rockwell


In our Anti-Cruelty Society Invitational earlier this year, David and Scott Casty had some time to kill between matches.  Scott was waiting to play in the finals, which he won, but just to show you how smart Scott really is, rather than sit around gossiping with David, he picked David’s brain about some important aspects of the game. 


Scott asked David (who just happens to be one of the better players and thinkers in the game) about an aspect of the game he wasn’t quite sure about.  When to slot and when not to slot early in the game. 


Scott told David he understood it was right to slot your 5 point on the opening roll with 2-1, but what about the second roll.  Essentially, here is what David told Scott, and it’s a great lesson for all of us:


When you roll 21, 41 or 51 on the second move, you are behind in the race - no matter what the opener rolled.


When you roll 41 or 51 on the opening roll, you are leading the race.  (Opener is losing the race after an opening 21 roll.)


The race isn't the only factor of course, but it is important.  The fundamental is - slot when behind, split when ahead. 


You don't want to risk losing your racing lead if you have one.  When you are behind in the race, you don't have as much to lose by being hit.  Racing isn't your primary game plan anyway.  One needs to consider everything else happening on the board.  For example, duplication often is relevant to the slotting decision.  If opponent’s hitting fours already play well, it gives you motivation to slot.  But, keep your eye on the race too.


So, you almost always slot with an ace (21, 41 & 51) on the second roll unless:


1.  your opponent has split the back checkers (too many shots)

2.  your opponent has made an inner board point.(adverse to a hitting contest while out-boarded and need to get the back checkers moving to counter the priming threat)


There are only a handful of exceptions to this.  Rather than list them, I think it is better to learn the rule first and learn the exceptions at a later date.


I think the majority of otherwise strong players follow the rule - When in doubt, split.  A better rule (empahsis - on the 2nd roll) would be, when in doubt, slot