Stick No. 13/ Answer

Red to play 3-1

When in doubt, make your 5pt. 

There are so many plays that will come up over the course of your backgammon career where you will have the choice between making your 5pt and some other play where you won't be sure if it is better than making your 5pt.  If you aren't sure, make the 5pt!  I can't say that enough.  I see time and time again someone making an inferior play and I want to scream "but it's the 5pt!" 

I had this play come up and I went through the motions of looking at the other plays.  I looked at making the 3pt, it does put my opponent on the bar after all.  However, he has no extra blots lying around, he's not threatening to do anything particularly important other than escape that back checker, and by hitting he doesn't have any awkward entering numbers.  Making the 3pt doesn't look overly strong to me, on to the next play.

8/4 makes a good point in the four point and leaves no blots.  The position looks smooth so intermediates often make this play, they don't understand why it is such a weak play.  First thing that should be noted is the race.  You are way behind in the race, almost 30 pips after the roll.  Getting hit doesn't hurt your game in the racing sense.  The other obvious thing to be noted is it fails to make your 5pt! 

Making your 5pt not only makes your 5pt but leaves the next best point you want to make slotted.  Again, getting hurt doesn't hurt your racing chances so your priority should be keeping a compact easily extendable prime.  With either of the other plays making a prime would take rolling perfecta after perfecta whereas if you just make the 5pt now it will roll forward smoothly. 

Rollout below: