Forum Archive : Chouettes

Chouette cube strategy

From:   Stanley E. Richards
Date:   7 March 2011
Subject:   Live Tournament Observations
Forum: Forums

This weekend in Chicago, I listened to players who explained that the
social aspect of backgammon is its greatest benefit.  I had the opportunity
to dine with excellent players whose posts have been educational. I have
been a serious backgammon player for 8 years, but my lack of live play has
limited my knowledge. I decided to not hide my gross ignorance due to my
online player status. I asked, "What is a chouette?" Everybody at the table
gasped, "Whoa!!" Later that evening I watched a chouette and understood the
rules. Chouettes are perhaps the best game for social interaction between
enthusiastic backgammon players.

Now during this $10-per-point chouette, the following position occurred.

        13  14  15  16  17  18      19  20  21  22  23  24
       |             O         |   |     O       X   X   X |  X
       |                       |   |             X   X   X |  X
       |                       |   |             X   X   X |  X
       |                       |   |                       |  X
       |                       |   |                       |  X
       |                       |   |                       |
       |                       | X |                       |
       |                       |   |                       |
       |                       |   | O                     |
+---+  |                       |   | O   O   O   O   O   O |
| 2 |  |                       |   | O   O   O   O   O   O |
+---+  +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
        12  11  10   9   8   7       6   5   4   3   2   1

        O doubled.  Should X take?

The technical competitive side of me was stunned.  The box player dropped
this cube and I immediately stated,  "Hey, that was a take!"  There was no
question in my mind. One of backgammon basics is if there is a difference
of five men off and one player is closed off on the bar, then that is a

The box player knew that it was probably a take. He explained that if his
karma was so bad to allow a late hit to lose a game that he preferred to
just drop. I considered his explanation and the stakes involved. I knew
without a doubt that it was a take. Nevertheless, I suspected that I would
drop this cube instead of risking $120 versus three opponents. The
chouettes gambling aspect would entice me to knowingly make a significant

If this was online gambling at any stake, I would take without delay. The
difference is that with online gambling I expect to play hundreds of games
in a relatively small amount of time. With the increased sample size, I
know that I will be ahead if I take this cube. With entertaining, socially
interactive chouettes, there will not be so many games. Thus, the law
averages may not justify the take.

The purpose of this post is to ask others if they believe live backgammon
gambling may lead to intentional technical errors. Also, I would like more
backgammon players to play online for money. I know that you love the
social interaction of live play. What could influence you to play online
for real money?


Rich Munitz  writes:

I usually find the reverse in Chouettes -- that the box and captain tend to
take passes. People want the opportunity to play in the box. As a result,
the captain will often take cubes that are passes in order to retain the
chance to win the box. A very strong player has future "box equity" by
being in the box against the team. It is therefore often correct to
sacrifice a small amount of equity in the current game in order to have a
chance to gain the potentially large box equity. However, if mandatory
extras are in use in the chouette, it tends to control really reckless
taking by the captain (or gives them a chance to play against the entire
field in the current game). Similarly, the box will tend to take deeply
against the captain, while often dropping takes against some other players
in order to limit risk. Of course in spite of egos, only half of the
players are above average. When chouette rules permit, it is not unusual
for the box to drop the strongest player(s) so that they cannot consult. It
is also not unusual for the strongest player(s) to double somewhat early
when a fish is captain so that they may consult.

As to money management, if you feel pressured to drop a 4-cube against
several players, you are playing for uncomfortably high stakes. There are 2
kinds of discomfort: financial and psychological. I've heard a good rule of
thumb -- you should be prepared to lose 100 points in a session at the
current stake. If you actually can't afford to lose 100 points because you
won't be able to pay the mortgage or buy food, then don't play for that
stake. Usually however, you really can afford such a loss, you are simply
uncomfortable psychologically with facing such an outcome. The answer there
is to get over it. Pissing away equity is pissing away equity. Once you
realize that taking such a beating does not kill you, it makes you
stronger. You can be the one pressuring your opponent to make mistakes
rather than the other way around.

Chouette play can be very interesting.

Steve Mellen  writes:

Box equity is perennially overrated, particularly when you consider how it
tends to play out in practice (you take a pass in hopes of gaining the box,
then once you get there you take a pass in hopes of retaining the box,
etc). Also, in a consulting chouette the strong player's edge in the box is
greatly diminished. I think Kleinman suggested that most of a good player's
profits come when there is a weak player in the box, particularly if you
get to be the captain against him.

One of the most common mistakes in chouette play is to play as though the
goal is to be plus on the scoresheet at the end of the session. You can
lose a lot of money by making "scoreboard passes" at +8 or "scoreboard
takes" at -8. This is a natural human tendency -- after all, who knows when
a pretty girl might glance at the scoresheet and decide to go home with
whoever is the most plus -- but mathematically it's quite misguided. There
is a reason why diagrams say "money play" and not "money play, you're -8
this session."
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



Automatic doubles with carryover  (Alexander Zamanian, Jan 1999) 
California rule  (Peter Anderson+, Nov 2001) 
Captain drops and others take  (Grafix8888+, Sept 2000) 
Chouette cube strategy  (Stanley E. Richards+, Mar 2011) 
Cube proxy  (Ilia Guzei+, June 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Dream chouette  (Phil Simborg+, Sept 2009) 
Extras  (Daniel Murphy, Feb 1997) 
Extras  (Albert Steg, July 1996) 
Extras  (Anthony R Wuersch, Mar 1995) 
Fish-hunt rules  (Chuck Bower+, Feb 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Interlocking chouette  (wintom+, Jan 2008) 
Jacoby rule  (Doug Doub+, Aug 2005)  [GammOnLine forum]
Legal plays only  (Gregg Cattanach+, Aug 2001) 
Los Angeles Rules  (Joe Russell, Apr 2013) 
Los Angeles Rules  (Justin N.+, Aug 2011) 
Lure of the chouette  (Bob Koca+, July 2004) 
Mandatory beaver  (Roland Scheicher+, Mar 2002) 
Mandatory beaver  (David Montgomery, Jan 1999) 
Money management  (Albert Steg, Sept 1998) 
Online chouette rules  (John Graas, July 2003)  [Long message]
Order of succession  (leobueno+, Aug 2011) 
Order of succession  (Albert Steg, June 1995) 
Procedure when captain doubles  (Bill Riles+, Feb 2010) 
Split cube actions  (Neil Kazaross, June 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Strategy  (Michael J. Zehr, Sept 1998) 
Variable stakes  (Christopher Yep+, Apr 2000) 
Waiting for teammate to double  (Øystein Johansen+, July 2001) 
When box takes a partner  (Dan Pelton+, Mar 2009) 
When does player retain the box?  (Daniel Murphy, Jan 1997) 
When is consulting allowed?  (Dave+, Mar 2000) 

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