The Yin and Yang of Yahtzee
Dec 30, 2013 | 1442 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ever since my son was a young boy, we have played games together, starting with the simplest and ending with the complex. From Tic Tac Toe to Checkers. From Dominoes to Chess. From Yahtzee to Scrabble.

Our favorite to play together is Yahtzee. It is played with the Yahtzee game kit, which includes a cup, five dice, and a score pad. The goal is to use the game's quota of turns to accumulate the highest score for that game among the players. In each game, each player has thirteen turns, and in each turn, a player can roll the dice up to three times.

It is a simple game of numbers, using some of the hands known in cards, such as "three of a kind," "four of a kind," "full house," and "straight." It also has other combinations which score points, such as the namesake of the game, Yahtzee. A Yahtzee consists of five dice all showing the same number. It earns the most points - which is fifty - for the first Yahtzee a player has in a game, and one hundred points for additional Yahtzees in the same game by the same player.

As with most games, the better you learn the game, the better you can compete. Yahtzee is a game of chance and skill. It's the luck of the roll when it comes to hitting your numbers, but you do have odds which you can calculate on the fly and help you to make your decisions. Do you try to get three of a kind or do you go for the large straight after rolling the first time in a turn and getting 2-3-4-4-6? Do you keep the two 4s and roll the other three dice, hoping to get at least one more 4? Or do you keep the 2-3-4-6 and roll the one dice hoping to hit a 5 and complete the large straight? Remember, you have two extra rolls to achieve your goal.

My son and I enjoy discussing our strategies as we go. We like to know the reasoning and the odds the other is calculating for a given circumstance. In spite of the odds, there are odd results which seem to defy those odds. Sometimes you'll roll the same five dice back-to-back. What are the odds against that? Higher than you might think. Sometimes you cannot roll a needed number in three rolls - a total of fifteen opportunities to come up with that one badly needed 6 - but you can't do it. The odds say it would be easy, but the odds are averages spread over time and numbers.

There's an old saying which applies (oddly) to Yahtzee: "sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you." Just when you think you have mastered it, the odds will betray you and you will end up with some disgraceful sub-two hundred score. That's like rolling under one hundred in bowling or over one hundred in golf. It's bad.

Then you will have a game where every roll is magical. Where every turn is one happy score after another. The Yahtzees are falling. The hard-to-get selections are easy. It is the ying and yang of Yahtzee.

Games are a good way to spend time with your children, when they're young and when they're grown. We enjoy our time playing games together, and we do a great deal of visiting in those sessions. It is a slice of his childhood and adolescence returned to both of us. And it's ALWAYS fun for us. I like those odds.

© 2013, Jim “Pappy” Moore,

All Rights Reserved.

Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.
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