The final pip counting method we will learn about is called **cluster counting**. It provides the absolute count, and I believe it’s currently the most popular pip counting method. I can see why — it’s sort of a game-within-a-game, where you learn little tricks, improve, and get little satisfaction dopamine hits when figuring out something clever. It takes a ton of practice but is totally worth it once you get the hang of it.

The general idea is to memorize certain shapes or patterns of checkers, so-called clusters. Once you learn enough of these clusters, you can dissect any position and add up their pips quite quickly. We will take a few lessons to learn different clusters, and will eventually work our way up to complete positions with 15 checkers.

In this first lesson, we will learn about common clusters that contain 10 checkers.

### 1. 5-primes

A 5-prime has 10 checkers in it, and to figure out the number of pips they cover, we need to **multiply the prime’s center point number by 10**. For example, the following prime extends from the 2-pt to the 6-pt:

Its point in the center is the 4-pt, so this cluster takes 40 pips.

By contrast, this other 5-prime is centered on the 6-pt, so it takes 60 pips:

### 2. The triangle

The next cluster is a triangle of checkers, where the number of checkers increases linearly: 1-2-3-4. These clusters also contain 10 checkers, and to figure out their pip counts, we need to **multiply the point containing 3 checkers by 10**. For example, below, the cluster has 1 checker on the 3-pt, 2 checkers on the 4-pt, 3 on the 5, and 4 on the 6:

The point with 3 checkers is the 5-pt, and therefore, the pip count for this cluster is 50 pips.

What’s interesting about this cluster shape is that **it works any way the triangle is oriented**. For example, the triangle below is leaning left instead of right, and the trick still works — the point with 3 checkers is on the 7-point, so the pip count is 70.

### 3. The house

The last cluster we will learn about in this lesson also contains 10 checkers, and is called the house, for obvious reasons:

Here, to obtain the pip count, **we multiply the center point by 10**. The house above is centered on the 5-pt, so its pip count is 50 pips.

In the next article, we will learn clusters for specific locations on the board, like the bar-points and the mid-point.

##### Further reading:

- Cluster Counting, the original 1992 article by Jack Kissane where he names and describes this method.
- Cluster Counting Revisited, a sequel article by Dean Gay with even more clusters.
- A video with more examples of these kinds of clusters, and a timed practice sequence.

Next lesson: Cluster counting 2: home board

## Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.