Pig is a simple dice game that probably originated during World War II. The game was first described in 1945, though it was likely being played by American and British soldiers before that date.
Pig is the simplest game belonging to the “Jeopardy” genre of dice games. In these games, players generally choose to “Let it ride” or otherwise “Lock in their score”. By letting it ride, players increase their potential score, but could potentially lose their score as well.
It is a good game for teaching younger children probability, thanks to its basic rule structure.
How to Play Pig?
Although traditionally a two-player game, Pig could in theory be played by any number of people, with turns going in a clockwise order.
The Pig dice game can be played with extremely basic materials. All that is needed to play is
- A single die
- A single sheet of paper
- A pen.
The Paper and Pen are technically optional if they are not available, though they help the Players keep track of their scores much more easily.
Rolling the Dice and Turns
Before the game begins, Players will first take turns rolling the die.
- The Player that rolls the highest number in this first step will take their turn first.
- If there are ties, the tying Players will roll again, with the highest number winning.
Turn order will continue clockwise from the first Player after they take their turn. Each Player’s turn, they roll the dice. The number they roll is added to their “Running Score”.
Hold or Let it Ride
After the first roll of their turn, Players have a choice.
Players choose between two options at this point:
- They can keep going and “let it ride” or they can “Hold” and turn their “Running Score” into their “Final Score”. Holding will immediately convert the Player’s Running Score into their Final Score and their turn is ended.
- Letting it Ride, Players will roll their dice again. The value of this dice can be added to the Running Score, and Players are given the choice to Let It Ride or Hold again.
Players can Let It Ride as many times as they want, until they roll a 1. Any Player that rolls a 1 has their running score changed to 0. Their Final Score remains untouched. A Player’s turn also ends after they roll a 1, and they must pass the die to the next Player.
The Next Player in clockwise order takes their turn after the previous Player has rolled a 1, or decided to Hold.
Final Score and Ending the Game
If there is a pen and paper, use it to keep track of each Player’s final score at the end of their turn. The Player’s Final Score is determined by Holding their Running Score.
The First Player to win 100 or more Points wins the game. Players do not need to roll for exactly 100 Points.
Pig is scored using both the “Running Score” and the “Final Score”. The Running Score is made up of all the dice the Player rolled during their turn. A Player’s Running Score is always 0 by the end of their turn.
The Final Score is the one that really matters. The Final Score can be thought of as the Player’s “actual” score. When the Final Score reaches 100, that Player wins instantly. Since Pig is a game where Players take turns, there cannot be any ties for First Place.
This is an easy game to play again and again. Just find more space on the same sheet of paper, or turn it over.
Pig Rules Summary
A quick summary of the game rules can be found below:
- Players roll at the start of the game, highest roll takes the first turn.
- The next turn is always Clockwise (To the Left).
- If you roll a 1, your Running Score is changed to 0. Your Final Score does not change, and your turn ends immediately.
- You can keep rolling as many times as you want on your turn, until you get a 1 or choose to stop. Add up all your rolls and add them to your Final Score unless you rolled a 1.
When Playing With Two Dice
- The sum of the two dice is added to the player’s turn total, but only if neither die shows a 1.
- If one of the two dice rolled comes up as a 1, the player scores nothing for that turn and their turn is over.
- Rolling two 1s, referred to as “pigging out,” results not just in a score of zero for that turn, but also the loss of all points accumulated during that turn, with the turn ending immediately.
So, imagine that you are playing a game of Pig, and it is your turn.
You decide to let it ride, and roll again:
You can hold here with a score of 9, or you can keep going. 9 is such a small score though, and you only have a 1-in-6 chance of losing your total.
Even if a 1 comes up, all you would lose is 9 points. Roll again:
That’s a good roll! Now your Running Score is 15. 15 is still low, and the odds of a 1 do not chance. Why not take another risk? Roll again:
Oh! Too Bad! Your Running Score has been set to 0, and your turn is ended. Still, do not let that discourage you! You always have a 1-in-6 chance to lose your Running Score, no matter what.
That same risk is always there whether you have a high Running Score or not. The fun of the game is trying to go on a streak, and take a big final score at once.
Strategy and Tips
Although there is an optimal (the best) strategy for Pig, someone would need to memorize the correct choice depending on multiple complicated factors. There are simpler ways to be almost as good as a computer.
First Tip? Let It Ride until your Running Score is at least a 25. By rolling until you get a 25 or higher, you can win the game in four good turns.
Players that hold every turn will take at least 17 turns if they roll all 6s every turn. Even if you lose two of your attempts, you would win in 6 turns! Since the first Player to reach 100 wins, speed is important.
Another good strategy for Pig comes when your score is 70 or higher. If you are only 30 points away from 100, do not hold. Yes, this sounds very risky, and it is. It will take about 10 rolls, on average, to reach 30 points on a single turn.
On a roll-to-roll basis though, the odds of rolling a 1 is always less than another number. It is always 1-in-6 that you roll a one, and therefore a 5-in-6 that you don’t. You can win the whole game in one shot, so go for it!