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Backgammon is one of the oldest games known to mankind and is thought to date back at least 5,000 years. The game may have originated in Mesopotamia, now Iran. As a game played with dice, early dice made of human bones have been discovered in this area which lends credibility to its origins.
Variants of backgammon have been played in many early cultures ranging from China to Rome. So popular at one time, the strategy game was commonly known as The King of Games.
Some cultures only allowed the game to be played by the rich and the aristocracy and here, it was known as The Game of Kings. Gaining in popularity throughout the years, backgammon rules developed and changed with the times. Sometimes a fad, sometimes a main event, tournaments were arranged and increased in numbers. In 2007, the first ever live backgammon tournament to pay out winnings of a minimum of £1,000,000 was held in the Bahamas and was televised as it was attended by many of the world’s top players.
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History of Backgammon
The game of backgammon is a game for two players and played on a board made up of 24 triangles, referred to as points. These triangles are arranged in alternating colours, often black and white and are grouped into six triangles which are each called quadrants. These quadrants are referred to as a player’s home board and outer board and the opponent’s home board and outer board. Players’ and opponents’ sides of the board are separated by what is known as the bar. Each player starts the game with 15 counters or checkers and the object of the game is to get all their checkers to their home board and then off the board completely.
Players also have their own pair of dice to use in gameplay and each roll of the dice represents the movement of the checkers around the backgammon board. A doubling cube made up of the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64 is used so players know the current stake. Backgammon can be played live and Backgammon online is also available. If you want to learn how to play Backgammon, then you can play it for free or real money at one of our recommended casinos.
Play Backgammon Online
There are many online games providers and online casinos that offer Backgammon online to their players. At some sites, backgammon download will also be possible for desktop play or via a dedicated backgammon app. When playing backgammon live, players have the advantage of being able to physically see their opponent and to possibly get a handle on their gameplay from body language and tells. This is obviously different when Backgammon is played online as an opponent could quite literally be on the other side of the world.
Backgammon software for online play uses random number generators for its dice throws and real time play only began in 1992. Due to the many possible combinations of dice rolls and checker movement, algorithms are used to manage games and make detailed comparisons of individual moves in online gameplay.
Getting to Grips with the Rules
Backgammon can be played for real money and there are many variations of gambling involved. At many worldwide casinos, backgammon can be played as a board game either between two individual players, or as part of a tournament. The betting options for Backgammon are that it is played for a sum of money per scoring point. This sum can range depending on the agreement at the start of the game. As many poker players have a great understanding of backgammon, real money games are often found at poker schools when players have an early exit from the main event.
Rules and Bets
In terms of backgammon setup, to start a backgammon game, each player rolls a single die. This initial roll is used to determine who plays first and which numbers should be played. In the event of a tie, players will roll again until they roll differing numbers. The player with the highest number then plays first and uses both rolled dice in their first move. After this, players set up their backgammon starting positions and take alternate turns to roll the dice and play. When the dice are rolled, the player moves their checkers forward on the board and only to an available point. The rules are as follows:
- When it comes to backgammon layout, players can only move their checkers to an open point (unoccupied by any opposing checkers).
- The numbers on the two dice are used as separate checker moves. If a player rolls a four and a two, they may move one checker four spaces to an open point and a different checker two spaces to an open point. Alternatively, the player may move one checker the total sum of six spaces to an open point, IF the points at moves four and two are free.
- Backgammon players who roll a double then play the rolled number twice on each dice. For example, if a player rolls double six, they then have four x six moves to make.
- Players must use both numbers of their roll if this is possible (including all four numbers for a double). If only one move can be made, this must be played. If either number but not both can be played, the larger number must be played. If neither number can be played, the player loses their turn. When a double is rolled, players must then play as many numbers as they can.
Hitting and Entering the Bar
A triangle, or point that is occupied by a single checker is called a blot. If the opposing player lands on this blot, the checker is “hit”, then placed on the bar. Once a player has a checker on the bar, they must prioritise getting this checker back into play. This is done by rolling the dice and placing the checker on the corresponding position on the opponent’s home board.
The position on the board at which the checker needs to enter must be free, i.e have either one or no checkers already on it. If no points are available, the player loses his turn. If a player has more than one checker on the bar, they must enter as many as possible. A player who has one checker on the bar and returns it using his first dice roll must then use the remaining dice number to move their other checkers.
Once a player has moved all of their 15 checkers to the opponent’s home board, they can start bearing off. Bearing off is a term used in Backgammon rules to remove their checkers from the board and win the game. Players can bear off their checkers by rolling the dice and matching the number where a checker is situated, then removing it completely from the board. If a player has checkers on all points in the opposing home board, rolling a six would allow them to remove a checker from the six point.
Where a point on the board is empty, players must move a checker from the highest point at which their checkers are located. For example, if a player has checkers on points three and four but rolls a five and six, they can legally bear off these checkers using this dice roll. Any checker that gets “hit” (being a single checker on a point that is hit by an opponent’s checker) during bearing off must be reentered into the game before bearing off can continue.
Doubling in Backgammon
Backgammon rules are such that it is played for an agreed stake per point. A game starts at one point. During gameplay, any player who feels they have control or have an advantage may decide they would like to double the stakes. This is done through use of a doubling dice which contains the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32. A player may only propose to double the stakes at the start of their own turn. Refusing to accept the doubling of the stake’s means the opponent, therefore, forfeits the game. Otherwise, they accept the double and then take charge of the doubling dice, or cube. Although the doubling cube has the largest value of 64, there are no limits to doubling. This can continue to 128, 256 and so on. Players who are offered a double can instantly redouble and maintain control of the cube.
Basic backgammon tips can be summarised easily and if followed may increase the chances of winning. By blocking the opponent, players make it harder for them to progress across the board. This is done by building walls of checkers and keeping them on adjacent points. Hitting opponents’ blots or single checkers forces them onto the bar and means they must shift their focus to reentering these pieces into play.
Bearing off as soon as possible, quite simply, means players will win quicker. After all, this is the main aim of Backgammon! Players who want to up the stakes can do so through use of the doubling cube but this should be used wisely and only when they feel they have an advantage. As for backgammon tactics, redoubling is always a threat and refusing means a loss, so this should be a purely tactical move.
As backgammon is a game of strategy and luck, there are many popular strategies employed by players. These are split into five basic strategies and can be summarised as follows:
- The Running Game: simply put, this involves running all the checkers towards the home board as quickly as possible. If both players adopt this strategy, the player who rolls the better dice will most likely win the game.
- The Blitz: As the name suggests, this is an attacking backgammon strategy on an opposing players most vulnerable checkers (single checkers that can be hit and put on the bar). Hitting checkers and sending them to the bar gives players the advantage of being able to continue moving their own checkers to the home board whilst their opponent may struggle to get their checkers reentered into play.
- Priming: the priming strategy involves players making a series of connected, or primed points along the board. This can be visualised as players building a wall which opponents would struggle to pass without rolling high dice numbers.
- The Holding Game: this strategy involves players leaving an “anchor” in a holding position in the opponent’s home board and has two main advantages. Defensively, it allows a safe place to land should a checker be hit and sent to the bar. Offensively, the holding game serves as a threat to an opponent’s checkers travelling towards the bearing off area.
- The Back Game: the back game takes the holding game that step further. This relies on keeping several made points in the opponent’s home board. The back game is usually adopted as a result of having many checkers sent to the bar and then reentering them into the game.
Final Thoughts on Backgammon
Understanding backgammon rules will make it easier to win. They may sound complicated at first but after playing several games and getting to know the way around the board and the terminology, Backgammon will provide days, if not years of fun. As with any new game, patience is required and it would be advisable to play backgammon free before trying out the game for real money. Backgammon online provides many free play options.
Strategy and of course luck can make or break a game of backgammon. Players who are able to get a read on their opponent’s strategy may be able to counter this but as the game revolves around the roll of a die, the element of luck must be on your side. As a gambling game, Backgammon can become addictive and players should know their limits before they play for real money. Players should always be prepared to take a break or walk away if required and always play within their means.