Backgammon Guide and Overview

Backgammon is played all over the world and has been for many years. In fact, it’s one of the oldest board games played today. It’s very much considered a skill game, despite there being a strong element of luck due to having to roll a dice to determine which moves you can make.

There’s a lot of strategy involved and good players will beat weaker opponents more often than not.

Gambling at backgammon is very common, although many play the game just to test their skills or for entertainment purposes. If you enjoy playing the game, or would like to, there are plenty of opportunities for you even if you don’t have anyone to play against.

There are backgammon clubs and societies in many parts of the world, and they typically organize regular competitions and tournaments for players of all levels.

For the more serious players, there are regular national and international tournaments available.

Winning these can be quite lucrative as the prize money offered can be quite substantial.

Of course, there’s the prestige too. You can even play backgammon online these days, for fun or just for money.

On this page, we have detailed the rules of the game and also explained how gambling on backgammon works.

The Basics

The exact origin of backgammon is unknown, but there have been examples of the game being played in some form or other throughout history. The game goes back as far as 3,000 BC.

Over time the various different versions of the game have essentially been standardized, and the modern game has a clearly defined set of rules.

  • Backgammon is played by two players and uses a game board that has 24 triangles that alternate color.
  • These triangles are known as points and are traditionally black and white, although any two colors can be used.
  • The board is divided into four quadrants, each of which contains six points.
  • Each point is basically part of a continuous track that goes around the whole board.
  • There are two players, each player has 15 checkers of their own color, and they move these in opposite directions around the track.

At the beginning of each game, the players place their checkers on the board in a specified pattern and the goal is to be the first one to remove them all from the board. The process of removing a checker from the board is known as bearing off and is achieved by getting them to the end of the track.

Moving in Backgammon

To determine which player moves first, each one rolls a single die. Should both players roll the same number they both roll again. The player that rolls the highest number gets to move first, using the two numbers rolled by the two players. Players then take turns to roll both dice, making their moves based on the numbers rolled.

Each move in backgammon involves a player moving their checkers around the track. They move them in accordance with the numbers they roll on the dice. So should a player roll a two and a six, they can move one checker by two spaces and another by six spaces.

The same one can be moved twice, but it must be two separate moves. Checkers must be moved forward, and there are certain rules about exactly which moves can be made.

A player must move if they can!

If they are unable to move, then their turn ends and the dice are passed to the other player. If a player rolls a double, then they make a total of four rolls. For example, when rolling a double two a player may make four separate moves of two spaces at a time.

A checker may be moved to any point that’s either unoccupied or occupied by a checker, or checkers, of the same color. It may also be moved to a point that’s occupied by a single checker of the other color, but not to a point that’s occupied by more than one checker of the other color.

When a player moves one of their checkers to a point occupied by a single checker of the other color (i.e. belonging to their opponent), their opponent’s checker is removed from the board.

Should a player’s checker be removed from the board in this way, it’s placed on a spot in the middle of the game board known as the bar. It then effectively has to start again, entering the board from the start of the track.

Bearing Off and Winning the Game

For a player to start bearing off their own checkers, they must first have them all positioned on the fourth quadrant of the track: i.e. on the final six points. To bear off a checker a player must roll the exact number required.

If a checker is positioned on the final point then only a roll of one can be used to bear it off.
If it’s one point back, then a roll of two is required.

The first player to bear off all of their checkers is declared the winner. If a player manages to do this before their opponent has managed to bear off any of their checkers, then they are said to have won a gammon.

If they manage to do it when their opponent also has one or more of their checkers on the bar, then they are said to have won a backgammon.

Winning either a gammon or backgammon means scoring
double or triple points respectively if playing a scoring game.

It all affects the stakes when gambling is involved.

Gambling on Backgammon

Gambling on backgammon is relatively straightforward and can be done in a number of ways.

The simplest way is for two players to agree on a stake per game: $10 for example. Each time a player wins a game their opponent must give them $10.

Alternatively, they can agree on playing a certain amount of games and the player who wins the most games wins the agreed stake.

If a player wins a gammon, then it’s normal for the stakes on that game to be doubled. If a player wins a backgammon, then they should be tripled. This added dimension to the gambling can affect strategy throughout a game.

If a player thinks they are in a position where they are likely to lose, then they might start concentrating on making sure they don’t concede a gammon or a backgammon rather than trying to win the game.

A doubling cube can be used when gambling on backgammon to make things even more interesting. This cube has six numbers on it: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and it can be used to multiply the agreed stakes during a game.

Basically at any point during a game, a player can propose to double the stakes. If their opponent accepts the stakes are doubled and the player accepting the proposal gets to hold the doubling cube.

At any subsequent point the player holding the doubling cube can then propose the stakes are doubled again. There’s no limit on the amount of times the stakes can be doubled, and the cube is used to display the relevant stake multiple that’s currently being played for.

  • Whenever a player accepts a proposed double they get to hold the doubling cube.

  • Whenever a player declines a proposed double, they automatically forfeit that game.

The doubling cube brings a whole new level of strategy to backgammon when gambling, and it can sometimes result in the stakes getting a lot higher.