What is backgammon?

Backgammon has been around for quite some time in one form or another. 

Today, you might have seen people playing in the street, and you are wondering what is this game that they seem to be having so much fun to play. Or maybe you found a website where you can play backgammon, but you don’t have a clue how it works. Well, good news, first you just discovered one of the most exciting games on the planet. Second, you found our website, and we are going to give you all the tools you need for a good start in the backgammon world. 

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Definition of the backgammon game

Backgammon is a game for 2 players that you play with checkers and dice on a backgammon board. Basically, backgammon is a race game, where you need to bring all your checkers in one particular part of the board faster than your opponent. It is a game that mixes pure skill and luck, as you are dependent on what you roll with the dice to move your checkers. 

Backgammon is often referred to as “the cruelest game,” because a player in a good situation can quickly lose his advantage after a series of bad rolls. 

But luck is not the only factor here ! Good players always try to make the best of any given roll, and thus reduce drastically the turn of fortune. 

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Short history of backgammon  

A lot of people wonder how old is backgammon? Well, backgammon is one of the oldest games on the planet. We estimate its origin circa 5000 years ago. Of course the game was different back then than the version we play today. We can find countless examples of board games similar to backgammon through all the antic history. Many Roman emperors are known to have played the game, some of them for large amounts of money. During many centuries, backgammon developed through the Middle East and Greece, where it is still very popular today.

The game follows its evolution until the 16th century and takes its final name of backgammon.

But it’s in France that the first established rule of backgammon (called “toute-table”) was published for the first time in 1669. The rules are pretty similar to the one we still use today, but without any references to the doubling cube. 

The doubling Cube

The addition of the doubling cube is believed to have happened in New York City in some gaming club of the Lower East Side. 

doubling cube

This invention adds another strategic dimension to the game. One that the best players can exploit. The concept is simple : if you feel that you have an advantage over your opponent at any point of the game, you can offer to double the stake (always before you roll the dice). Your opponent has 2 choices :

  • He can either accept or “take” the cube and keep playing. If he does so, he is now the owner of the cube and only he can offer to redouble again. 
  • He  can refuse or “drop” the cube and concede the game for one point.

The doubling cube speeds up the game and allows the best players, with a better understanding of the position, to take advantage of their knowledge during a match. Either by trapping their opponent to accept a cube in a bad position or by trying to bluff them and make them drop to cash in the game quickly. 

How is backgammon played today ? 

The backgammon match is the format used during tournaments. The two players have to reach a total of points (always odd) to win the match. You can play a match to 3, 5, 7 or even 25 points. We recommend beginners to start by playing matches game.

The other format is the money game. When you play this way, each game represents a value. You and your opponent decide what the stake is for each game, and you play until one of you wants to stop. 

There are countless backgammon clubs all around the world. Find the nearest one to start making new friends. You can also play backgammon online for fun or money in one of the many websites and applications around.

We are happy that you are joining the Backgammon-Rules.com community and we wish you lucky rolls and a lot of fun.

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