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Backgammon Rules

Backgammon does rule! Backgammon is an exciting game , which blends luck and skill together. A wonderful game, which has been played for many centuries and will be played for many more years all around the world. So how do you play backgammon? What are the basic needs of Backgammon game? And what are the main rules of this great game? Read on to learn about backgammon rules and the game secrets and basic moves. In addition, if you are unsure of any of the terms used here on this page check out the Backgammon Dictionary that explains everything.

What do you need while playing backgammon?

Few basic thing that you need before starting to play backgammon ,wether online or offline, are first the willing to learn the rules of the game. In addition you should have few more elemntryin order to be able to start playing...

Players

First things first. Backgammon is basically a game for two players and it's not practical to play less or more than 2 backgammon players. the players should bring with them basic equipment of backgammon game.

Backgammon Board

Boards are made of a wide variety of materials and are available in many sizes. They range from inexpensive travel sets to custom made professionally crafted boards worth well over$1000. Most sets fold in half like a breifcase to save space, contain the checkers, dice,and cups, and to protect the surface.

Checkers

Thirty checkers, typically round, 15 of one color and and fifteen of another which the players use them through the game. Checkers are also referred to as men, peices, stones, or counters. In the game It makes no difference which side or which color checkers the players use as either player has the opportunity to move first.

Dices

Preferrably two pairs of 6-sided dice, with 1 pair for each player. Precision (evenly weighted and balanced) dice are becoming more popular among players and tournament directors.

Dice Cups

Two dice cups. These are cups, often with a lip around the inside edge) made to shake the dice and roll them onto the board. Another method of rolling dice is through the use of a baffle box where the dice are put into the top and roll down a slope onto the board. Both are standard to prevent dice manipulation.

Doubling Cube

The cube is an oversized 6-sided die with the numbers 2,4,8,16,32, and 64 on the 6 faces. This die is used to keep track of the number of points or units at stake in the game. The doubling cube is a great source of excitement in backgammon (it use will be explained more broadly further in this section.

Start Up and Basic Backgammon Rules

Setting Up

A backgammon board has 24 triangles in alternating colors called points. The board is divided into 4 quadrants and each quadrant has 6 points. Each backgammon player has a 'home' (inner) board and an outer board , which are separated by a raised section called the bar. The bar is where checkers are placed after they are hit. After a checker is been hit , it been placed on the bar and can only re-enter in the opponents inner board on a subsequent roll.

The way the checkers are initially set up for play is known as the starting position. Two checkers are on each players 24pt. , five on each players 13pt. , three on each 8pt. , and five on each players 6pt. . The direction of a backgammon play is from your opponents home board to their outer board, to your outer board to your home board.

Object of the Game

Each player must move their men according to the numbers whown on each throw of their dice. Checkers are moved around the board by the players into their home boards. Once all of the checkers are in the home board, players can begin the bear off. The player who bears off all of their checkers first, wins the game.

Starting the Game

At the beginning of the game, both payers throw a single die. The player throwing the higher number moves first using both theri number and the number of the opponent to move teh checkers. If the same number comes up on both dice, the players re-roll until they are different. After the first move, players alternate turns by rolling their own dice.

Making a Move

Rules of Checker Movement

The checkers must always move forward around the board according to the numbers shown on the dice (also known as pips). Here are the rules governing the movement of checkers.

  1. The numbers on the dice are two separate moves. One chcker can be moved the full amount or each of the two numbers can be moved with separate men. For example, a throw that shows 6 and 3 would mean that you can move one checker 9 spaces, or move one checker 6 spaces and another checker 3 spaces.
  2. You may move a checker to any point occupied by your own checkers or to a point with 1 or none of your opponents checkers on it. A checker may not be moved to a point with two or more of your opponents checkers on it.
  3. If a player rolls doubles (where the same number comes up on both dice), they may move double the amount shown. This is usually an advantage and games are often won by the player who rolls more doubles. For example: If a double 2 is rolled, the player may move two points four times, in any possible combination.
  4. The full roll must be used if possible including doubles. If only one number can be played it must be the higher number of the two if possible. If doubles are thrown, you must play as many of the 4 as possible.

Points on the board

If two or more checkers are on the same point it is said to be a made point or an owned point. The opposing player may not land on that point but they may jump over it and move beyond. There is no limit to the number of checkers a player may have on a point. Several points in a row is called a prime. Creating a prime can be a powerful strategy and if there are six points made in a row it is called a full prime and any checkers behind this prime are effectively trapped until the prime is broken.

Hitting Blots

A single checker on a point is called a blot. Since men of opposite colors may not occupy the same point, when an opponent lands on a blot it is removed and replaced with their own. This is called a hit and the removed man is placed on the bar.

The Bar

The bar is the middle strip that separates the inner and outer boards and once a checker is placed there, it remains out of play until it can be entered in the opponents inner board by a throw of the dice.

Entering from the Bar

A checker can be entered from the bar if on the next roll one of the numbers corresponds to a point not occupied by two or more opponent checkers in the opponents home board. If you cannot enter because both points indicated by the dice are blocked, the turn passes to your opponent. If your opponent owns all 6 points in their board you can save your energy and not even roll since it is impossible to enter until your opponent opens up a point in their board. This is called a shut out or closed board. If a player has one or more checkers on the bar they must all be re-entered before any other checkers can be moved. Once all of the checkers have been entered, any unused numbers on the dice may be used to move the checker that was entered or any other checker.

The Bear Off

The Bear Off is the final stage of the game when you remove your checkers from your home board but you cannot start this process until all 15 of your checkers have made it there. After all your men are in the home board you may bear them off according to the numbers on the dice you throw. For example, if you roll a 3-2 you may take one checker off the 3pt. and another off the 2pt. assuming you have checkers there or you could move your checkers within your home board according to the numbers on the dice. You must use your entire roll so if you roll a 5 and have no checkers on the 6pt or 5pt, you must take a checker off of the next highest point with checkers on it. If you roll a 5 and have no checkers on the 5pt but you do have a checker on the 6pt, you must move the checker on your 6pt five spaces to the 1pt.

You do not have to bear a checker off if you have another legal move which can be useful when your opponent is on the bar or still owns a point in your board. If your opponent hits a blot while you are bearing off, you must enter that checker and bring it all the way around back to your home board before you can continue to bear off checkers. Again, the first player to bear off all 15 checkers wins the game.

Doubling

The idea of doubling in backgammon was first entered into practice in the 1920's and has forever changed the game... Before the game starts, the doubling cube is placed at the side or on the bar with the number 64 on top which indicates that the game is being played for one point or unit. If one player feels they have the advantage during the course of the game they may choose to double the stakes of the game by turning the cube so that the 2 is facing up. A player may double only on their turn and before they roll the dice.

The opponent may then choose to pass (drop or decline) the double if they feel they are a big underdog to win the game and forfeit the stakes of the game. They may also choose to take (accept) the double if they feel they still have a good chance of winning and play on for double the stakes. The first double may be made by either player but after a double is accepted, the player who took it is said to "own the cube" and is the only one allowed to re-double the stakes. There is no limit to the number of times the stakes can be redoubled but in practice it rarely gets beyond the 4 level.

Crawford Backgammon Rule

This is a rule that is standard in match play and states that the trailing player may not double for one whole game once the leader is one point away from winning the match. Since the trailer has nothing to lose by doubling every game (it doesn't matter if they lose by one or two points) it gives the leader one undoubled game to try and finish the match.

Scoring Backgammon Rules

Single Game

A game is won when either player bears off all of their men first. If the losing player has borne off at least one checker, the player wins the number of points or units at stake determined by the cube (or just 1 point if the cube was not used).

Gammon (Double Game)

A gammon occurs if the losing player has not borne off any of their checkers. In this case the player wins twice the amount indicated by the cube.

Backgammon (Triple Game)

A Backgammon occurs when the winner bears off all of their checkers before their opponent is able to bear off any AND still has checkers in their opponents home board or on the bar. In this case the winner gets three times the amount of points indicated by the cube.

Optional Backgammon Rules

These rules are often used when playing for money and not a match to a set amount of points.

  1. Automatic Doubles: If both players roll the same number when seeing who moves first, the cube is automatically turned to 2 to start the game. Typically these are limited to one turn but some gamblers like unlimited autos.
  2. The Jacoby Rule: This is a rule that states that the game must be doubled for a gammon or backgammon to count. If the game is not doubled it counts as a single game. This rule leads to faster play and allows a player to get out of a game that is a lost cause. It also makes for quicker doubles and higher stakes.
  3. Beavers: A beaver is when a player takes a double and immediately redoubles (beavers) while retaining possesion of the cube. This is sometimes done when a player being doubled feels they are still a favorite to win the game.

Procedure and Etiquette

These are general rules to follow while playing backgammon not covered above.

  1. The dice must be rolled on the players right hand side of the board.
  2. The dice must be rolled together and land flat in the board. They must be rerolled if one of the dice land outside of the board or crooked (cocked) in the board.
  3. The turn is not over until the player picks up their dice. and a player may not roll until the other player has completed their move and picked up their dice.
  4. If a player rolls before their opponent picks up their dice, they may have to roll again at the discretion of their opponent. This rule is not strictly followed once no further contact is possible, in bear off situations, or when an opponent's move is forced.
  5. If there is a moved played that is not legal, either player may correct the play as long as the correction occurs before the next player rolls. Any errors not corrected before then, remain as played.