Online Backgammon - The Complete Guide
Have you ever flipped your Checkers board over and wondered what all the weird triangles on the back were for? For those that don't know, that is a Backgammon board. Backgammon has been played all over the world for years and has been around since as early as 3000 BC. There are dedicated Backgammon clubs around the world, tournaments, and high stakes games taking place all the time. Backgammon is also famous for producing some of the best high-stakes poker players in the world. Most attribute this to the game theory mindset and skills needed to succeed at Backgammon being easily transferrable to other games.
Backgammon is able to be played at all levels whether you are just looking for some fun to pass the time or are looking to take the game seriously and make some money. The game is a healthy mix of strategy, skill, as well as some luck. While there is luck involved due to the game being dice based, strategy will always win out in the long run. A weaker player might be able to win a few games in the short term, but a stronger player will always prevail in the long run.
The Basics | How to Play
Backgammon is played by two players on a board (the back of the Checkers board) of 24 triangles that are known as points. The triangles alternate from light to dark color (or two different colors) and are separated into four different sections known as quadrants. Each quadrant has six triangles in it.
Players sit on alternate sides of the board with the two quadrants closest to them being their home board and an outer board and the two quadrants on the far side of the board being their opponent's home board and another outer board. The points are numbered from 1 to 24 for both players starting in their home quadrant against the railing. This means that one player's number 1 will be the other player's 24 and vice versa.
Each player is given 15 checkers pieces that are arranged as follows:
- Two on their 24 point
- Five on their 13 point
- Three on their 8 point
- Five on their six point
This is the initial set up for every game of Backgammon. The object of the game is for each player to try and move all of their pieces into their home board quadrant and then bear them off. Bearing off is a special process of removing the checkers from the board that we will explain in a bit more depth shortly. Each player also has two dice, one for the movement of their pieces and one to determine the stakes. The first die is a standard 6-sided dice and the second is what's known as a doubling cube with 2-4-8-16-32-64 on the sides. The doubling cube is the one used to determine the stakes of the game.
Both players throw their normal die to determine who will go first. Whoever rolls the higher number will go first. The number they roll is also the number used for the first turn; no need to re-roll. Players will then alternate turns back and forth. Each turn after the first roll is done with two dice, though. The number rolled on the dice is the amount of spaces or points forward the player is allowed to move their checkers. There are several rules with how you are able to move your checkers.
- Checkers pieces must always be moved forward, never backward.
- You can only move your checker to an open point, which is a point that is not occupied by two or more of your opponent's checkers.
- The dice numbers are not automatically added together but operate as two separate moves you are allowed to do. If you want to move the same checker for both moves, that is ok. For example, if you roll a five and a two. You can move one checker five points and move another checker two points, or you can move that same checker two spaces and then five spaces or five spaces and then two spaces. The reason we listed both options to go the eight spaces is that the stopping point in the middle MUST be an open spot as each move is technically separate.
- Rolling doubles means that you are able to use the number rolled four times. For example, if you roll 3-3, you get four moves of three.
- If you are able to move, you must move. You can't choose not to use a roll. If you are only able to make fewer moves than you roll, then that is what you must do. If you can't make any moves, you lose your turn. If you roll and can only do one of the two numbers, but both are possible, you must choose the larger number to play.
If a point is occupied by one checker, it is called a blot. When you are moving your checkers, if you happen to land on an opposing player's blot (a point with one of their checkers on it), this is called a hit. Your opponent's checker is removed and placed on the bar (the section in the middle of the board). Imagine this like your checkers are soldiers and leaving one soldier alone is never smart. If you leave them alone and the enemy lands on them, they will be captured and sent to the bar and have to start their journey all over again.
Whenever a checker is up on the bar, it must be returned to play before anything else can happen. For example, if one of your checkers is up on the bar, you must use one of your next dice moves to move it back into your opponent's home quadrant (the furthest from your home quadrant).
There are specific rules about how you can enter this checker back onto the board. The numbers you roll will correspond with the numbers of your opponent in that section (their one through six). Remember, your 24 is their one. If you roll a one and a four, you must move your checker to either their one or four spots. To be able to move your checker there, the spot must be open. If neither spots are open, you forfeit your turn. If you have moved all of your checkers off of the bar and still have a dice left to play, you can play that move. Otherwise, it is your opponent's turn.
Bearing off doesn't start until all of your checker pieces are moved into your home quadrant. Once they are all there, it is time to get them off of the board and win the game. This is done through the process of bearing off. Here are the rules to bearing off.
- Your checkers are removed based on the point they are sitting on. For example, if you have a checker on the six point and you roll a six, you can remove that checker from the board. The best way to think of this is that you have to roll the exact amount of moves left to get the checker off the board.
- If there is no checker on the numbered point that you rolled, you must make a move with a checker on a higher-numbered point. For example, if you roll a five but there is no checker on the five, but there is one on the six, you must move that checker five spaces to be on the one point now.
- If there is no checker on the numbered point you rolled and also no checker on a higher point, then you remove the checker on the highest point that you have one on. For example, if you roll a five and there is no checker there, the first thing you do is look at the higher points (which would only be a six) to see if there is a checker there to move. If not, then you would take a checker from the highest point you have one on. If you had two other checkers on the board, one on the three and one on the one, you would bear off (remove) the checker on the three point.
- If a checker is hit during the bearing off process and sent to the bar, you must stop the bearing off process until that checker makes its full journey around the board and back into the home quadrant.
That's all there is to it! The player who bears off all of their checkers first wins the game. If you're a bit confused, it's ok. The best way to really learn this game is to play a few matches, and you'll start to get the hang of it.
Play Backgammon Online
If you've ever tried to get a Backgammon game and don't live down the street from a dedicated Backgammon club or society, you know it can be a challenge. Thanks to the innovations of the internet, you can now easily find an opponent to play anywhere in the world at any time. There are a lot of perks when it comes to playing Backgammon online that we definitely want to take a second and point out to you.
The only way to get good at Backgammon is to practice and to practice against a lot of different opponents. If you only play against your sibling or significant other, you may learn to beat them but will struggle significantly against other opponents if you ever play one. With online Backgammon, you can find thousands of opponents at any point in the day or night ready and willing to take you on. Some of these opponents will be novices that you can beat and some will be extremely skilled opponents that will give you a tough challenge.
Sometimes when you are first learning the game of Backgammon, the rules can be a bit confusing and you might be confused on whether or not a move is illegal. You also might miss something in the rules and be learning improperly. Playing online protects you from this because even though you are playing against a real human player, the game is being operated by an intelligent computer that will stop you from doing anything wrong. It will ensure that you are playing correctly and that nothing is missed during gameplay. This will ultimately help you to be a better and stronger player.
One of the great things about online Backgammon play is that it is available at every different stake level including free. Each of these different levels serves a different purpose. Free play is great for learning the game and getting a good handle on the movement and how everything works. If you're absolutely clueless about the game, we highly recommend starting with free play until you are more comfortable. The one drawback to free play is that most players will be completely brand new like you and might not take the game seriously or play how a normal Backgammon player would. This is fine when you are learning the rules but becomes a problem when you are looking to better your game.
This is where real money games are great. When you start putting even as low as a 25 cents on the line, people start playing much more seriously. They play much more how they would and should play. This sort of competition can help you to grow as a player and become a much stronger opponent. This sort of authentic competition comes at even the lowest of stakes. This is great because you can get the experience and not worry about risking much money at all.
If you're a really good player, though, you might want to move up the stakes and actually try and make some really money from playing. There are a lot of terrible players that play for money online that are looking to give their money away to a skilled player. Get good at the game and take advantage of this!
If you're ready to get started playing online now, we've got you covered. Finding a reputable and fun site to play on can be a challenge because there are so many garbage sites out there. We have gone ahead and dug through and reviewed the sites available to find the absolute best and most trusted options for you to play on. These sites have the largest player pools (not necessarily the most skilled which is good for you), the best game interface, and the best customer service and support staff in case you have any troubles. Pick out one of the options below now, and you'll be learning and playing Backgammon online in no time!
Variations of Backgammon Games
There are several variations of Backgammon that exist using the same board and pieces. While these variations are played in some areas, the standard Backgammon reigns supreme when it comes to the game.
The most popular variation of the game is Acey-deucey, a variation where the main difference is you start with no checkers on the board and have to bear them on. This version is extremely popular in the US military specifically the Navy. Other variations include Hypergammon, Nackgammon, and Russian Backgammon.
Winning at Backgammon takes quite a bit of skill and practice. As you can imagine, the skill and strategy involved can get quite complex. This is why it is important to decide what your approach is going to be and test it out and see if it works for you. Most Backgammon Masters advise that you start building your strategy by picking a "game plan." What we're going to do to get you started on your strategy is to describe some of the more popular game plans and how they work. Once you decide on a game plan, you should begin working on individual moves within that game plan that will help you succeed.
With this strategy, you are less focused on getting your pieces around the board but more focused on attacking your opponent's pieces that are vulnerable and sending them to the bar. The advantages of this are that you may get your opponent's pieces trapped on the bar and they may lose several turns trying to get them free. During this time, you can advance your pieces or keep sending their pieces to the bar.
Priming refers to creating a series of connected points in a row that you have two or more pieces on. If you can get four of these in a row, your opponent can't get past the wall without rolling a five or a six. This can be extremely frustrating to your opponent and force them to expend a lot of rolls to get past your wall. The wall also gives you a spot for safe harbor of your checkers as they make their way around the board. You can strategically place this wall to cause a lot of trouble for your opponents. If you mix this strategy with the first (The Blitz), you can create a nightmare for your opponent.
The running game is an all out dash to get your pieces around the board. If both players put this strategy to work at the same time, the player that rolls better will win. This might sound like a waste of a strategy, but it can actually be smart if you open the game with some really high rolls and get a significant lead. This should never be your primary strategy but should be a strategy that you keep in your back pocket and switch to in games that you jump out quickly. Knowing when and if to switch to this strategy will be completely up to you and will be something you learn through practice. Remember, if your opponent does catch up, you may want to look into reverting to a different strategy. Once you start running, they most likely will try to do the same or do something to try and stop you.