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How to play backgammon

The first thing you need to do is learn in the how to play backgammon routines and how to set up a backgammon board. Even if you only ever plan to play online, it is important to know how to set up the board. So here are the very basics of backgammon.

You start with a board, a doubling cube, 2 dice cups, 2 sets of dice and 2 sets of 15 checkers. There are 24 points on the board and 4 quadrants (well, of course – how many quadrants would there be?). Each player has 2 sections – a home board and an outer board.  The first point in your opponent’s home board is your 1 point. And vice versa. Set up your checkers like this:  2 on your 1 point, 5 on your 12 point, 3 on your 17 point and 5 on your 19 point.

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The goal is to move all your checkers to your home board (points 19-24). Once all your checkers are home, you can start bearing them off. Learning how to play backgammon is like a race and you are running to get all your checkers home and then safely off the board.

The rules of moving your checkers are simple. You can only move your checkers in one direction. You start the play by each player rolling a single dice (or die). The player who rolls the higher number takes the first play. If you roll doubles, you have to keep on rolling until you get two different numbers. You can play the rolled numbers as a single move or separate your moves into two smaller moves. You can move anywhere that the dice count allows you – unless the point is occupied by two of your opponent’s checkers. If there is only one of your opponent’s checkers, you can hit it and thereby take it off the board and place it on the center piece.

When you are hit and knocked off the board, you have to go back to the beginning and enter the board through your opponent’s home board. Of course, if your opponent has occupied many or all of his or her home board points you could be dancing for a long time. And you cannot move any checkers until you have all of them back on the board.

Those are the basic rules on how to play backgammon. Games can take some sudden turns for the worse – a good roll can get you out of tight spots and a bad roll can put you in jeopardy. One of the exciting parts of the game is the doubling cube. There is a sweet spot where you can double your opponent who has the option of accepting your double so that you are playing for two points rather than one point or of giving you the win.

The trick for how to play backgammon is to assess your chances of winning so that if your opponent accepts the double, you have a better than even chance of winning. Of course if the game is such that your opponent is in a better position, he or she will accept the double and win the two points. There is another thing that can happen and that is your opponent can beaver you.

The Beaver rule is that if you offer a double, the opponent can look at the game and decide that you do not have a good chance of winning and immediately redouble you. It gets worse. Normally the person accepting the double gets to keep control of the cube. You would think that a beaver redouble would give you back the cube, but that is the secret of the beaver. The person being doubled who beavers you gets to keep the cube. Otherwise, they can accept the double, let you play and then redouble you and give you back the cube.

Before you beaver a double, you should be pretty sure you are going to win the game as it is now worth four points. The beaver and other animal plays are not allowed in match-play or tournaments. Yes, there are other animal plays. If someone beavers you, you can raccoon them and the game becomes worth eight points. And then they can aardvark you to 16 points. Aardvarks are quite rare.

The doubling cube is a powerful tool to use when you first get to know how to play backgammon – because sometimes you can end an unpleasant game that can go either way simply because neither of you knows what will happen and your opponent just wants out. You get one point and then move on.

There is one place where you cannot use the doubling cube and that is when one of you reaches one point away from game. Then the Crawford rule comes into play. It is optional to play with the Crawford rule just as it is to play with the animal rules. The Crawford rule is simple – when one player first reaches one point from game, no one can double. Once this game is over, the doubling cube is back in play.

When it comes to how to play backgammon rules, there are a couple that you should bear in mind – be careful shaking the dice in the dice cups so that you are not covering the top of the cup with your hands as it makes it look like you might be manipulating the dice. Of course if you are playing online this rule does not apply.

Another rule that applies is playing in a timely manner. In tournaments there are often time limits. Online there are time limits. One of the things that people did try – after getting familiar with how to play backgammon – was to play online with a computer software program advising them on the best move to make. Of course this slows down the play. Online opponents suspected that the slow play was to allow time for a robot to provide the next move for the player.

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