Backgammon Rules

Posted on October 30, 2008 by David Harrisson

Backgammon is a game of great skill and fast-paced contemplation. Normally, face-paced and contemplation would be contradictory in terms - therein lies the fascinating, skillful abilities of a great backgammon player. It doesn’t take a savant to conquer the game of Backgammon, just a lot of practice.


Backgammon has always been a popular game, but it's growing presence online has increased that popularity ten-fold. In fact, it's been said that Backgammon is well on its way to becoming just as popular as online poker. Interesting, since there are quite a few similarities in the way each game is played.

Both poker and Backgammon are a gambling man's game. Like poker, Backgammon is most exciting when played in tournament form. Both games involve a high level of skill and mathematical probabilities.

Backgammon could also be compared to Chess. Both players have a set number of pieces on the board to begin with, and are given the advantage of seeing the opponent's potential maneuvers - unlike poker, where players cannot see each other’s hands. This takes out the element of 'Bluffing' that is so favored in a game of poker.

Setup the Board

Before we get into how Backgammon is played, let's go over the Backgammon Board and the common terms used to describe its elements. A Backgammon Board consists of 24 triangular shapes, called Points. The Points are divided into 4 sections, called Quadrants, with six Points in each quadrant. Separating the left and right quadrants is a thin space, raised up, running the length of the board, called the Bar. The Quadrants on the right side of the Bar (for player one - Left for player two) are the Home Boards. The other side is referred to as the Outer Board.

Object of the Game

Players start with 15 pieces on the board. The object of Backgammon is to bear-off all of your pieces from the board before your opponent. This is done by first moving all pieces into the Home Board on your opponent's side of the board. Then pieces may be removed from the board, according to the roll of the dice. Each player takes turns, rolling two dice per play. The number revealed on each die is the number of times a single piece may be moved across Points. Players can move two pieces each turn, equal in spaces to the numbers rolled, or the numbers on both dice may also be combined to move a single piece. (Example: Roll is 3+5, move one piece 3, another piece 5, or a single piece 8.)



When it is your turn you will roll the dices and whatever number comes up is how many times you can move your checkers. There is however certain rules that applies concerning the dice. A checker can only be moved to a point where there are less than two chips from the opponent. This is called an open point. When you roll the two dices they are two individual moves. If you roll the same number with the two dice then your moves are doubled. So if you roll a six twice then you get four moves of six. You can only use the number of moves that the dice give you. If the number is too high then you must do the maximum number of moves you are able to do. 

If you make your move and your checker is moved to an area where only one checker of your opponents is standing then the opponents checker is moved to the bar. A piece standing alone is called a Blot. Blots are obviously the most dangerous position to be in. To protect a Blot, players create Anchors. An Anchor is created by moving 2 pieces onto the same Point. Anchors cannot be Bumped by an opponent, neither can the opponent move a piece onto the same Point. Anchors are the best defensive move in Backgammon. Not only do Anchors protect a player's pieces, they can prevent the opponent from being able to play, if spread evenly throughout the board. This, of course, involves not only skill, but also a lot of luck when rolling the dice. You must get your checker in the game if you have any on the bar before you can make any other move. To do this you can get a point from the home board of your opponent. When you roll the dice if you do not receive an open point then your turn is over. If you get an open point with one dice then you can use the other one for another move.

Distribution of pieces is the most important aspect of any well-played Backgammon game. Spreading the pieces evenly across the board, preferably as Anchors (not Blots), gives a player the most options on each roll of the dice. To have 5 or 6 pieces on a single Point leaves little options for a player, often resulting in forced plays. Once all of your dice are in the home board of your opponent you can start Bearing off. This means to get your dices from the board. For example if you have one chip on six, then if you roll a six you can get it off. You must always make a move if it is available. If you can make a move from higher points you are required to do so instead of making a move from lower points.

In order to distribute your pieces properly, you will likely take a few exposed risks. Exposure is an essential aspect of running the Backgammon board. Running the board is done when a player gets good rolls and moves quickly towards his Home Board. When pieces are well distributed, there are often so many options available that any roll has its advantages. This kind of strategy gives the player an opportunity to run the board more easily.

If you and your opponent decide to speed up the game then the doubling cube is used. It provides another layer to the game and also strategy. The cube is a six sided dice that has the numbers 2,4,8,16,32 and 64. When the cube is moved into play you can request that the stakes be doubled. Your opponent has the option to accept or forfeit the game. 

The Jacoby Rule means when the doubling cube is used the gammons and backgammons count. It is mostly used in money games. When you lose the game: Gammon-this happens when you have not got off any checkers and your opponent has gotten all fifteen then you have lost a gammon. A gammon is considered a double loss. Backgammon: when you have checkers in your opponents home board or the bar and your opponent has gotten all fifteen checkers off then you have lost backgammon. This counts as a triple loss.

Backgammon in practice

Bear in mind that this is only an introduction to Backgammon. Before one can become a skilled or even professional Backgammon player, the Rules of Backgammon should be studied, along with in-depth Backgammon Strategies, followed by a lot of practice.


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