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Backgammon overview: how and where to play for real money

  • Written by David Bet
Backgammon overview: how and where to play for real money

Backgammon is a game for two players. The game is played on a board with 24 triangles in alternate colors called ‘points’. They are numbered 1 to 24. The board is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant contains six points. The lower right-hand quadrant is known as your ‘home board’. The upper right-hand quadrant is your opponent’s home board. The two left-hand quadrants are called the ‘outer board’. A divider runs down the middle of the board. This is known as ‘the bar’. Checkers that have been hit are placed here.

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On the right-hand side of the board are two trays, one for each player. Checkers are stored here when they are removed from the board. Yours go into the lower one, your opponent’s into the higher.

 Outer boardOpponent’s home board 
Bar
 Outer boardHome board

 


Starting the game

Each player starts the game with 15 checkers. The starting position is shown below:


You move your checkers counter-clockwise. Your checkers are red in these diagrams, while your opponent’s are white.

The object of the game

The goal of the game is to move all 15 of your checkers into your home board and then remove them from the board before your opponent removes his. The first player to remove all their checkers wins the game. 

The dice determine how many points a checker can move. At the start of the game, both players roll one die each. The player who rolls the highest number moves first, and must play the scores shown on the dice. If both players roll the same number, the dice are rolled again until they show different numbers.

Where checkers can land

If the point has any number of your own checkers or it is empty you are allowed to move your checker there. You may have up to 15 checkers on any point. You cannot move a checker to a point which has two or more of your opponent’s checkers on it.

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Hitting checkers

You may move to a point which has one of your opponent’s checkers on it. This move will result in your opponent’s checker being ‘hit’ and moved out of play onto the bar.

Each point at PartyGammon.com is labeled with a number from 1 to 24. Each player sees the board from his own perspective, so your 24 point is your opponent’s 1 point. Here are a few example moves to help you understand moving around the board:

Your opponent rolls a 6 and you roll a 1. He moves a checker from his 13 point to his 7 point using the 6 shown on the first die, and then a second checker from his 8 point to his 7 point using the 1 shown on the second die. This move leaves two of you opponent’s checkers on a point. This is called ‘making a point’.


Play moves to you once your opponent has completed his moves. You roll a 6 and a 5. The best move in this situation would normally be to move one of your checkers from your 24 point to your 13 point. In this case, this move is blocked by your opponent’s made points. The best move in this situation is to move one checker from 13 to 7 and one from 13 to 8. This leaves a single checker on the 7 point. A single checker on a point is known as a ‘blot’ or a ‘loose checker’.


Your opponent rolls two 6s on his/ her next throw. This presents a very special case. You are allowed to move four checkers instead of two whenever a double is rolled.

This roll also demonstrates ‘hitting’. Your blot will be hit by a checker moved from the opponent’s 24 point. Your checker will be placed on the bar and will need to re-enter the board in the opponent’s home board after it has been hit. Your opponent moves two checkers to his 18 point and two checkers to his 2 point. 


Re-entering checkers

Remember, you must make sure none of your checkers are on the bar before you can move the checkers already on the board. You roll a 5 and a 4. This means you can move the checker on the bar to either the 21 point (using the 4) or the 20 point (using the 5). You move the checker from the bar to the 20 point and then a checker from the 24 point to the 20 point (‘making’ the 20 point). A point you have made in your opponent’s home board is called an ‘anchor’.


Your opponent then rolls a 6 and a 5. Your blot on the ace point gets hit when he plays 7 to 1 and 6 to 1.


You roll a 6 and a 1. Both the 24 and the 19 point are made by your opponent so your checker has no spot to re-enter to. This means that you have ‘fanned’ and cannot move. Play returns to your opponent.


These few rolls demonstrate most of the dynamics of the game, but there is one situation we did not encounter: It is sometimes impossible to play your entire roll. The key rule to remember is that if you can play the full roll you must, if you can't play the full roll you must play the higher of the two numbers you have rolled.



Bearing off

You can start removing your checkers from the board one they are all in your home board. This is known as ‘bearing off’. Your dice roll dictates which checkers you can bear off.– For example, a roll of 4 and 2 will allow you to bear off one checker from the 4 point and one from the 2 point.

If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, you must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. You are required to remove a checker from the highest point available if there are no checkers on higher-numbered points. You don’t have to bear off if you can make another legal move.

A checker which has been borne off cannot re-enter the game. You can only bear checkers off if all your checkers are in your opponent’s home board. This means that if one of your checkers is hit while bearing off, you must stop bearing off until it has re-entered and reached your opponent’s home board.

Backgammon dice

There are 36 possible combinations of dice in backgammon. Use the table below to check the odds and probabilities of each roll; it’ll help you make the best decision and improve your chances of winning. If you lose, don’t blame Lady Luck.


Examples:

  • If you need to roll a double 5, you need to hit the one possible combination.  
  • If you need to roll a 9, you need to hit one of five possible combinations: Double 3s, 3 and 6, 6 and 3, 4 and 5 or 5 and 4.
  • If you need to roll a 6, you need to hit one of 17 possible combinations: 1 and 6, 6 and 1, 2 and 6, 6 and 2, 3 and 6, 6 and 3, 4 and 6, 6 and 4, 5 and 6, 6 and 5, 6 and 6, 5 and 1, 1 and 5, 4 and 2, 2 and 4, double 3s, or double 2s.
What are your chances of hitting a certain blot?
To rollPercentage*Chances in 36 rolls(see dice table)
60.4717 
40.4215 
50.4215 
30.3814 
20.3312 
10.311 
70.166 
80.166 
90.145 
100.083 
120.083 
110.052 
150.031double 5s
160.031double 4s
180.031double 6s
200.031double 5s
240.031double 6s
 *Approximately  

However, your chances are different when there are blocked made points.

For example:

  • If you need to roll a 7 and there are no points blocked in between, you need to hit one of six possible combinations: 4 and 3, 3 and 4, 5 and 2, 2 and 5, 6 and 1, and 1 and 6. If the first four points are blocked, you need to hit one of four possible combinations: 5 and 2, 2 and 5, 1 and 6, and 6 and 1. This is because you are unable to move either the 4 or the 3 in this case.
  • If your opponent needs to roll a 10 to hit your checker, and there are no points blocked in between, he needs one of three possible combinations to hit your checker: 5 and 5, 6 and 4, or 4 and 6. If his fifth moving point is blocked, he needs one of two possible combinations: 6 and 4 and 4 and 6. This is because he is unable to move the 5 in this case


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