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Understanding the Basic Rules to Play Backgammon

Anup Patwardhan
Backgammon was a favorite among the Greeks and also the Romans. Over the centuries, Backgammon rules have changed quite a bit. In 1967, Las Vegas hosted the first World Backgammon Championship. In this Plentifun story, we'll have a look at how to play Backgammon.

Fun Fact

Charles Darwin was a Backgammon enthusiast. He played 2 Backgammon games with his wife, daily.
Backgammon is one of the oldest board games around, and can be played between two players. The origin of game dates back around 5,000 years. It has been modified in terms of rules and strategies.
The current form of the game was adopted in 17th Century England. The use of a doubling cube started in the early 1900s.

Backgammon is majorly a gambling game. In casinos, it is almost as famous as card games like Poker, Baccarat, or Blackjack. There are many online casinos that offer this game online too.
With the online version now available, the game has become more sought after. Some service providers also provide this game purely for entertainment purposes, without anyone having to wager anything.
The board consists of 24 triangles, known as points. There are 30 discs or checkers, divided into two colors, 15 of each color. 24 points are divided into 4 quadrants, with 6 points each. One half of the board serves as the home board for both the teams, while the other half serves as an outer board.
The points are numbered from the start of the home board of a player as the 1st point, and the start of the opponent's home board as the 24th point, in a counter-clockwise direction.

How to Play Backgammon


The order in which checkers are placed are: 2 checkers on the 24th point, 3 checkers on the 8th point, while 5 checkers placed on the 6th and 13th point each. The checkers move on points in a counter-clockwise direction in a horse-shoe-shaped path, depending on the value of the rolled dice. Both players can have the same or separate pair of dice.

Starting off

To start the game, both players will roll a die simultaneously. The player having a higher die value will move his checkers first. In case of same value, the players roll again. The points that the player going first is determined by value of both the dice that were rolled.
The player has an option to either move two checkers by the value that is present on each die face, or a single checker to match the dice value. Players then take alternate turns to roll the dice and move their checkers.
In case doubles are rolled by a player during the game, then the player has the option to move up to 4 checkers by points equal to value of a die.

The Bar

A point having one or no opponent checker is an open point. When a player's checker lands on an open point, then an opponent's checker, if one is present, is blotted and moved to the bar, which is the part of the board that divides it in half.
When a player has his checker blotted, the only move that he is allowed to make is to get his blotted checker back in the game. The position that a blotted checker can assume after being back in the game will depend on the value of a die from the rolled dice.
The blotted checker returns in the game from the home board. If a 1 is rolled, it will be the starting point; if 2 is rolled then the 2nd point, and so on.

Lost Turn

A player will lose his turn if he fails to get his blotted checker; that is, the checker on the bar, back in game. A blot can return in play only on an open point, failing which the player loses the turn. A player can also lose a turn if there are no open points to move his checkers. A player can deliberately lose a turn if he/she wishes not to move his checker to an open point.


A player has to bring all 15 checkers in play to his home board before bearing them off. The first player to bear off all his checkers is the winner. When a checker is on the home board, the player has to move the checker by the lower value among the number presented on the dice.
A winner does not gain points, but a loser loses points. A player suffers a regular loss when he is able to bear off some checkers before losing.
If the player was unable to bear off any checkers before losing, then he loses 'a gammon', and if a player has one or multiple checkers in the opponent's home court or on the bar, then, in such a case, the player loses a backgammon.


An important Backgammon strategy is to try to make a hit on the vulnerable blot in an open point. This will increase the player's chances of handing out his opponent the loss of a gammon or a backgammon. A player must also try not to create his own blots. This decreases the vulnerability of his own checkers.


The doubling cube was introduced to raise the wagers that are gambled for in a Backgammon game. It is just a marker, not a die. The faces of the doubling cube increase by the factor by two.
Generally, wagers are not raised beyond two times in a game of Backgammon. The values on the faces of a doubling cube are 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64. However, on occasion, the wagers are increased to 128 and 256 times as well.
When setting up wagers, each point is specified with a specific value. In Backgammon, though strategy matters, the game itself is based more on a matter of chance and luck. This has led to many people appealing for it to be treated under stringent gambling laws.