About the Club and Backgammon



How We Got Started
We just sort of evolved into getting together fairly regularly to play backgammon, have some food, and watch movies. It's not really even a formal club in the true sense of backgammon clubs. We just exist in the ether known only, I guess, to ourselves. Which is fine, because we all have a good time.

So why put a page up for the club? Well, we're all open to getting to know other nice folks who would enjoy getting together with us and sharing some backgammon trash talk and good times.

We use backgammon as a way to unwind from our busy lives - both professionally and personally. Unlike other clubs or groups, we're pretty informal about things. We just want to use this really challenging and interesting game as a way to get out and have some fun in life! After all, most everything we do is because we have to do it. So, it's pretty nice that we can do something together that we don't have to do; we do it because we want to do it!

Anyway, we're a work in progress and we love it.

Backgammon In General
In comparison to other games, backgammon has the best of them all. With chess, it's full concentration for an hour and a half to two hours - unless you are good enough to play speed chess, but even that requires tremendous concentration. I never saw anything like the banter during a chess game that the movie "Searching For Bobby Fisher" portrays. Chess is just way too serious.

And poker, well I don't know anyone who plays poker for fun - it's always for money and it's always dead serious. But even in money backgammon, the social aspects of the game are still there.

Don't get me wrong: backgammon requires deep concentration but it's not the same as chess. In chess, you have to think 3, 4, 5 or more moves ahead. In backgammon there is no way to think that far ahead. Many times, the best you can do is just worry about how the current move supports your overall strategy. That's because the next throw of the dice could change the tactical situation 180 degrees on you. But that's the attraction to backgammon. It's all totally unknown. It's all about probability and risk-reward analysis.

What's really nice about backgammon is that you can learn how to play in about fifteen minutes. Even after just a few months of play, you begin to see some of the deep sophistication of the game; you learn pretty fast that it's not just about the tactics of moving, but rather there are all sorts of complex interweaving strategies to constantly challenge you - no matter how many years you play the game.

Sure, the more experienced player will win a majority of the time against you - as would be the case in any contest of skill. However, with backgammon - and because of the randomness of the dice - even a beginner can give a pretty good thumping to a far more experienced player at times.

Backgammon is the oldest board game going back 5,000 years to Ur in Mesopotamia. The Roman military was said to have banned play to all but senior level officers and in backgammon's resurgence in popularity in the late 1950s through the 1960s and 1970s the game was played by royalty and aristocrats all around the world - sometimes for huge stakes.

All this newfound activity had its origins in the 1920s when an American introduced the doubling cube to the game. This changed the complexity of the game considerably and gave it new levels of excitement. By the 1980s there were tournaments and tournament tours all over the world. And it seemed you couldn't go into an upscale lounge where either the bar tables were laid out in backgammon boards or there were boards available for use. Backgammon was everywhere.

But then poker captured the imagination of the public and interest in backgammon fell off. But as people began to discover in the mid 2000s that poker is more fun - and considerably safer - to watch others play on TV than it sometimes is to play yourself, backgammon began finding its way back into attention.

Many of the top backgammon champions of the 1970s, however, shifted over to poker where there was more action and more money. Some of these guys had played in the past for literally thousands of dollars a point, but in poker where a single bet could be twenty, fifty, or hundred thousand dollars or more, they find their analytic skills honed from backgammon well suited to poker. So, a whole new breed of player has begun to emerge - one that rides upon the theoretical foundations laid by these great players of the past as well as considerable research with automated backgammon computer bots.

Regardless of all the statistical power of the computer to calculate tactical odds of a particular move in isolation to the reality of live play, backgammon over the board is one of the most complex and demanding games there is. And it will always be that way because the doubling cube brings in the emotional aspect that a computer or set of odds tables never can evaluate.

How Score Is Kept
And so, based on the above discussion, using the cube allows players who may be much more inexperienced than their opponent to win a game by throwing a double when they might in fact be doomed to loss if the game were to be played out. For us - we don't want to just play for points because someone could get wild and win a 32 point match but that might not reflect their overall ability in relation to the group. Nor would just counting games played - some players are better in the end game similar to how in poker if you have a good hand you want to bet it to get people out of the game so they don't draw out on you.

So, we play under two different sets of rules depending on our mood:

  1. By percentage win rate - this is our current practice. The winner is determined as the person who has the highest percentage of points won to games played. So if A wins 3 games with total points won of 12 and B wins 5 games with 5 points won, then the champion would be A because their percentage win rate is 4 points per game (12/3) vs. B whose rate is only 1 point per game.
  2. By matches won - a match is playing a series of games with an opponent until one person has won 2 points. You score that as 1 match win. Now that could be done in 1 game if someone throws the cube right away, but it might take as many as 3 games. The 1st place winner is the person winning the most matches.
What these rules do is penalize the person who throws or accepts the cube a lot and then loses — they give up a tremendous advantage to the game winner by allowing them to accumulate lots of points making it difficult to catch up to them later.

Getting Involved In The Madness
If you enjoy backgammon, would like to learn how to play, or would like to know more about our group and how you might get involved, throw me an email and we can chat about the club.