Before You Play Backgammon - What You Need to Know

Backgammon is a game in which the thrill of the race to beat your opponent enthralls both novices and professionals alike, either in live tournaments or games or in online Backgammon games. A set can be cheap or expensive, meaning it is a game that appeals to people of all class levels.

A typical backgammon board can be bought at your local Wal-Mart or thrift store for around $10 bucks. A full-sized tournament backgammon set can cost $100 or more for a playing surface made of cloth or wood.

The wealthy have been known to splurge as much as $1,000 for an extravagant leather backgammon board complete with fancy accessories and gambling clubs often include fancy backgammon games woven into table tops.

To avoid having to splurge on a game, backgammon is easily playable online. The key is learning the rules of the game. Here is what you need to know:

About the board.

A backgammon board has 24 points, each numbered from 1 to 24. The board is divided into four sections, or quadrants, each containing six points.

The middle of the board has a raised section called the bar, a resting place for checkers that have been hit, or captured, during play. Checkers that have been hit and placed on the bar must first re-entered in the farthest quadrant before any other pieces can move.

Setting up the board.

Both the black and white players’ 15 checkers, pieces or men—whichever you want to call them—are set up in the exact mirror image of each other on the board.

  • Black puts two checkers on Point 24
  • Three checkers on Point 8,
  • And five checkers each on Point 6 and Point 13.
  • White places two checkers on Point 1,
  • three checkers on Point 17,
  • And five checkers each on Point 12 and Point 19.

Object of the game.

The object of backgammon is to beat your opponent in taking all of your checkers off the board. Before you can start bearing off, or removing your checkers, you must maneuver all 15 of your checkers onto your inner board, or home board first.
Points 1 through 6 comprise black’s inner or home board on a typical game board. Points 19 to 24 make up white’s inner, or home board.


If you bear off all 15 of your checkers before your opponent, but your competitor gets at least one checker off, you win a single game worth 1 point. If you bear off all of your checkers before your opponent bears off any checkers, you win a gammon, or double game, worth 2 points.
If you bear off all of your checkers and your opponent has one or more checkers on the bar or in your inner board, you win a backgammon, or triple game, worth 3 points.

Movement of the checkers.

Both the black and white checkers race around the board in opposite directions.
Black checkers move in a clockwise direction from the highest point (24) in the upper left quadrant to upper right quadrant, down to the lower right quadrant and end in the lower left quadrant (Point 1). White checkers move in the opposite direction, counter-clockwise, from the lowest point (1) in the lower left quadrant, to the lower right quadrant, on to the upper right quadrant and end in the upper left quadrant (Point 24).

The Basics of Play.

Like checkers and chess, backgammon players alternate moves. But the use of dice is what makes backgammon such an appealing game of strategy. You have so many options to choose from in moving your 15 pieces.

Say you roll a 4 on one die and a 2 on the other. You can move one checker the entire 6 spaces or move two separate checkers, one 4 spaces forward and the other 2 spaces. Each die must be played individually. If you are the black player and rolled 4-2, you could move one of the five checkers from Point 13 four spots to Point 9 and another two spots from Point 6 to Point 4. Or you could move one of your checkers from Point 13 six spaces to Point 7.

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