Backgammon, often cited as one of the world's oldest board games, has been thrilling and intriguing players for thousands of years.
There are various accounts of how and where the game originated, with some historians tracing it back to the Middle East and Ancient Egypt. It is thought that soldiers returning from the Crusades helped to popularise backgammon in Britain, with a host of rules and variations developing over the subsequent centuries.
Today, backgammon is often played on the street in countries like Greece and Turkey, as well as in the luxurious casinos of Las Vegas. Although it is not considered one of the "classic" games like blackjack and roulette, backgammon is still enjoyed by a number of casino visitors.
Poker players often claim a particular affinity with the game because it requires a similar combination of strategy and luck. For this reason, it's not uncommon to see backgammon tables set up in the VIP lounges of casinos or specialist card clubs.
Online backgammon is a simple board-style game for two people, played using checkers and two virtual dice. The board is made up of 24 narrow triangles (known as "points"), which alternate in colour and are grouped into four quadrants of six triangles each.
These represent each player's "home board" and outer board, which are separated from each other by a line down the middle known as the bar. Starting the game with 15 checkers each, the players take turns to roll the dice and make their move based on the value of the roll.
The object of the game is to remove all your checkers from the board – a process known as "bearing off". The first player to remove all their pieces wins the game. However, a player can only start bearing off once all their checkers have made it into their home board.
Once the backgammon board is set, each player throws a single die and the player with the higher number goes first. They then roll both dice and move their checkers accordingly. In some variations of the game, players must move using the dice that have already been rolled.
Players take turns to roll the dice and move, with the checkers travelling across the surface in a U-shape towards each player's home board. However, each player can only move their checker to a point if it is empty, occupied by one of their own checkers or occupied by one of their opponent's checkers.
This is where it gets exciting. When you have a single checker occupying a point (known as a "blot"), you're exposed to an attack from your rival. If an opposing checker lands on a blot, the blot is "hit" and your checker must be placed on the bar. You must bring your checker back on to the board before making any other moves and if there are no points open when you roll the dice, you have to forfeit a turn.
Backgammon is typically played for an agreed stake per point. Usually, this is a one-point stake, but the stakes can rise quickly thanks to something known as a doubling cube. This is essentially a large die with two, four, eight, 16, 32 and 64 on each side (instead of the standard one to six).
The game starts with the doubling cube in the possession of neither player. However, either of them can offer it to the other at any point. A player will often do this if they feel they have gained an advantage, and their opponent must then choose to accept or decline. Should they decline, the game continues for a one-point stake.
If they accept, the doubling cube remains in play for the rest of the game. It is always in possession of one of the two players, and can be offered and accepted an unlimited number of times, passing back and forth. Each time it is accepted, the stakes double. For example, if the doubling cube is offered and accepted twice in a game, it will be played for quadruple stakes.
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