Game Guide

Backgammon is a two-player game, the object of which is to be the first player to move all of your checkers into the opponent's home board and then off the table. It is played on a board consisting of 24 narrow triangles=points, which alternate in color and are grouped into two, each having twelve triangles.

The halves are formed by the two opposing sides of the board, with a vertical band down the middle called the ‘bar,' where the checkers are placed when hit.

Backgammon Rules

Click on one of the set of rules below to read more about it.

Backgammon Points & Timers

The points in backgammon are numbered from one to 24, with checkers always moving from high to low numbers. As the players move their checkers in opposite directions during backgammon, the one point for one player will be the 24 point for the other.

Each player has 15 checkers and these begin the game with two positioned on the 24 point, five on the 13 point, three on the eight point, and five on the six point in their home board. A pair of dice determines the number of moves available to the players, and a doubling cube with numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 on its six sides is used to keep track of the stakes currently in play.

Two timers govern the game of backgammon. The local timer counts down 45 seconds in normal speed games, 30 seconds in fast games, 15 seconds in express games, in which time the player must make a move. This is reset after each move and, if it expires, the global timer starts ticking.

The global timer is set to three minutes in normal speed games, two minutes in fast games, one minute in express games, and only starts ticking when the local timer expires. This global timer governs the entire game.

For example, in the case of a game at normal speed, if the player neither moves any checkers nor makes any transactions during the 45 seconds of the local timer, the global timer will start. If the global timer runs out, the player in control of the board will be declared the loser, and points will be awarded to his opponent according to the doubling cube. This will be counted as losing the game, regardless of the current state of the game board.

Starting & Moving Checkers

At the start of the game, two of each player's checkers are positioned on the 24 point, five on the 13 point, three on the 8 point, and five on the 6 point in the player's home board.

Before play begins the dice are rolled (one for each player), and the player with the higher number makes the first move, using the combination of his die throw and the opponent's.

In the case of a tie, the dice are rolled again until one of the players gets a higher score. If possible, a player must move his checkers the number of points shown on each die.

Therefore, if a two and a five are rolled, two separate moves must be made, corresponding to the pips of the dice.

The player may move two checkers, or may choose to move only one by combining both numbers. Play continues with players alternating turns after each roll.

Moving the Checkers

Each player must move his checkers in a forward direction onto points that the opponent has not already occupied with two or more checkers. If a player rolls the same number on both dice the roll is called a doublet, and each number must be played twice. Once more, all moves are distinct.

For example, a player who rolls 5:5 has to play four moves of five spaces, with between one to four checkers.

Landing, Hitting & Re-Entering

A checker can land on any vacant point. It can also land on any point occupied by a player's own checkers. A checker cannot land on a point occupied by two or more of the opponent's checkers.

If a player has no legal moves after rolling the dice because all of the points are occupied by two or more of the opponent's checkers, his turn is forfeited. If a player has a legal move for one die only, he must make that move and then forfeit the use of the other die.If the player has a legal move for either die, but not both, he must play the higher number.

Hitting Checkers

Two or more checkers of one color on a point own that point. A single checker is known as a blot. If one of the opponent's checkers lands on a blot, the blot is considered hit, and is placed on the bar. That checker is temporarily out of play.

Re-entering Checkers

If a player has checkers on the bar, no other checker can be moved before re:entering all of his checkers on the bar. Any checkers on the bar must be reintroduced into the game before any other moves are made. The checker(s) must be entered on empty points or blots in their opponent's home board, according to a throw of the dice. If there are no empty points, the player must forfeit their go. After the last of a player's checkers have re-entered the game, he must play the rest of the numbers shown on the dice if possible.

Bearing Off

When a player has all 15 of their checkers in their own home board, he can start to remove them from the board; this is known as bearing off.

The player can bear a checker off corresponding to each number on the dice-a four will allow them to remove a checker from the 4 point. If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, the player must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point.

If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points, the player is required to remove a checker from the highest point on which one of his checkers resides. A player is under no obligation to bear off if he can make an otherwise legal move.

A checker that has been borne off cannot re:enter the game. If a checker is hit during bear off, no other checkers can be borne off until that checker re:enters the game from the bar and reaches the player's home board again.

Backgammon Scoring & Doubling

Backgammon is played for an agreed stake per point. Each game starts at one point.If a player is confident of a win, he can use the doubling cube to increase the bet.

This must only be done before the player rolls the dice. The doubling cube's faces are numbered 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64.

If the second player declines the increase in the stakes, he instantly loses the game and loses a point. However, when the second player accepts the doubling of the stakes he then takes control of the cube, meaning that only he can increase the stakes again.

Subsequent doublings of the stake are known as redoubles. If a player rejects a redouble, then they lose the game by the amount of points shown on the doubling cube. Alternatively, the player who accepts the redouble becomes the owner of the doubling cube.

The Winner

The first player to get all of their checkers off the board wins.The loser either loses by a single point, or by the number of points shown on the doubling cube. The loser forfeits twice the stake if he has not moved a single checker off the board by the end of the game.

This is known as a gammon. If the loser still has checkers on the bar or in the winner's home board, they lose triple the stake.This is known as a backgammon.

This learning games section is followed by the first part of the games glossary.

Backgammon Glossary

Backgammon Games Glossary A

Accept a Double
the stakes for the game have just been doubled as requested by an opponent.
Ace Point
the first or 1 point on the board, the closest point to bear off.
Ace-point Game or Guff
occurs when a player has 2+ checkers anchored on his/her challenger's ace-point. Player then attempts to hit thereby preventing the challenger from doing so.
jargon for a dice roll of 1-2.
Acting Captain
occurs during chouette when a substitute captain represents the team against the box.
Action Play
term for a tactic used to initiate an exchange of hits.
Active Builder
jargon for a free builder that is in position to get a point.
Advanced Anchor
a made point that is positioned on your opponent's 4 point, 5 point or 6 point. See also, anchor and deep anchor.
Ahead in the count/Ahead in the race
occurs when a player has a lower pip count than the challenger.
Air Ball
backgammon games glossary term for a roll that gives no advantage.
a made point on your opponent's home board. Each player begins the game with an anchor (two checkers) on their 24 point, which is their opponent's 1 point. See also, advanced anchor and deep anchor.
Around the Corner
occurs when 1+checker(s) moves from the challenger's outer board to the player's outer board.
term for an item that increases the value of a position..
Automatic Doubles
this rule states that if both players get the same number on the first roll of the dice, then a double is called.

Backgammon Games Glossary B

tactic used when a player has 2+ points in the challenger's home board. Objective is to get points in the player's home board and wait it out until the challenger has to open up his/her backboard at which time, it is the player's chance to strike.
Bar Point
term for the 7-point.
the dividing line down the middle of a backgammon set where checkers that have been hit sit until they re-enter the game.
Bear In
the stage of the game when a player moves his men into his home board.
Bear Off
stage of the game when a player has all his men on his home board, and is in the process of moving them off the board altogether.
when one player doubles, and his opponent immediately redoubles.
Behind in the count or Behind in the race
occurs when a player has a higher pip count than the challenger.
Big Play
tactic to take the big move rather than the safe move.
a style of play in which a player hits his opponent repeatedly in his own home board in an effort to keep him on the bar and close him out.
backgammon games glossary reference to point held by 2+ checkers with the intent of blocking a challenger's movement.
jargon for a series of blocks put into place to curtail the escape of the other side's runners. The best blockade is a prime.
Blocking Game
refers to a game tactic that involves building a powerful blockade.
Book a Checker
term for covering a blot.
a single checker on a point. This is a vulnerable position.
jargon for the single player in chouette.
term for a dice roll of 6-6.
Break Contact
strategy to go forward past a challenger's checkers in order to close the opportunity of any hitting or blocking.
Break a Prime
lingo for 1 or more points in a prime.
Break the Board
occurs when established points in your home board are surrendered.
Broken Prime
term for almost completed prime with the exception of a gap.
Build One's Board
movement to make points in your home board.
backgammon games glossary jargon for the action of hitting a checker.
Bump and Pass
refers to a 2-step action, hit a checker and move on to anchor with the same game piece.
Button Up
term refers to covering a blot and avoiding a hit.

Backgammon Games Terms C

refers to the team player who plays against the box in the game of chouette.
term for making the offer of a double when a player is assured that his/her challenger will refuse the offer.
Centered Cube
refers to the center bar position of the doubling cube before a player makes the offer of a double.
also known as stones, men, counters or pieces; this term refers to each player's markers while playing the game and rolling the dice.
backgammon games terms for version that involves at least 3 players where 1 backgammon player goes up against a playing group led by a captain.
Clean Play
jargon for a legal move.
Close Out
refers to making your board or to close out a challenger by closing all the points in your home board.
Closed Board
when a player has made all the points on his inner board, his opponent will be unable to re-enter any checker he may have on the bar into the game until an open point becomes available again.
Closed Point
jargon for point containing 2+ checkers.
Cocked Dice
jargon for dice that do not lie flat when rolled and must be rolled again.
Combination / Indirect Shot
occurs when 2 dice numbers are applied together to create a roll larger than 1 die. Example of 6+3= 9 pips for one checker.
Come In
backgammon games glossary term for action of re-entering from the bar.
Comeback Shot
jargon for a dice roll that allows a checker on the bar to hit a blot.
Comfort Station
term for the mid-point.
movement of positioning checkers within 6 pips of each another to create mutual support.
term for grouping checkers, thereby reducing the number of blots.
Contact Game
term for a scenario where 1 player may hit or block the challenger.
refers to number of remaining moves required to clear the board or pip count.
to shield a blot with a second checker, ensuring it is made.
jargon for a player in a tight position of decreased movement.
Crawford Rule
used only in match play, when a player reaches a score in which he is only one point away from winning the match, his opponent is not allowed to double in the next game.
refers to team players and captain playing against a single player or box in a game of chouette.
backgammon games terms for movement of a piece. Example, from outer to home board.
jargon for player's position whereby a prime must be broken up as it is the only play available.
backgammon term for the doubling cube.
Cube Decision
it's decision time. Do you offer a double or refuse/accept?
Cube Equity
term of reference to money wagered using the doubling cube.
Cube Ownership
rules of the game determine that a player can double only when in possession of the cube and if it's their turn. Procedure is to make the offer before throwing and if accepted by an opponent, the cube is then placed on their side of the board.
Current Stake
calculated as the original stake x value of the doubling cube.

Backgammon Games Terms D

to have a checker on the bar, and to roll numbers that are blocked in your opponent's home board and do not allow you to re-enter.
Dead Checker
term for a positioned piece well into player's home board thereby having no advantage.
Dead Cube
occurs when the doubling cube offers no advantage.
Dead Number
a useless roll that serves no advantage and thus is forfeited.
Decline a Double
occurs when a double offer is declined and the game is surrendered.
term for a piece located on a low-numbered point.
Deep Anchor
a made point that is positioned on your opponent's 1 point, 2 point, or 3 point. See also, anchor and advanced anchor.
Deuce Point
jargon for the 2-point.
the tools of the game, these are cubes with pips or dots marked on six sides for the numbers 1 to 6.
Dice Cup
another required tool, this is the round container used to roll the dice.
Dilly Builder
term for a space piece/counter that is permitted to land only deep into a player's home board.
Direct Shot
a blot or lone checker that can be hit with a roll of six or less.
where a player positions his/her counters across the board in a strategy move to produce an advantage roll. Divide and conquer.
action of offering a double to a challenger, thereby doubling the stakes.
Double Ducks
jargon for a dice roll of double twos or 2-2.
Double Elimination/Double Knockout
backgammon games terms for tournaments whereby a backgammon player is not eliminated unless he/she loses twice.
Double Game
occurs when a player has not been in the position to bear off any counters resulting in a loss of the game and paying double his/her original stake.
another name for the doubling cube.
jargon for a roll where the dice reveal the same number. Example 3-3 or 5-5.
Doubling Cube
refers to the six-sided cube applied to monitor when the stakes are doubled in the game. Cube has the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 marked.
Doubling on the Come
jargon for a double offering when a productive roll is anticipated.
term describing the partnering of tournament players.
to resign from a game when one's opponent doubles--to refuse the cube.
occurs when certain team players decline a double offer while others take it and play.

Backgammon Games Terms E

Edge of a Prime
term for open point positioned in front of a challenger's prime.
movement to escape an ace-point game to stave off losing a gammon or a backgammon.
End Game
term for the last stage of the backgammon game wherein a player starts to bear off and further contact comes to a stand still.
action of moving a hit piece from the bar into the challenger's home board.
the chances of winning the game.
moving a runner past the challenger's blockade or to safety.
Exposed Man
refers to an open piece or blot that could be the victim of a direct shot.

Backgammon Games Terms F

Fan, Fail or Flunk
see Dance.
Fast Board
occurs when a player's remaining pieces are on high points, he/she anticipates taking off at least two checkers on each dice roll.
Field Goal
refers to the player's chance of hitting 2 pieces positioned 2 spaces apart by rolling a number that lands between them.
Fly Shot
a checker that can be hit with a roll of seven or more. Also called indirect shot.
backgammon games terms for not accepting/declining a double.
Forced Play
you have only one legal move on this dice roll.
Forward Anchor
refers to advanced anchor, generally positioned on the challenger's 4 or 5 point.
Forward Game
refers to the stage of the game where further contact ceases as all player's pieces have passed each other.
Free Drop
action enacted after the Crawford game and if the trailing player has an even number of points left. The leading player may choose to refuse a double, but not reduce the number of games his/her challenger requires to win.
Freeze a Builder
strategic move to leave a piece within reach of a challenger thereby occupying a point with only two counters to prevent active builders.
Front a Prime
action of making the point in front of a challenger's prime.

Backgammon Games Terms G

Game Plan
term for winning strategy; 3 game plans are run, attack, and block.
occurs when the losing player fails to bear off any pieces in the end resulting in the winning player scoring 2X the stake.
jargon for the empty section between made points.
Gin Position
the best position of all in that you can't lose.
jargon for 5-5 dice roll.
Go Out
occurs when the required points to win are attained.
Golden Point
the fifth point in from the beginning of one's own home board, also known as the five point.

Backgammon Games Terms H

Heavy Point
refers to point with 3+ checkers on it, known as a stack.
Hit Loose
to hit one of your opponent's blots and be unable to follow it up with another checker(s), thereby leaving your own exposed.
Hit or Knock Off
occurs when a player lands on a point with only one of the challenger's pieces at which time the piece is put on the bar and requires re-entry before other pieces can be moved.
Hit and Cover
a 2-step action that begins with a hit on a challenger's blot then moving on to cover your blot with the same counter.
Hit and Pass/Pick and Pass
another 2-step action starting with a hit on a challenger's blot then moving to safety on your points.
Hit and Split
backgammon games terms for yet another 2-step by forwarding a back man then hitting the challenger's blot somewhere else on the board in just one move.
Holding Game
this is a strategy used by a player who is behind in the game with the intention of hindering the opponent's ability to bring his checkers home safely by holding on to one or more points on their opponent's side of the board.

Backgammon Games Terms I - L

Inner Board
the part of the board nearest to the end where you take your checkers off the board. This is the part of the board numbered 1-6, the inner table, infield or home board.
Jacoby Rule
this rule states that if neither player has offered the doubling cube during the game, there cannot be a gammon or backgammon.
Kill a Man
this checker has gone so far into a backgammon player's inner table that it might as well be forgotten.
Kill a Number
strategic move that positions specific dice numbers unplayable for the next turn.

Backgammon Strategy Games Terms M

Made Point
a point with 2 or more men on it, which ensures that it can't be hit.
the backgammon pieces or checkers, also known as stones.
the 13 point.
Mixed Roll
term for a roll of the dice that displays 2 different numbers, example is 3-4.
Mix Up/Blot Hitting Contest
term for a game within a game where both players go up against their blots to score an advantage point on the board.
refers to moving pieces forward by a dice roll, bearing off or entering from the bar.
Move Around the Corner or Move Down
term for moving from a challenger's outer board to player's outer board thereby crossing the mid-point.
Move In
2 steps here, either moving from the bar to challenger's home board or movement from a player's outer to home board.
Move Off
term for bear off.
Move Out
motion that involves the opponent's home board to his/her outer board.
Move Up
term for moving forward within the challenger's home board.

Backgammon Strategy Games Terms O

On the Bar
jargon for a piece that is hit and awaits re-entry to the game.
Open Point
refers to area of the board that does not have 2 or more opponent's checkers.
Outer Board
this is the place that dice are rolled and points 7 to 12 for any player.
Outer Table
part of the table closest to the player and that is next to his home board. Numbered 7-12, it is also called the outer board.
referred to as the outer board and points 9, 10 and 11.
Outside Prime
term for a series of blocked points usually on the outer board area.
Own the Cube
that doubling cube is yours once you accept your opponent's offer.
Owning a Point
when you line up 2+ checkers on a point, you have denied your opponent that position.

Backgammon Strategy Games Terms P

Partial Prime
valued at less than 6 points.
player who says no to a double.
Pick Up
you have just hit a blot.
Pay Now
occurs when the risk-taker type of player makes an early move versus later in the game.
determines checker movement on a backgammon board. Example, a dice roll of 6-2=8 pips.
Pip Count
a player starts with 167 pips and from that tally; it can be determined how many pips are required to win the backgammon game.
refers to a dice roll that then determines the subsequent checker move.
one of the triangular-shaped spaces on the board, where the backgammon checkers are placed.
Point on a Blot
smooth move where a player hits the challenger's blot with 2 counters resulting in a point.
backgammon strategy games term for Position, Race and Threats, whereupon doubling decisions are made.
Pressure or Squeeze
strategic move that puts pressure on an opponent to protect their blot.
a consecutive row of four or more made points that block or hinder the opponent's options to move. Six points row is called a full prime.
Prime Fighter
a player who accepts a double when she/he has one or more checkers stuck behind a prime.
Pseudo Prime
a prime only four or five points in length.
Pure Play
refers to technique focusing on making key points and building a prime.
Pure Race
portion of the backgammon game where the winner is determined by the first player to bear off as no further contact between opposing checkers is probable.

Backgammon Strategy Games Terms Q - R

refers to a dice roll of 4-4 as four-of-a-kind in poker is termed a quad.
jargon for an immediate redoubling once a player accepts a beaver.
Racing/Non-Contact Position
when both opponents' checkers have passed each other and no further hits are possible, there is a race to see who will reach home and bear off their checkers first.
Rail, Roof or Bar
refers to the center of the board dividing the home and outer boards where pieces are put once they are hit.
strategy of deliberately leaving blots open to hits to protect another board position.
occurs after the cube is offered/accepted as double.
backgammon strategy games term for playing a hit checker from the bar into the home board.
Refuse a Double
offer is declined resulting in surrender of the game.
Return Shot
when a player is hit and re-enters hitting one of the opponent's checkers.
action of tossing the dice.
Rolling Prime
action of moving rear checkers to the front.
Root Number
term for a dice roll combo resulting in a collapsed position.
you are outta there with at least 2 checkers from your opponent's home board.
refers to player's rear-most checker.

Backgammon Strategy Games Terms S

term for advantage position where no checkers can be hit.
Safety Play
strategy move to protect your checkers from being hit.
player who, in the quest to win cash or prizes, overstates their backgammon capabilities.
Save a Gammon
time to bear off one checker or more to prevent gammon or backgammon.
Secure a Point
backgammon strategy reference to covering a blot.
refers to the original placing of checkers to begin the game.
lingo for a skillful backgammon player.
Shift Gears
tactical move to switch the game plan.
Shift Points
action of moving checkers between points with the roll of the dice.
refers to hitting a blot either with both dice=indirect shot or one die=direct shot.
Shut Out
strategic advantage position where a challenger's piece on the bar cannot re-enter the game and he/she is forced to wait it out until a point opens.
Single Game
refers to a game that ends without a gammon or backgammon and the winner gets the initial stake X value of the doubling cube.
Single Shot
this is a blot that can be hit.
to move one checker onto a point, with the intention of adding another to it later, thereby 'making' it.
Slot and Split
to drop in a counter in your home board and separate runners.
Slow Board
occurs when no checkers are on the high points resulting in a long bearing off situation.
Snake Eyes
dice roll of double 1's.
an extra checker on a made point, which can be moved without endangering the point.
action to separate two checkers on a made point.
Solid Prime
refers to a full prime with no gaps.
Stacking or Candlesticks
to assemble several pieces on a single point. Also known as railroad tracks or building pyramids.
Stake or Money Play
refers to the amount bet. At the end of the game, this amount is multiplied by the value of the doubling cube and further multiplied by 2 if the loser is gammoned or X3 if backgammoned.
Stay Back
backgammon strategy games term refers to a move to station one or more checkers in the challenger's home board.
a rear-most checker move into the home board that is stalled because of an opposing checker.
Stretched or Stripped
situation where there are almost no spare pieces leaving the player in a possible hit position.
Strip a Point
refers to taking all but two checkers from a point.
Suicide Play
action of leaving a blot exposed to re-position checkers.
refers to the point span between winning and losing a game.
Switch Points
move to release a point to make another in the same move.

Backgammon Strategy Games Terms T - Z

game action of continuing to play after having been doubled.
the state of play as it affects a certain player. Generally it refers to maintaining a position when behind in the race to the finish. Timing can be called tempo.
Under the Gun
refers to a blot in the challenger's home board that is within direct range of three or more of the opponent's builders, thus in danger of being pointed on.
action of removing at least one checker(s) off a heavy point.
player strategy of switching points to hit a blot.