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Backgammon is a classic board game with a history spanning almost 5,000 years. Two opponents battle head-to-head with the aim of getting all of their pieces into one corner of the board to then remove those pieces from the game.
This is a process known as ‘bearing off’. The first player to bear off – that is, the first player to remove their 15 from the board – wins.
Backgammon is popular in many Middle Eastern and European countries such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Greece. In some countries, players will enjoy friendly games in cafes and parks. The game is easy to set up – you just need thirty counters, two dice, and the board.
In the past, this was the only way to play, but online casinos are now becoming increasingly popular. They allow you to play backgammon online against real players for cash. We’ll talk about several different variants in this guide to the best backgammon casinos.
For simplicity, we’ll be explaining how to play standard backgammon, as opposed to the rarer variations. Here’s what you need to know about playing at online backgammon casinos:
A backgammon board is made up of four quarters, or quadrants, each with six pips. A pip is simply a point on the board where your pieces can move.
Each pip is numbered. Pip number one is closest to the end of the board for you, in your home quadrant (the area your pieces are heading to throughout the game). Pip number two is next to it, and so on.
The furthest point from your home quadrant is your opponent’s home quadrant, on the opposite side of the board. Here you’ll find pips 19-24. The next section is your opponent’s ‘outer board’, containing pips 13-18. Then it’s your outer board, with pips 7-12. And finally, your home quadrant, with pips 1-6.
You can’t choose where to put your pieces when you begin the game. Instead, each counter begins on a specific pip. Here’s the standard setup:
To move, you simply roll two dice. You can move one piece twice, using both rolls on a single game piece, or you can move two separate pieces. So, if you roll a 5-2, you could either move one piece seven places, or you could move one piece five places and another two places.
If you manage to roll a double, you’ll get four moves instead of two. For example, if you roll 6-6 you can move 24 spaces in total. Also, you and your opponent move in opposite directions across the board, each trying to get to your respective home quadrant.
You’re allowed, and encouraged, to stack your own pieces on top of one another. The idea is to cover your pieces as often as possible. This is because, when you have two or more pieces on a pip, your opponent can’t land there.
However, if you leave one piece exposed – known as a ‘blot’ – your opponent can land on that space and remove your piece from the board. That piece will then have to start from the beginning again, moving through all four quadrants.
When you get your pieces to your home quadrant, you can begin removing them from the board. This process is called ‘bearing off’. In traditional backgammon games, you have to land an exact number to do this. In some variations rolling any large number may do. For this explanation we will imagine we are playing a traditional game where you need to roll an exact number.
For example, in the image below, the player has pieces on pips 1, 2 and 6. They need to roll the exact number that the pip is on in order to bear off (remove the piece). They rolled a 2 and a 3, so they choose to bear off one of the pieces on pip 2 and move one of the pieces on pip 6 to pip 3. If they rolled a 1 and 2 in their next go, they could bear off pieces from pips 1 and 2.
By default, winning a game of backgammon is worth one point. But there are ways to earn extra points, too:
If you’ve only ever played backgammon among friends, you may not be familiar with the doubling cube. But, before you face opponents at the best backgammon online casinos, you should know what the doubling cube is – and when to use it.
A regular game is worth anywhere between one and three points. But a doubling cube can see these numbers multiply quickly.
Either player may use the doubling cube, but it’s only sensible to play it when you already have an advantage in the game – or when it makes mathematical sense to double, as we’ll explain below. You can use the doubling cube at the beginning of your turn at any point in the game.
Let’s say you are beating your opponent and invoke the doubling cube. Your opponent has three immediate options:
If your opponent knows they’re losing, it puts them in a tough spot. Do they take the loss, or try to fight back against the odds – but potentially concede twice as many points? If your opponent believes they still have a good chance of winning, they can accept or even double back.
For example, let’s say you’re playing your opponent and it looks like it will finish as a one-point game. Your opponent uses the doubling cube, thinking they will win. However, you believe you have the better chance of winning.
Instead of accepting, you can re-double. You accept their offer, making the game worth two points. Then you re-double. If they accept, the game is suddenly worth four points. If they refuse, you win two points.
The doubling cube is displayed in different ways depending on which site you’re playing at. Often, it’s in the centre of the board – though it’s not a playable piece. It could also be located in the screen’s corner. To activate it, you click on it.
Doubling cubes add an interesting aspect to the game of online backgammon. Know when to take the loss – there’s no room for pride in backgammon!
Thanks to top backgammon online casinos, multiple versions of backgammon have grown in popularity. Here, we’ll walk you through five of the most popular versions of online backgammon:
This is what you might consider the ‘normal’ version of backgammon. Two players start with 15 counters each, and the aim of the game is to bear off before your opponent. To achieve this, you roll two dice and move your pieces strategically around the board. Games are relatively short, so you’ll often play in a ‘best of’ format. For example, in a ‘best of five game, the first player to get three points is the winner.
Acey-Deucey has several rather radical differences to standard backgammon. For one thing, all of your pieces begin off the board. This is in contrast to classic backgammon, where your pieces are arranged in a standard way, spread across the board.
As the name suggests, a roll of 1-2 has extra significance in Acey-Deucey. If you manage to roll a 1-2, you begin by taking your move in the usual manner. Then, you’re allowed to play a double of your choice. And finally, you roll again. Acey-Deucey rolls are stackable, so if you manage to roll 1-2 more than once in a row, your opponent misses another go.
This variant was invented by 1982 World Professional Championship winner Nack Ballard, so the only logical name was Nackgammon. Unlike Acey-Deucey, Nackgammon rules and gameplay are almost identical to the standard version.
The only difference with Nackgammon is that two of your pieces – one from pip 6, and one from pip 13 – are moved. Instead, both pieces are on pip 23 – the second furthest position from your home quadrant. This means that you’ll have four pieces which need to move around almost the entire board, rather than the usual two.
No surprises here – the ‘hyper’ version of backgammon is indeed a speedy version of the original. Instead of having 15 pieces each, you’ll only have three. They begin on the 22-, 23- and 24-pips.
When playing Hypergammon, you may notice that something called the Jacoby Rule is in play. If this is the case, neither backgammons (three-point games) nor gammons (two-point games) will count – unless the cube has been doubled. So, until the doubling cube is activated, every point is worth just one point. You can read about the doubling cube later in this backgammon guide.
Misere is the total opposite of regular backgammon. All of the rules are the same, but the object of the game is to lose instead of win!
When you start playing backgammon online, you’ll realise that you’re often forced into making a move you don’t want to. So, even if you try not to win, you may eventually have no choice.
There are plenty of terms you’ll hear at real money backgammon casinos. Here are some of the most important backgammon terms along with a brief explanation of each:
Backgammon is a game which combines luck and skill, much like online poker. If you want to win at online backgammon casinos, you must develop a sound strategy to beat your opponents.
Here are some top tips to help you win at backgammon casino games:
Having more than one counter on a pip (to protect it from your opponent) is a good idea, it’s a really bad idea to build giant stacks on one pip. If you do this, you can get stuck and be very limited in the moves you can make.
For example, imagine you had every counter on a single pip, and your opponent has two pieces on each of the four pips in front of them. Suddenly, you’d need to roll a 5 or 6 to move your pieces, as you can’t land on a pip that your opponent has more than one piece on. Spreading your pieces out gives you more flexibility. You don’t want to be stuck and wasting your turn as your opponent can gain a big advantage.
Unlike some popular casino classics like online slots, backgammon is a game that requires strategic thinking. Sometimes in backgammon, it’s better to play for three points rather than one point – even if you’re behind. For example, let’s say you’re playing a first-to-five match and you’re trailing 2-3. Your opponent uses the doubling cube, and you accept. At this point, you should re-double.
Why? Because, if you lose the two-point match, you lose the whole contest. So, it makes sense for you to re-double and make it a four-point match. If you lose, you’ll lose the contest – so no change. But, if you win, you’ll earn four points instead of two, which means you’ll win the entire contest yourself.
In backgammon, a prime is a series of six pips, each of which is covered by at least two pieces. With a prime in place, your opponent can’t get past, no matter what they roll. This can buy you valuable time to get all of your pieces into an ideal position, knowing that your opponent is stuck while you set yourself up for the win.
Of course, even primes need to be treated with caution. At some point, you’ll have to break up your prime – which could give your opponent the chance to counter-attack. So, always make sure you have a strategy in place to leap over your opponent quickly once your prime breaks up.
To get started, you might want to play backgammon online for free – just until you learn the rules. This gives you the chance to get comfortable and make mistakes without any added pressure. When you’re ready, shift to a real money game.
The best backgammon sites largely depend on your personal preferences. There are lots of things you need to take into consideration including the type of backgammon you prefer, how experienced you are at backgammon, and whether or not backgammon bonuses factor into your decision. Nonetheless, you can find a handful of our personal favourite backgammon casinos at the top of this page.
Most online casinos make it easy for you to play on mobile. Generally, the action plays out just the same on mobile and desktop. But the layout will be edited to make it easier for you to play on a smaller screen, using touch screen buttons instead of normal desktop icons.
Just like regular casinos, backgammon casinos usually offer new players the chance to scoop up a backgammon bonuses when they first join the site. This could be in the form of a deposit bonus, where you deposit funds and the casino tops it up with bonus money. As an existing player, you can also pick up additional casino bonuses and loyalty points at the best backgammon casinos.
It can be difficult to judge online backgammon casinos before you join them. That’s why we complete 100’s of independent casino reviews so you can get an insight before you spent your hard-earned money. You can find out about licenses, bonuses, customer service and more.
There are plenty of legal backgammon casinos around the world which are easily accessible online. In India, certain regions – such as Sikkim – allow legal, regulated gambling. But because the onus is usually on the backgammon casino rather than the individual player, many players in India enjoy playing at the top backgammon online casinos freely.