Beginner's Guide to Backgammon Strategy

Maddy Marcus / June 22, 2020

Backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world. It has been around for nearly 5,000 years.

That's a long time for players to develop winning strategies. At first glance, it seems like a game of luck but knowing some of those strategies will help improve your odds of winning.

Let's look at backgammon strategy and how to win more games.

Basic Backgammon Rules

Backgammon is a two-player game. The board has 24 triangles called points which are divided into 4 sets of 6 points.

The sets are divided equally between both players, with a set of 6 making up their home board and another 6 making up their outer board. The open space dividing them is called the bar.

Each player gets 15 checkers and places them as follows at the beginning of the game:

  • 2 checkers on the 24 point
  • 5 checkers on the 13 point
  • 3 checkers on the 8 point
  • 5 checkers on the 6 point

The game includes 2 dice, a dice cup, and a doubling cube used to double the points in play if you're playing for points. Players don't win by earning points, they lose by losing them. The doubling cube ups the ante by doubling the points in play.

Each player rolls a single die to start and the highest roll plays first.

When it's your turn, you roll both dice and can either add the two values and move a single checker the total number of points or consider them separately and move two checkers - one the number of points on one die, one the other.

For example, let's say you roll a 3 and a 4. You can either move one checker a total of 7 points or you can move one checker 3 points and another 4 points.

You can move your checker to any point that your opponent doesn't control. They control it by having 2 or more checkers placed on one point. If they have 2 or more checkers on the point, it's considered blocked.

To win the game, you need to move all 15 of your checkers to the opposite side and then off the board.

How to Win at Backgammon: Strategy

There are several popular strategies for how to win at backgammon.

The Running Game

The running game is the simplest of these backgammon strategies. The object here is to run your checkers to your home board as fast as possible.

This strategy relies on luck. The player with the highest rolls will win if both players are using the running strategy.

This is a good strategy to use if your opening rolls are strong.

The Blitz

In the blitz strategy, the goal is to attack your opponent's vulnerable checkers. Try to land on their checkers whenever possible to send them back to the bar.

This strategy constantly sets your opponent back and could trap some of their checkers on the bar at the end of the game.

The Priming Strategy

The goal of the priming strategy is to make a connected series of "made" points. In other words, place two or more of your checkers on a connected series of points.

Because your opponent can't land on a point that you control, this strategy blocks their options. For example, if you control 4 points in a row, your opponent has to roll a 5 or higher to get past them.

The priming strategy is most effective when combined with the blitz. The combination of limited options and constantly getting knocked back to the bar stops your opponent from moving ahead in the game.

The Holding Game

In the holding strategy, you keep an anchor point on your opponent's home board. This gives you a place to land if one of your checkers gets sent to the bar.

This is a defensive strategy so it's not as likely to lead to a win as some of the others but it can be effective if your opponent gets the upper hand.

The Back Game

In this strategy, you try to hold both anchor points to force your opponent into an awkward position. This is another defensive strategy and is most effective when you're already well behind the other player.

Tips and Tricks of Backgammon

Backgammon seems like a simple game but looks can be deceiving. Trial and error will only get you so far - don't expect to become an expert by playing more games. Instead, read up on the game and study different strategies. The game's long history means there are plenty of resources available.

A good memory can help you win more games. Remember reference positions and the best plays to make from those positions. When the board matches that reference point, you'll know the most effective move to make. The more positions you can memorize, the more options you'll have at your fingertips.

Play with lots of people to learn from their different playing strategies. Find new partners to play with, play online, or join a local backgammon club to find new opponents.

<2>Play Backgammon Online

Playing online is one of the easiest ways to hone your backgammon strategy. You don't have to go searching for new people to play with and you can play whenever the mood strikes.

CoolmathGames.com offers a huge selection of board games that you can play online for free. Play our online backgammon or other popular games like checkers and chess.

Visit our site today to see what games are available and practice your strategy so the next time you play someone in person, you'll be prepared to win.