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Backgammon etiquette

Last updated on April 14, 2021

Beginner’s guide. How to play backgammon.

Backgammon has its own protocols for what is considered an acceptable style of play. Like many other games, this has evolved into an unwritten code of etiquette that players are expected to follow. Some poor playing habits can really annoy your opponent and spectators alike.  It is simply good manners to avoid doing these things and follow the accepted protocol.

Below are some basic explanations about what is considered poor and good etiquette when playing backgammon. Good sportsmanship should be at the heart of every game. A more complete list of Playing Guides is available on this link.

Poor etiquette

  • Don’t remark on supposedly lucky rolls of the dice your opponent may make. It suggests that they are fortunate rather than skilled. Everybody has been the recipient of a lucky roll or two. Luck is part of the game and the good must be taken with the bad. It is also considered bad form to complain of bad rolls of the dice.
  • Apologies for your good fortune are unnecessary and poor form. Your opponent is fully aware that three consecutive doubles is outrageously lucky, so they don’t need to be reminded by your profuse apologies.
  • Always consider your moves carefully, but do not waste time. Even if you are playing without clocks or an agreed time interval make your moves in a reasonable time frame.
  • Don’t do other activities whilst playing the game.  It is extremely poor manners to use your phone or to engage in outside conversations during the game.  Always give your game your full attention.
  • It’s poor form to comment on lucky rolls. It is also poor form to mock or deride bad moves. We all make blunders during play and no one needs these pointed out. It’s poor sportsmanship and very off-putting for players and spectators alike.
  • Don’t move the doubling cube unless you have decided to use it. It’s off-putting to touch and pick up the doubling cube when you’re just considering a double. It’s also poor tactically, as you let your opponent into your thought processes.
Good luck is part of the game.

Good etiquette

  • At the start of a match always introduce yourself to your opponent. Shake hands and wish them the best of luck. Be friendly and start the game with a positive mindset. Remember that backgammon is a game that we all should play for fun.
  • Likewise, at the end of a game, always thank your opponent. Be sure to be humble in both victory and defeat.
  • Always make sure your opponent has completed their turn before beginning to shake your dice. When rolling, always ensure you shake the dice properly with at least three or four shakes in the cup.
  • Both players should keep track of scores to ensure you are both in agreement.  Announce scores and acknowledge it when your opponent does so. Resolve all differences of opinion immediately.
  • It is generally considered good form to allow the winner to roll out, but it is also good form to concede a game when victory is impossible. It’s a fine line, but most experienced players should be able to discern the correct behaviour.
  • These rules also apply to spectators. When observing a match spectators should not comment on any aspect of play within the audible range of the players. This because commenting could be construed as coaching, particularly if the merits of specific moves are discussed.
Sometimes the dice are not your friend.

Backgammon is meant to be pleasant and enjoyable. Always consider the effect your behaviour and actions will have on your opponent and the spectators. It is all part of the psychology of the game. Always play the game in good spirit.

Remember these points the next time you take out your luxury backgammon set for a game. Finally, for most of us backgammon is just a pastime, remember this and enjoy.

Backgammon rules are available on this link.

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