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Playing Guide: Backgammon: Luck or Skill?

Last updated on May 2, 2024

The Deluxe Backgammon team finished our normal Monday night session by witnessing the final game being won with a ridiculous run of high doubles. The losing finalist never stood a chance, the few opportunities they had to hit were missed and the high rolls just kept coming. All backgammon enthusiasts know that the element of luck is what makes the game so thrilling. The nuances of the dice mean the lead can change every move and there is always the opportunity for an outrageous piece of fortune. Anyway, the final brought up the often-asked question, backgammon is it luck or skill?

Backgammon, luck or skill?
Backgammon, luck or skill?


Backgammon is a game of skill. It involves strategy, tactics and probability. This was even once confirmed in a court of law. In the 1982 court case, State of Oregon v Barr, the State argued that backgammon is a game of chance and that it was, therefore, subject to Oregon’s tough gambling laws. After the closing arguments, Judge Stephen S. Walker concluded that backgammon is a game of skill, not a game of chance, and found the defendant, backgammon tournament director Ted Barr, not guilty of promoting gambling. It is important to note that because of the randomness of the dice, the skill factor, is really only applicable over the long run.


In the short run, even a rank beginner, can beat a world-class player given luck and the volatility of the dice. That luck may last a game or two or perhaps three, but it would be all but impossible for the luck to hold out for a longer streak. The backgammon master is unlikely to lose an 11-point match. A lot of the fun in backgammon comes down to the unpredictability of the dice. Part of what makes the gaming so exciting is the uncertainty and the chance for someone to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat through a series of unlikely rolls. Take away that excitement and a lot of players will turn their backs on the game.

Frans Francken, Monkeys Playing Backgammon.
Frans Francken, Monkeys Playing Backgammon.

If there was no luck, the better player is all but certain to win. A lot of players would simply rather not play if they knew they were going to lose every single time. If you really want to enjoy Backgammon you need to accept the vagaries of the dice and understand in the short term you will lose matches to inferior players. This is all part of the charm of backgammon and you need to trust in your skills and take a long-term perspective.

Related content

Game of skill at Wikipedia.

A complete list of Playing Guides is available on this link.

Backgammon rules are available on this link.

Rules of thumb. Overall, these rules will help to simplify your decision-making process.


  1. Beryl Beryl

    It is the element of luck that makes backgammon such fun. A run of bad luck can really shatter your confidence.

    • Jason Jason

      Hi Beryl, psychology is a big part of the game. Thanks for commenting, Jason

  2. Patrica Patrica

    Great post, it is easy to forget that backgammon has a lot of skill that makes a difference over the long run.

    • Jason Jason

      Hi Patricia, you are right, the game is about skill, not beginner’s luck. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Bob Bob

    I have been playing backgammon for over 50 years, it is definitely a skill-based game, but luck is what makes it so exciting.

  4. Robin Robin

    I am new to backgammon, its a great game, the balance of luck & skill is perfect. You never know what will happen next. Great website.

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