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Backgammon: more FAQ

Last updated on May 27, 2024

We’ll answer some questions that come up a lot and haven’t been covered in our other discussions on backgammon basics. You might think that some of these questions are strange as they talk about animals and other odd terms. Other questions are practical things that relate to backgammon and its gameplay, but all of them are still part of backgammon basics.

Why are there beavers and raccoons in backgammon?

Beavers and raccoons aren’t actual animals in backgammon. These terms refer to optional rules for the cube action occurring in the game. If one player doubles and the opponent accepts the double and decides their position is good enough, they may immediately redouble while retaining possession of the cube. This immediate redouble without giving up the cube is called a beaver.

Backgammon FAQ. Link to the doubling cube.
The doubling cube.

A raccoon is another optional rule similar to a beaver. If a player beavers, then in games that allow raccoons, the opponent (the one who offered the original double) can re-double on the beaver, and then gain the cube again. Games that allow raccoons often become high stakes games very quickly. This is because when a raccoon is offered, the doubling cube is at least 8.

Playing beavers and raccoons is optional. It should be agreed between players beforehand whether or not they are playing by this rule.

What is the backgammon Jacoby rule?

The Jacoby rule is another optional rule in backgammon, but it is more common among games in money play. This rule was promoted by Oswald Jacoby and was named after him. The idea behind this rule is to avoid a time-consuming backgammon game by waiting for one player to get a gammon rather than doubling for a single point. The Jacoby rule states that gammons and backgammons will not give the extra points if a double has not been accepted by your opponent. The Jacoby rule is a rule used in tournaments to keep the game interesting.

How do automatic doubles work in backgammon?

This is another optional rule in backgammon. If both players throw the same number on the first roll of a game, the stakes are doubled. The doubling cube is turned to 2 and stays in the middle. Players usually agree to limit the number of automatic doubles to one per game. For example, if two automatic doubles have occurred putting the cube up to 4, the first in-game double will be for 8 points.

What is the Crawford rule in backgammon?

The Crawford rule is not an official backgammon rule, but it is routinely used in tournament match play. The rule is designed to make match play more equitable for the player in the lead. If a player is 1 point away from winning a match, that player’s opponent will always want to double as early as possible in order to catch up. Whether the game is worth 1 point or 2, the trailing player must win to continue the match. To balance the situation, the Crawford rule requires that when a player first reaches a score 1 point short of winning, neither player may use the doubling cube for the following game, called the “Crawford game”. After the Crawford game, the normal use of the doubling cube resumes.

Is there a touch-move rule in backgammon?

No, you are not required to move a checker if you touch it. You can actually move one or more checkers, change your mind, replace the checkers and make a completely different move. However, once you have picked up the dice, the move is over and cannot be changed.

What is the bar?

The bar is the raised ridge down the centre of the backgammon board which separates the players’ home boards from their outer boards. The bar is where checkers are placed after they have been hit. The point next to the bar on each player’s outer board is known as the bar-point.

Can I double if I am on the bar?

Yes, you can double at the start of your turn. However, be aware that if you are closed out by a home board six-prime, your opponent may roll quickly as you have no valid move. In this instance, you would have to politely ask your opponent to wait.

What is the lover’s leap?

The ‘Lover’s Leap‘ is the only ‘named’ opening move in backgammon. It is the name given to the 6-5 opening roll, which allows one of the back checkers to escape to the mid-point. It is not restricted to the opening move and can generally be made early in the game as long as your opponent has not secured their bar-point.

Backgammon FAQ. Link to opening moves.
Lover’s leap.

What is the rule of 8?

The rule of 8 is a method of determining your position in the race based on the average roll of two dice. Normally, the average for two dice is 7. However, as doubles count as 4 moves, the average in backgammon is 8, or 8.1667 to be precise. Therefore if you are ahead by 8 in the race it equates to 1 average roll. A lead of two to three rolls is significant.

How can I win every time at backgammon?

The simple answer is, you can’t. Backgammon is a game of skill and luck. In any given game, a string of lucky rolls or high numbers can gift a win to the most inexperienced of players. However, in the long run, luck evens out and skill becomes a significant factor. Therefore a first time player could get lucky in a single game. However, in a match of 7 or more games against an experienced player, the beginner would almost certainly lose. Understanding tactics, strategy and probability will greatly increase your chances of winning.

The Deluxe Backgammon playing guides will help all beginners improve their game.

More FAQ

Backgammon Beginners – FAQ.

Backgammon rules – FAQ.

A comprehensive glossary from Backgammon Galore.


  1. Tom Scott Tom Scott

    Is there ever a scenario where neither player can move, since they both have a checker on the bar and both players have blocked all their home points blocked? If so would this scenario be called?

    • Jason Jason

      Hi Tom, if that scenario was possible, I guess it would be referred to as a stalemate. However, it is not possible in backgammon. If both players have closed out their home boards (which is possible), leaving the remaining checkers in the outer boards it is possible for a hit to occur. If, for example, the red checker hits a white checker sending it to the bar. The white checker then needs to re-enter from the bar before any other move can occur. However, it is completely blocked and needs to wait until the red player breaks down their home board prime. Until that happens, there is no way for white to hit a red checker. I hope this helps, thanks for commenting. Jason

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