BACKGAMMON Game Rules and How to Play Guide

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In this article, I will introduce you to the basic rules of the board game Backgammon and show you how to play. The object of the game is to be the first player to move all their checkers off the board. The first player to accumulate the predetermined point total across several games wins.


Layout the board horizontally between the two players. The board consists of 24 triangles called points. They are divided into four quadrants White’s home base, white’s outer board, Red’s home base, and Red’s outer board. The home bases need to be across from each other.

Imaginary sequential numbers ascend from each home base into the outer boards then back into their opponent’s home base. These numbers indicate how many points a given checker is from being Baird off the board.

Each player places two checkers on their 24-point, 5 checkers on their 13-point, 3 on their eighth-point, and five on their six-point. Give each player a die cup and two dice. Place the doubling cube on the side of the board.

Point total

Before starting the first game both players agree to a point total goal that they will be playing to. The point total must always be an odd number. The point total can be any number but is usually somewhere between 1 and 25. The most common are 5, 7 or 9.

Each player rolls one die. The player with the highest die goes first but uses the results of both dice rolled on their first term. If it is a tie then both players re-roll. When rolling dice you must roll both dice together in your cup into your right-hand section of the board. If any dice go outside your board land, on a checker, or doesn’t land flat the roll is invalid. Then, you must reroll both dice.

Legal turn

A turn is completed when the player picks up his dice. If the play is incomplete or otherwise illegal the opponent has the option of accepting the play as made or requiring the player to make a legal play.

A play is deemed to have been accepted as made when the opponent rolls his dice or offers a double to start his own turn. If a player rolls before his opponent has picked up the dice to complete his turn the player’s role is voided. This rule is generally waived anytime a play is forced, like when your opponent is unable to play.

Moving checkers

The dice indicate how many points you can move a checker. Checkers always move around the board in the direction from your opponent’s home base to their outer board, to your outer board than into your home base.

A checker may only be moved to an empty point, a point, you already have checkers in, or a point that is occupied by exactly one opponent checker. A single die number may not be split across multiple checkers. You must use the entire dice number for one checker’s move. You may move the same checker more than once a turn.

Rolling doubles

In order to apply multiple dice to a single checker, you must be able to fully move that checker into each hop along the path as it moves the total distance. You are not allowed to add together the sum of the dice and move the checker in one giant move.

A player who rolls doubles plays the numbers shown on the dice twice for a total of four moves. The player may move any combination of checkers he feels appropriate to complete this requirement. A player must use both numbers of a roll if it is legally possible. And, also, all four numbers of a double roll.

When only one number can be played the player must play that number. If either number can be played but not both the player must play the larger one. When neither number can be used the player loses his turn. In the case of doubles when all four numbers cannot be played the player must play as many numbers as he can.

Captured checkers

A point occupied by a single checker of either color is called a blot. If an opposing checker lands on a blot, the blot is removed and placed on the middle raised area of the board called the bar.

Anytime a player has one or more checkers on the bar his first obligation is to enter those checkers into the opposing home board. A checker is entered by moving into an open point corresponding to one of the numbers of the rule dice. One being the twenty-four point and six being the nineteen point.

If neither of the points is open the player loses his turn. If a player can enter some but not all of his checkers he must enter as many as he can and then forfeit the remainder of his turn.

After all the player’s checkers on the bar have been entered any unused numbers on the dice must be played by either moving the checker that was just entered or a different checker. Once a player has moved all 15 of his checkers into his home board he may begin bearing them off.

Bearing off checkers

A player bears off a checker by rolling a number that corresponds to the point on which the checker resides and then removing that checker from the board. A player is under no obligation to bear off if he can make an otherwise legal move.

If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll the player must make a legal move by using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points the player is required to bear off a checker from the highest point on which one of his checkers resides.

A player must have all of his checkers in play in his home board in order to bear off. If a checker is hit during the bear off process the player must bring that checker back to his home board before continuing to bear off. The first player to bear off all fifteen checkers wins the game.

Doubling mistakes

Backgammon is played for an agreed to stake per point. Each game the stakes start at one point. During the game, a player may propose doubling mistakes. He may do this only at the start of his turn before he has rolled the dice.

A player who has offered a double may refuse in which case he conceived the game and pays one point. Otherwise, he must accept the double and play on for the new higher stakes.

A player who accepts a double becomes the owner of the cube and only he may make the next double. When the stakes are doubled more than once in the same game these are called three doubles.

If a player refuses a redouble he must pay the number of points that were at stake prior to the redouble. Otherwise, he becomes the new owner of the cube and the game continues at twice the previous stakes. There is no limit to the number of redoubles in a game.

Gammon and backgammon

Use the doubling cube to keep track of the current game stake. At the end of the game, If the losing player has borne off at least one checker he loses only the value showing on the doubling cube.

However, if the loser has not borne off any of his checkers he is gammon and loses twice the value of the doubling cube. Or worse, if the loser has not borne off any of his checkers and still has a checker on the bar or in the winner’s home board he is backgammon and loses three times the value of the doubling cube.

Add the points from the stakes to the winner. Then, reset and play again. The first player to reach the predetermined point total across multiple games wins.

Optional rules

The following optional rules are in widespread use.

Automatic doubles

If identical numbers are thrown on the first roll the stakes are doubled. The doubling cube is turned to two and remains in the middle. Players usually agree to limit the number of automatic doubles to once per game.


When the stakes are doubled, the player receiving the double may immediately redouble or beaver while retaining possession of the cube. The original doubler has the option of accepting or refusing as with a normal double.

The Jacobi rule

Gammons and backgammon x’ count only in single games if neither player has offered a double during the course of that game.

Backgammon How to Play Video Tutorial

I made a how to play Backgammon video tutorial. Check it out:

Backgammon Game on the Market

The board game Backgammon is on the market in many versions. The one that I refer to in this article I link to here:

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