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My Best Advice for New Backgammon Players
If you are a new backgammon player, or even if you have been playing for some time, there are 7 very basic, important things I think you would do well to remember. I have drummed these ideas into my students for the past 20 years, and I know they will help your game.
Backgammon is NOT a game of luck. It is a game of odds. The better you play the odds the more you will win. Not every time, but the better player will win more often than the worse player. Forget about luck…it comes and goes, and worrying about it or thinking about it will only distract you from concentrating on things you can control.
You cannot become a good backgammon player without help and study. Just playing and watching will not teach you the “theory” behind the moves and the cube. There are great books, articles, and teachers to help you. If you want to get good, you must rely on those teaching aids.
Every game of backgammon is a race. Even if the game ends with the cube, it is because one player is more likely to win the race than the other. If you don’t count pips; if you are not adjusting your play depending on the race; you’re not playing the game correctly.
The doubling cube is a weapon. It should be used to hurt your opponent. If turning the cube does not cause some pain or anxiety to your opponent, you are either cubing too early or too late.
Backgammon is a game of math. It’s all about odds, number of hits, number of covers, number of win, odds of a gammon, odds of winning or losing a game. Backgammon players who don’t learn the math and how to calculate and weigh the odds, have little chance against other players who do. Again, there are excellent backgammon books, articles, and teachers who can help you learn the basics. At first, learning the odds is not fun, but eventually it becomes second nature and becomes a lot of fun when you find yourself playing better and winning more.
If you want to play at the highest levels of the game, you must invest in a computer program…Snowie, GNUBG, and Jellyfish are the best. Top backgammon players are constantly putting positions into the computer to find out what the best play is and when to cube, and they often spend hours practicing against these programs. These programs are not perfect, and they are not as good as the very best players in the world, but they’re close, and they can teach you a lot.
It's all about the backgammon player's attitude - The number 1 thing that separates the great players from the good ones is attitude. Top players never give up, no matter how hopeless the situation looks. They are not just playing to beat their opponent, they are playing to see how well they can play and how much they can improve their game. It is an intellectual exercise, trying to outsmart their opponent and outsmart the dice.
Note: Phil Simborg has been teaching backgammon live and on line for over 20 years and he's now running a new section of backgammon Position Analysis at backgammon.co.uk.