10 Most Common Backgammon Mistakes


I am an expert on Backgammon errors…I’ve been committing them for over 45 years. Maybe I can save you some pain by pointing out the most common errors I, and most other backgammon players, often make. I have also been teaching Backgammon for over 20 years, and I have seen players making these mistakes over and over.

  1. They come unprepared to play. Before you sit down to the table (or computer), there are things you need to know so that you have the best chance to win. In any money game or tournament, you should know the backgammon rules completely. You should be sure of the match length, the format, rules regarding cube and checker play, and rules regarding protocol. If you are playing matches, you should have an understand of basic match equity, take points, and cube strategy BEFORE you sit down, and you should think about those issues before every game in a match.
  2. They don’t consider all the plays. Most players roll the dice and immediately see a play they like. Good players look for alternatives. Often the best play is not the first, or even the second one you see. Don’t be one of those players that sees a great play just after they pick up the dice!
  3. They forget about the race. Counting pips is always important. A play could be very right or very wrong depending on whether you are winning or losing the race. In the end, every game is a race!
  4. They forget the score. In a match, the score can greatly affect both cube and checker play decisions. One play might be right at one score and very wrong at another. Before every game in a match, you should stop and think about what your basic strategy and goals are given the score of the match, and you should adjust your checker play and cube strategy accordingly.
  5. They forget about the Doubling cube. Many plays are right if the cube is in the center, but wrong if it is already turned. There are times it is right to play for the gammon if the cube is not turned, but very wrong if the cube is in the center. And of course, one of the most common errors most of us make is not doubling when we should, or doubling when we shouldn’t, or taking or dropping incorrectly. It’s difficult enough to make the right decisions all the time, but simply not thinking about the cube because you are engrossed in the game puts you at a huge disadvantage.
  6. They misjudge the importance of gammons and backgammons. At different scores backgammons are very important and worth taking some chances to win. At other scores, it’s better to play safe.
  7. They take too many risks. Many players love to hit, and if they can hit two, all the better. Hitting is often right, and often wrong. I know players who would rather hit than win!
  8. They take too few risks. Playing too safe is just as risky as playing to risky! “Sometimes the greatest risk is to take no risk at all.” Backgammon requires you to take calculated risks, to hit and leave blots instead of stacking up checkers or throwing checkers out of play. It takes study and experience to really know when to hit and when to play safe, but if you are in the habit of always doing one or the other, there’s no question you’re making big mistakes.
  9. They get in over their heads. This applies to money games. If you are playing for stakes that are higher than you can afford, you are likely to drop cubes you should take, or fail to give cubes you should give. You will be afraid to take risks you should take with your checker play as well. If you can’t take a 64 cube and still pay the rent, you shouldn’t be in the game. Also, if you look around the table and don’t see the fish… Or if you wake up and they’ve sent a limo for you to get you to the game…you know you’re in the wrong game.
  10. They lose concentration and intensity. A backgammon game or match or tournament is usually not won or lost on one great or bad play…it is won or lost as a result of overall play. A 5% mistake will only cost you a match 5% of the time, but a series of small backgammon mistakes which add up to 70% will cost you the match 70% of the time. Winning backgammon requires consistent good play, every play and every cube decision, even when it looks obvious that you are going to win or lose a game. Top players stay focused and keep trying to make the best player no matter how hopeless or how certain the situation appears to be. You can’t play good backgammon while talking on the phone, watching TV, or looking at the pretty girls or handsome guys walking by.

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