BackgammonMasters exists since 2006, the owner bought the whole package of software, server and license from JD Lucky Skill Ltd. Therefore all money transfers and regulations fall under the law of Cyprus, where Lucky Skill is located.
There have been rumors for quite a while saying they are using robot players to make it look as if there was a lot of action, but the amount of active real players is only a handful. The company never admitted the use of robots, but they never denied it either and the behavior of most players during game play is so obvious robot like (i.e. they never chat) that this has become an open secret.
There seem to be plenty of players waiting at all times, who will jump on anyone who logs on, meaning you will always find a match within seconds, but this may be just another indication for robot players.
BackgammonMasters do not accept US players from specific states and they also use an unclear wording for further restrictions, saying you are not allowed to play there if you live in a place from where using this server is forbidden.
The backgammonmasters software is a downloadable client, which installs, updates and sets language automatically, as far as your language is supported.
The client software and connection to the server as well as the speed of game play is one of the fastest and most stable ones I´ve seen. A robot located on the site itself doesn´t require a connection to a second player, also a robot never thinks long about his move, so if the rumors are true, this would explain why the games there are much faster than anywhere else.
Graphics in lobbies and at the board are well designed; columns in list views can be sorted.
The board is a default 3D design without alternatives, no skins to choose, no option for 2D view. The only option they offer is an avatar view, which displays the image of a person above the board.
There is a variety of options during game play, from private game and silence chat to auto roll and auto bear off. The software has sound effects, for players and kibitzers.
You can watch other players, and (except of tournaments) players can disable kibitzing; if kibitzing is open, a short message is shown in the chat box whenever someone joins or leaves the table.
The software doesn´t save any kind of log file, matches cannot be replayed and other than taking screenshots there is no way to prove anything at all in case something goes wrong.
Chat is limited to a tiny window at the tables, where any halfway long sentence will already exceed the size of the window, system messages are mixed into the chat, all without any sound, meaning most of the time you won´t even notice when your opponent tries to tell you something.
No lobby chat, no private messaging, no forum on BackgammonMasters .
There are several rooms to choose, separated by stakes, play money or real money, single games and matches, every room has preset stakes and limits to play for, organized in a tree structure similar to Windows Explorer.
Backgammonmasters have something they call rating, but it does not have much in common with a usual rating system. Every room has its own rating, no matter what rating you have in one room; in all other rooms the rating is not effected. Ratings go up and down direct related to money won or lost, regardless of opponents skills. It seems that most players are able to reset their rating frequently which makes the rating almost meaningless and is another indication for house robots.
They offer play for real money as well as play money, a wide range of possible deposit and withdrawal options, including credit card, wire transfer, Neteller, PayPal and several others.
Processing time is average, deposits are usually instantly and withdrawals take about a week.
They pay some big bonuses for new players, such as a first deposit bonus, but they have a very tricky system of requirements for that. For example if you begin to play with bonus money and you manage to win some more, you must make a deposit for as much money as your account value is before you can cash out anything.
They do not charge any kind of fees other than rake and tournament registrations.
Software downloads and usage, signups, membership, deposits and withdrawals, and play for play money are absolute free of charge.
The rake structure is progressive, depending on stakes and rating differences and very complicated to overview.
In general they charge a rake “per player”, but winner pays both, which means all rakes are for the winner twice as much as the page shows.
The basic rake is in almost any case around 4% per player, decreased by 50% in between same ratings and increased by up to 200% upon rating differences. Since most players (robots?) keep their rating at a very low level this means anyone who won a bit of money there will almost always pay 24% rake for a win.
In the standard rooms they offer only preset stakes and limits giving only a 5 choices between $2.50 with limit $10 and $50 with limit $200.
They also offer rooms with open tables, where you can set stakes and limit yourself, but the minimum stake in these rooms is $15, I never saw anyone playing in there.
They offer a number of Sit and Go tournaments for 4 or 8 players; registration fee is usually 10% of buy in.
BackgammonMasters also offer something they call “FreeRolls” 6 times per day, which has nothing in common with the meaning of the word. These cost a flat entry (they name it Administration Fee) of $4.50, regardless of prize pool. Since the amount of participants always exceeds the prize pool, this is a very bad deal, because the pool doesn´t increase.
Occasionally they hold special events with real big jackpots like $3.000, in these they usually charge $10 Administration Fee, but at least the amount of participants rarely exceeds the prize pool there.
I haven´t found any kind of bug in the software, everything seems to run smooth and correct, even when playing someone who seems to be a robot, the dice seem fair.
(I´m not really sure whether the word “fair” is appropriate for a site using robot players playing at world class level hidden behind regular nicknames and low ratings.)
A few advanced features such as auto play forced moves are missing, but over all they provide a comfortable environment. Missing log files is a major downside though.