By Robert Wachtel
The internet has made many things easy that were once exasperating and time-consuming: shopping, banking, getting directions, stock trading, doing research, selling the junk that’s been cluttering your garage for years … the list goes on and on. Right up there with these killer applications is the net’s ability to find us partners. For the romantically inclined, this may mean other souls matched with yours on “29 levels of compatibility.” For us game players, it means opponents willing to play in the format, at the speed, and for the stakes that we like. And because the gaming business is so competitive, any game-matchmaking site that meets these basic requirements is likely to offer a whole menu of promotions and bonuses backgammon and other games) designed to attract and keep customers like you. Making use of these freebies is half the fun (or sport) of playing on line, but your first step is the most crucial one.
Let’s start with a cautionary tale: in 2003, one of my gambling buddies took me aside at a tournament. “You like playing poker,” he began. “Yes,” I replied. “Well, you should play on line. Why don’t you try blablaPoker site?” he suggested, and gave me a web link to sign up with. I had a similar conversation with another “friend” who recommended that I join a popularbackgammon site. I followed their lead – how could it hurt, after all? – but it was only after playing on these sites for years that I discovered that they had both made far more than I ever did off my play. As “affiliates” of the sites, they received a percentage in perpetuity of all the commissions (“rake”) that all of the dummies (like me) whom they had signed up paid for each poker pot or backgammon game we won.
1st Lesson: become an affiliate or ask for rakeback.
So here is lesson number one: be an affiliate first, a player second. Sign up all your friends and anyone else you can find, sit back and watch the money roll in. Nowadays it’s accepted practice to share some of your commissions with your sign-ups (it’s called giving them “rakeback”) – but you will still find some trusting souls (as I once was) who have no clue about such things. The question of how to treat them is a moral ball that will bounce into your court soon enough.
And before you even roll the dice or look at a card: remember that you are entitled to rakeback on your own play too. Do open your account through an affiliate, but find one only one who will generously share his commissions with you. If you don’t have a friend who is interested, there are lots of web sites (just do a Google search) which act as professional affiliates, catering to savvy on-line players like you. They usually offer rakeback of 20-30%.
2nd Lesson: Depositing bonuses in Backgammon and Poker sites
Now, you are ready to play. Still feel like getting the best of it? All on-line sites offer backgammon bonuses, and lots of “freerolls”: promotional tournaments with free entries and a variety of prizes, ranging from cash to free entries to bigger backgammon tournaments. In addition, the sites all allow you to accumulate “frequent player points” (the online analogue of the airlines’ “frequent flyer miles”) which can be used to enter more free tournaments or special competitions.
If you use all of the resources, you should do much better than the average player. But try to show a little class. The internet chat boards are filled with characters who boast about how they built up fortunes from freerolls on various sites, never depositing a penny anywhere. And on some sites, you will never see a tournament filled, no matter how small the entry fee, until a free-roll comes along. Then, miraculously, a full field of 512 players appears in the first minute of registration. This is not cool, people.