Backgammon Etiquette

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Like all games played heads-up between two opponents, Backgammon requires a certain amount of decorum to keep the action from turning into a brawl. Following are some unofficial “common sense rules” that can be useful in avoiding any potential unpleasantries while enjoying the competition of the game.

Hello and Goodbye – Greeting an opponent in a friendly manner is always a good first move. It may include shaking hands and a bit of social chit chat, but never sit down and simply start rolling the dice. Similarly, when the game ends, win or lose, it is appropriate to thank the other player for the game and conclude with another handshake if one was offered at the start.

Starting Out – Be sure to agree on all rules before beginning. There are many Backgammon variations, so do not assume that an opponent plays by the same rules that to which you are accustomed. For example, if a Crawford game is to be played, announce so clearly at the start and remove the doubling cube from the board.

Scoring – It is recommended that both players keep score. Be sure to agree on the way gammons and backgammons will be scored as well as on any limits for doubling. At the end of the game, announce the score or confirm the opponent’s announcement of the score. If there is a disagreement regarding the results, calmly go over the events of the game to discover where the discrepancy lies.

Dice Handling – Always shake the dice at least three times before rolling them out. Never shake while the opponent is playing or thinking about a play, unless playing a Greek version of the game. Don’t pick up the dice after a roll until all moves have been made as desired. Also, don’t roll until the opponent has clearly picked up his/her dice.

Doubling – Be very clear in all gestures and statements. Place the doubling cube gently in the middle of the Bar and say “double.” When taking the double, move the cube to your side of the Bar and say “take.” When declining, say “drop” or “pass.” Refrain from handling the doubling cube unless intending to double. Touching the cube, consciously or unconsciously, without doubling may even be a form of cheating, trying to check out an opponent’s reaction.

Keep Pace – Unless playing a speed game, such as Hyper-gammon, quick rolling should be avoided. It unfairly rushes the opponent into playing. Rolling too soon, or just as the opponent is picking up the dice, might create conflict as to whether the player had truly finished the play and whether or not the roll counts. On the other hand, don’t play at a snail’s pace. Take sufficient time to think about tough plays or cube decisions, but don’t delay the game deliberating over obvious moves. Stalling reduces both the fun and the fairness of the game.

Distractions – Never engage in conversations with observers or players at the next table. Avoid talking on the cell phone or texting, listening to music through headphones, or taking any other action that might be seen as an attempt to distract an opponent from play. The greatest success is achieved by giving full and polite attention to the game.

Common Courtesy – Treat your opponent the way you would wish to be treated. Sit quietly and be still while he/she is thinking or playing. Don’t point out the opponent’s luck, good or bad, as if skill is not involved. Similarly, don’t gloat over your own good roles or complain about your bad ones.

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