Backgammon Online and Off

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Finding a Backgammon opponent isn’t the chore that it once was. Most towns have recreation centers where games can be played, and membership clubs have sprung up all over the world. The Internet has made venues easy to find, and thanks to the latest gaming technology, virtual games can be played online, too.

Beltway Backgammon Club, for example, serves the greater Washington, D.C. area, while the New York Athletic Club’s Backgammon Club traces its roots back nearly a century and offers lessons from “rudimentary to ruthless.” California has clubs from San Diego and L.A. to “Backgammon by the Bay” in Berkeley, and the U.S. Midwest is home to dozens of clubs, from Chicago Bar Point BC established in 1983 to suburban Detroit’s Metro North BC and the Ohio State BC in Akron.

Over in the U.K., Backgammon is just as prolific. In the London area, fortnightly knockouts are offered at two venues—Camden Town and Fulham—plus there is an event in South London every Sunday at Crystal Palace. Dublin, Kent and Edinburgh have a pair of clubs apiece. Others can be found in Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Herts, Rugby, Chester, and at least a dozen other locations.

A typical Backgammon Club (BC) will offer play mainly for fun, not cash. It will charge membership dues, offer lessons from beginning to advanced, grade players by their abilities from novice to champion, and organise tournaments on a regular basis. If an entry fee is required—commonly £1~£2—there may be cash prizes for winners, but gambling is typically discouraged.

Advancing the awareness, participation, education and enjoyment of skill-based Backgammon is the role of numerous nonprofit associations. They range from city-level, like the Atlanta Backgammon Association in Georgia, to state, regional and national organisations, such as the British Isles Backgammon Association (BIBA) established in 1989 and the U.S. Backgammon Federation founded in 2009.

The World Backgammon Association (WBA) is widely regarded as the leading international authority for the game. Inaugurated in Beverly Hills, California in 2001, but now based in Malta, the WBA was the brainchild of renowned professional Chiva K. Tafazzoli, a German citizen born in Iran. The association currently counts among its members the Backgammon governing bodies of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Venezuela and Iran.

Meanwhile, the game has found a very different following in cyberspace, where participation knows no boundaries. First Internet Backgammon Server (fibs.com) has been offering free, non-commercial play since 1992, with registered members playing simply for “ratings.” MSN Games by Zone.com (est. 1997) has gaming rooms and tournaments for free, too, and no software download is required.

Commercial web sites such as NetGammon allow free play for a limited time period and charge an annual subscription thereafter. True gaming sites, like BGroom.com and PartyGammon, don’t charge fees, but for real money match play they take a “rake” or commission from any amount won, typically from 3.9% to 5.4%, depending on the number of points staked.

The advantages of playing backgammon online are many, starting with the convenience and ease of finding opponents at one’s own skill level to the great variety of tournaments, match games and “ladders,” which allow players to move up from rung to rung in the web site’s rankings. Promotions abound, too, including bonuses for joining, freeroll tournament entries, cashback offers, deposit matching and more.

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