How to Play Casino Backgammon

Published: 02/06/2012

The skill game known as Backgammon was once the world’s preeminent table game. Its roots trace back through the Middle Ages and the early Roman Empire to Mesopotamia, where 5,000-year-old game boards and pyramid-shaped dice have been unearthed in the tombs of Ur. The two-player game is still very popular in Europe and the Middle East, especially in countries around the Mediterranean.

Casino Backgammon is a variation of the original game, first introduced in 2010 in the pit area of O’Sheas Casino in Las Vegas. It is played on a table layout that resembles one side of a Backgammon board, with six triangular “points” in the Outer Board and six points on the Home Board separated by the Jump Bar. Initially, two playing pieces are placed on “Point 1,” which is two points from the Jump Bar.

Just like in traditional Backgammon, two dice are rolled by a designated shooter to determine how many points the pieces will move. The object of this game is to move the pieces over the Jump Bar on the first roll, and then off the board to the “Out Bar” in the next two to three rolls. Play begins with wagering on three possible outcomes: Jump, Out and Doubles, the latter being an optional side wager.

The Jump wager wins whenever both of the pieces can be moved over the Jump Bar in one roll. If successful, this bet pays out, depending on what Outer Boar points the pieces started from, at odds ranging from 3-to-5 (1-Point Jump) to 40-to-1 (5-Point Jump). Pieces move according to the numbers showing face up in the dice.

The Out wager wins whenever both of the pieces can be moved over the Out Bar on the second or third roll. If successful, this bet pays out, depending on what Home Board points the pieces started from, at odds ranging from even money (1-Point Out) to 9-to-1 (5-Point Out). Note that bets placed on the Jump and Out must be equal.

The optional Doubles wager wins whenever both dice show the same number (Doubles) on at least two of the three rolls. If successful, this bet pays out at odds of 3-to-1 for two non-equal Doubles, 20-to-1 for two equal Doubles and 100-to-1 for any three Doubles. Note that unlike traditional Backgammon, when Doubles are rolled the pieces move only the number of points show on the faces of the dice, not 2X that amount.

Some special rules apply to moving the pieces across the board. On the first roll, each piece must be moved; the numbers showing on the dice faces cannot be combined. On the second roll, the piece with further to go must be moved the number of points of the larger die roll, while the piece closer to going Out must be moved the number of points of the smaller die roll.

Also, the third roll is not automatically given. It is permitted only if the player rolls doubles on the first or second roll and pieces are still on the board or else a player has made the Doubles bet and at least one Doubles came up on the first or second roll. If after any Doubles bet the shooter does not wish to continue shooting, the dice may be passed.

Whenever the last Jump or Out bet results in a win, the shooter has the opportunity to continue to roll, with two fresh pieces placed on “Point 2,” three spaces from the Jump Bar. Wagers are made again and the game continues. As long as the last Jump or Out bets result wins, the shooter may continue on, starting from Point 3, then Point 4, etc., or else pass the dice. A new shooter always starts with the pieces at Point 1.

The best odds are obtained by wagering on the Jump or Out for Point 4, giving the House an edge of just 3%. The second best wager is to bet on the Jump or Out for Point 1, with a House advantage of about 4.3%. Point 2, by comparison, gives the House a margin of 6.4% and the other points have even worse odds for the player: 4.7% for Point 3 and 5.6% for Point 5.

Published on: 02/06/2012

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