Backgammon Rules

The fast pace and unpredictably of backgammon makes it one of the world’s most popular games. Combining the elements of luck and skill is what it takes to be a great online backgammon player. For those who don’t know how to play the game, don’t worry, it is not that difficult and with this simile breakdown of the backgammon rules you should be well on your way to be a top online backgammon player in no time.

Objective of Backgammon

Simply put, each player has 15 pieces or checkers as they are referred to and get all of them home before the other person. You can only start bearing off if all of your pieces are first in your home board. This is the same in online backgammon. Infact most of the backgammon rules are the same for online backgammon.

How Backgammon Begins

The backgammon rules are pretty straight forward. Each player begins with their 15 pieces set up exactly the way as their opponent. In online backgammon you don’t have to worry about setting up the board as it is done for you.

Every turn the players rolls the dice and moves his pieces as dictated to by them. The idea is to try and bring all your pieces home while trying to prevent the other player by doing the same. To see who goes first both players throw a single die and the one with the higher number takes both of those numbers to form his opening roll. If both dice are the same the players keep rolling until this isn’t the case. After that the players alternate rolling two dice.

Some people play that if both players roll the same number when determining to see who goes first the stakes are automatically doubled.

What the Dice Mean

The numbers rolled by the dice dictated how many spaces the player can move. If the roll is 1-6, the player can move two separate pieces one and six points or pips as they are referred to. The player could also advance a single piece by seven points.

One of the more well known backgammon rules is that in the event of rolling a double which means both dice show the same number the player has the ability to move four times the number shown on the dice and any combination of this. Hence the value of rolling a double-six.

If it was 3-3 the player has 12 points to play with which means moving two pieces six each or one three and one nine. He could move two three points each and one six or move four pieces three each.

Moving the Backgammon Pieces

You can not land on a point where your opponent has two or more pieces already there. Having two or more pieces on a single point is known as making a point. A made point can contain as many pieces as possible. A number of made points in succession is known as a prime.

In the event of him having a single one if you land on that point you hit him and that piece goes off the board and try to get back on the board via your home board.

One of the cardinal backgammon rules is that the pieces can only move forward.

If a player can, he has to use both of the numbers rolled. If either can be done but not both the larger one must be taken. In the event of a player being unable to do either number he loses his turn.

Hitting Blots and Re-entering the Backgammon Board

A single opposition checker is known as a blot. If you land on the point where the blot is you are said to have hit it and it leaves the board and is placed on the board. A player can not move any of his pieces until all pieces from the bar are back on the board. This is one of the more famous backgammon rules.

A player re-enters via the opponent’s home board.

Bearing Off

As soon as a player has all of his checkers in his home board he can start bearing off. If there are no checkers on the point as rolled you must move a checker from a higher point. If there are no checkers on higher point you can remove one from the highest point available.

A player is under no compulsion to bear off and can advance his pieces as opposed to bearing them off.


Doubling is an interesting concept in backgammon and one of the more interesting backgammon rules. The doubling cube begins in the middle of the board and either player has the option to double first. If the opponent accepts they are now playing for double the stakes of what they were previously. In return for accepting the double he takes possession of the doubling cube and now only he can next offer a double. It now shifts back and forth in the event of future doubles. If he declines he immediately forfeits the game at the stakes for which they were playing. This is one of the more sophisticated backgammon rules to master.

Even though it has a maximum of 64 on it, the amount of times the doubling cube can be passed back and forth in a game is infinite.

Gammons and Backgammons

If a player wins the game before his opponent has bared off a single one of his checkers that is known as a gammon and the victorious player wins double whatever the stakes they were playing for. If a player wins and the losing player still has a checker on the bar or in the winner’s home board that is known as a backgammon and the victorious player wins triple whatever the stakes they were playing for

At the end of the game, if the losing player has borne off at least one checker, he loses only the value showing on the doubling cube (one point, if there have been no doubles). However, if the loser has not borne off any of his checkers, he is gammoned and loses twice the value of the doubling cube. Or, worse, if the loser has not borne off any of his checkers and still has a checker on the bar or in the winner's home board, he is backgammoned and loses three times the value of the doubling cube.

Alternate Backgammon Rules

Like many games, backgammon has some rules which while aren’t official many players adhere to. If you contemplate playing with these please discuss them with your opponent beforehand so both players are clear on the rules.

When it comes to online backgammon the person making the table has the option to select the backgammon rules he wishes to play with and it is up to the player opting to join that table to be aware of the backgammon rules being played under before agreeing to play.

Backgammon Rules of thumb

This is more for when playing face to face than online backgammon but both dice must land flat on the board on the player’s right hand board. If this is not the case the player must re-roll both dice. It is up to the players how strict they are on this.

Written by Graham Wilson: Backgammon Expert.