Saturday, August 18, 2007


Everyone knows the procrastinative potential of Windows Solitaire and Minesweeper, some have advanced to Freecell or Spider solitaire. I like backgammon.

There's an online backgammon in Windows, and I've been able to play it now after a long while, as in the uni network these ports were rudely blocked. To me the charm of backgammon is the mixture of luck and skill, and it is of course at best played live, but playing online is a good substitute.

The windows game is just for short matches, and most players (myself included) are not that good. It is also very easy to just leave when things are going wrong, and matches are rarely played to the end, which is set to three points. I've just tested an online backgammon room called Play65. There you can play for real or fake money, there are more options for match length etc.

After a couple of games, my fake money account is about where I started from. I now realise that the one aspect of the game that I'm least familiar with is also the most important one when you are playing for "money", and that's the doubling cube. For those not familiar with the game, what it means is that if you think you are winning a round, you can offer to double the points/money that the winner gets. If your opponent accepts, the game goes on, if s/he discards the offer, you win immediately (the single points/stakes, of course). The hook is that once you double, your opponent gets the possession of the cube, and can then try to oust you if tables turn later on and you lose the advantage you thought you had when making the first doubling.

In short, it is a way to control the game, but you can also lose a lot (including control of the game) by doubling at the wrong time and of course lose if you accept doubles when you should discard. And this is an aspect that the Windows backgammon doesn't really teach you, although it is a good way to start playing backgammon and learn the basic moves.

And as with everything, there is no end to how far you can take it. I suppose there is a lot of money involved in online gaming and tournaments; as the game is about tactics and a lot of that is about assessing probabilities, computers have been enrolled into it, and the top backgammon calculator / bot retails for 360$, there are theories, forums, schools etc.

I'll stick to playing the occasional game online, before finding someone to play with here. Having said that, my new "boss" is the person who taught me to play the game in the first place, about 6 years ago, in a plane going from Amsterdam to Johannesburg...


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