Backgammon Luck Or Skill

Thu, 29 May 2008 17:01

Backgammon Luck Or Skill

Is backgammon a game of luck or skill.


The game called backgammon has been around for a very long time. History has it that it's a one-board game like backgammon that is often played by lots of people even though its exact nature is still a subject of much debate.

Backgammon is played on a 2 x 12 square board of alternating colors. Movement and displacement of enemy pieces are ruled by the values scored by the rolled dice pretty much similar to other popular dice-centered games like Monopoly. In actuality, involved in our featured game are few most common elements found in games with similar gaming rules as backgammon, but above them all, it's the presence of dice that confuses both the general audience and the prospective gamers and the issue regarding backgammon luck or skill.

And so everything boils down to this: what really is this game backgammon  -- does it involve backgammon luck or skill?

The preceding is a legitimate question, particularly with the renewed popularity of backgammon, courtesy of the Internet. To answer it, we must first define luck, then skill. Luck is said to be the unknown phenomenon that causes certain events to happen. Luck is falling into the arms of a supermodel after jumping off the penthouse to commit suicide. Skill, is that which you acquire through regular training -- a knowledge learned through detailed and repeated experience. Skill is knowing the appropriate time to jump off the penthouse whenever the supermodel goes to work - after calculating wind velocity, the height of the building, the pull of gravity, and so on.

Sometimes, in certain backgammon games, your opponent appears to be ridiculously lucky, even after he has taken miscalculated risks. You, in the meantime, look like you were deserted by Lady Luck altogether, even after doing what you believe is a smart move. Could it be that the other players' backgammon luck or skill is greater than yours?

Let's say both of you decide to play another game of backgammon. Will he still be as lucky? Will he still get consistently good results?

Luck is certainly a factor in backgammon. However in law, it was declared as essentially a  skills game. In 1982, Ted Barr, a famous writer and tournament director of backgammon games, was suspected of endorsing gambling mainly through backgammon games. The presiding judge of the case pronounced in his verdict that 'backgammon was a game that needed skill and was not merely based on chance'. Barr did not merely get exonerated, he was also vindicated. The ruling declared backgammon as a game involving strategic skill, requiring an ability to gauge an opponent with arithmetic skills combined with probability laws.

The element of backgammon luck or skill only seems more apparent in backgammon than the skill factor due to the presence of dice. Its randomness has the appearance of favoring others, causing people to believe that some people are just born luckier than others. But what appears to look like a random throw of dice is not actually random -- it is in reality governed by the laws of probability.

You may not know probability, but you use it at all times. Throwing a coin has a 50% probability of landing heads up, while another 50% probability that it will come out tails up. You sometimes perceive there's 75% chance of passing your subject.

Probability is the numerical measurement of the possibility of an event to occur. Probability also means chance, and chance is what we also sometimes call luck. Now combine probability with one die.

The probability of one landing with one throw of a die is one in six. So it is in landing a two, a three, a four, a five, or a six. Rolling just one die has six different ways of landing, but what if there's two backgammon dice?

When  two dice are rolled, there are now 36 different ways the dice may turn up:

1 - 1
1 - 2
1 - 3
1 - 4
1 - 5
1 - 6
2 - 1
2 - 2
2 - 3
2 - 4
2 - 5
2 - 6
3 - 1
3 - 2
3 - 3
3 - 4
3 - 5
3 - 6
4 - 1
4 - 2
4 - 3
4 - 4
4 - 5
4 - 6
5 - 1
5 - 2
5 - 3
5 - 4
5 - 5
5 - 6
6 - 1
6 - 2
6 - 3
6 - 4
6 - 5
6 - 6
    

The odds that four will appear is eleven times out of 36, or 30.6%. The odds that doubles will appear is six out of 36. So 5-5 has a 16.7% probability of appearing and so on.

So if the dice throw can be calculated through the laws of probability, then the so-called randomness in the dice throw is not random at all. And when including doubling cube, luck factor gets diminished a good deal.

Introduced in the 1920's, the addition of doubling cube in backgammon games has upgraded the skill aspect and drew more people into the game. With doubling cube, the prizes in our featured game can be multiplied as it progresses. When doubled, the stakes can reach 64 times the initial, original stake. No luck is present with doubling skill - only the player's intuition and strategies are apparent.

As for strategy , it has also been said that like chess, backgammon also requires strategy. The prime goal of any player is to simply bear off all his checkers -- to move all his men round the board, into his board, and proceed to take them all off. Since all there is for you to do is move forward, tremendous planning is in order, as you must be sure you can just bear off all your men before the other players do.

To prove this, watch an amateur and a true-blue backgammon player play one game. The expert will always win against the beginner. The expert looks ahead -- he plans his next move and he simulates probable situations that can result from certain dice throws and makes full use of his backgammon luck or skill. He relies on his fine-tuned intuition, heightened by familiarity with the theories and axioms behind the game. There goes beginner's luck!

Every long-time player is most likely to ascertain you that the board game is really more of skill than of luck. Sometimes, the luck that you think is causing the other players to triumph in one game is actually skill learned over a time. A considerable degree of luck can still spell the gap between gammon and backgammon, though.

Backgammon games involve luck and skill. Luck is defined in the dice throw, but your reaction to the resultant throw is an indication of your skill.

Now, you may ask: How the heck can I get or accumulate that skill? Your skill generally improves with playing, and familiarization with the different backgammon techniques and strategies. As you go on, this accumulated knowledge becomes second nature to you, like instinct. Combined with your  personality, this will aid you in your decision-making processes as they are needed in backgammon.

Your investment in time and your natural ability -- nothing more, nothing less -- are the determinants of your odds in attaining the high degree of skill. So to all the would-be players out there, here's a good luck to you!