Ask The Rake: How do you play backgammon?

The Rake’s Editor-in-Chief Tom Chamberlin informs us how to play a good game of backgammon, and what can be comforts or distractions whilst playing.
Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, 1935 (Photo by John Engstead/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock (5881238d)

Backgammon looks complex, but is remarkably simple, even for someone without the ability to perform basic arithmetic, like me. There is some gratification in seeing people looking on in awe at an incomprehensible set of discs and spikes with no alphanumeric guidance as to how it all works, and yet after each role I somehow know what to do, and the more you play, the faster you work out where things should go.

Much like with tailoring, cigars and other good bad habits, it was Nick Foulkes that introduced me to backgammon. He would tell me about the all-nighter tournaments at White’s, or the flights to Cuba with Edward Sahakian of Davidoff of London. It is perhaps the only endurance sport in the world that is actually enhanced by the presence of cigar smoke. How could I resist? It is a bit less 2022 than something like poker, chance plays a role but in backgammon, there is no deceiving the other player, there is no element of trickery, the dice is rolled and you have to work with what you get. All the world’s problems could be solved over a game of backgammon. So in the spirit of promoting harmony and peace, here is a very simple, perhaps underwhelming, introduction on how to join in.


April 2023


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