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A Lesson Relearned - Playing With An Edge
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Backgammon Then and Now – Playing With An Edge

Creator’s Word:  I performed backgammon professionally for nearly 20 years, then gave it up utterly. I reached the excessive intermediate degree, however a lot of the gamers that have been eager about playing with me have been higher. That was a prescription for catastrophe. I wanted to get a job as a result of I used to be not a profitable participant anymore. Right this moment’s weblog has nothing to do with video poker, but it surely does need to do with playing.

I performed most of my backgammon on the Cavendish West, which was within the West Hollywood part of Los Angeles, from about 1974 to 1993. A few of the regulars again then who’re nonetheless lively in match backgammon are Bob Glass, Jim Pasko, Steve Sax, Joe Russell, and Bob Wachtel. (There are seemingly others I don’t know are nonetheless taking part in.) They have been all higher than me again then, they usually’ve stored finding out the sport whereas I’ve devoted my consideration to different issues.

A few of our company on Playing with an Edge have been playing specialists who’ve written books and whose books we’ve reviewed. Invoice Robertie, Bob Wachtel, and Package Woolsey come to thoughts. There might have been others. Studying these books took me again right into a world I knew and cherished many years in the past.

I’m nonetheless fascinated by the sport, however at age 74 I don’t child myself that I may probably catch as much as the very best gamers immediately. I couldn’t sustain 45 years in the past. My psychological abilities have deteriorated considerably, and with computer systems, a lot of the what was a guess many years in the past is accepted as reality immediately. And nearly the entire finest gamers have been utilizing pc aids to review extensively.

So, sure, I may get the newest model of eXtreme gammon and enhance immensely within the subsequent nonetheless a few years I’ve, however I might by no means have the ability to problem those that have lived and breathed backgammon for a very long time.

On YouTube, nonetheless, there are lots of lots of of backgammon match video games archived. Some are commentated. Most will not be. For the reason that rankings of the very best backgammon gamers are listed on-line, it’s comparatively straightforward to seek out matches between glorious gamers. I discover this fascinating and instructive. I obtain extra pleasure watching previous backgammon matches than new Netflix reveals! Your mileage might range!

I’ve discovered the sport may be very completely different immediately. In tournaments, gamers usually use the identical two cube. One participant hits the clock to finish his transfer and begin his opponent’s transfer, and the opponent then picks up the field and rolls them. Once I performed, there have been two units of cube used, one for every participant, and there have been many arguments as to whose cube have been luckier and there have been intricate guidelines as to when and what number of instances you can change cube throughout a match.

I by no means performed with a clock. A backgammon clock immediately is considerably like a chess clock, besides there’s a built-in timer (often 10 to 12 seconds) the place time without work your clock doesn’t start till you undergo that in-built time. There have been matches the place gamers let their time go down to twenty seconds or much less, however nonetheless handle to play “velocity backgammon” with none time coming off of their clock and don’t get eradicated due to time.

Once I performed, there have been some gamers recognized for being cheaters. Presumably there nonetheless are, however I don’t see them on the YouTube movies I watch. Each 30 video games or so, one of many gamers makes a misplay and virtually all the time it’s talked about by the opposite participant and corrected instantly.

There are all the time gamers who’re dangerous losers. After they roll a number of significantly dangerous numbers in a row, or their opponent rolls significantly good numbers, the gamers bitterly rail about how unfair this recreation is. On the movies, I don’t see this — probably as a result of the gamers know they’re being videotaped and are on their good conduct.

In the event that they’re down to at least one roll and solely double sixes will win the sport for one of many sides, and double sixes come out, each gamers appear to simply accept it stoically. That is very a lot NOT what I bear in mind from once I performed.

Right this moment, match gamers are rated by how shut their performs agree with what the newest model of eXtreme gammon says. (I feel probably the most present is XG++). Low scores (say 1.0 or 2.0) are thought-about glorious. Greater scores aren’t. Once I performed, we by no means knew for positive how good a participant was. In all probability the very best gamers on the planet performed at a couple of 5.0 again then. Now, taking part in between 2.0 and three.0 for years is feasible. But when I had, say, a ranking of 12.0, hopefully I’d be sensible sufficient to keep away from taking part in for cash with somebody whose ranking was 3.0. I’d get creamed! These scores have diminished taking part in backgammon for cash.

Means again then, when a place arose and gamers had robust disagreements about the very best play, propositions could be performed quite a few instances, betting on the result.  Over time, observant gamers would be taught which play was higher. Some gamers had dozens of propositions at their fingertips the place they’d be keen to play both facet. Right this moment nonetheless, gamers simply plug these positions into XG++ and virtually immediately the performs are ranked and given numerical scores (much like EV). 

In backgammon, when you roll your cube and get, say, a 4-3, there is perhaps three or 4 completely different performs which are not less than affordable. You might be allowed to maneuver your checkers, take a look at them, put them again into the beginning place and check out one other, take a look at that, and trip as typically as you wished topic to the truth that you solely have so many minutes to play a complete match. Again once I performed, gamers would typically play the 4, depart it, after which attempt the assorted methods a 3 might be performed. They might not put the checkers again into the beginning positions earlier than attempting one other transfer. Typically, they might transfer the checkers forwards and backwards so many instances that everyone obtained confused about what the beginning place was — they usually have been capable of play 5-3 as an alternative of 4-3 within the instances the place 5-3 was rather more advantageous. That doesn’t appear to occur as a lot anymore.

Since a lot of the matches on YouTube have been created pre-pandemic, every match begins with a handshake. They don’t want one another good luck. They need one another “good match.” It’s much more sincere.
I don’t remorse that I moved away from backgammon and finally settled on video poker. Video poker has been good to me. However I nonetheless miss taking part in backgammon.

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