Online Gaming Strategies: BackgammonNot so long ago, our skill gaming heroes such as Paul Magriel, Gus Hansen and Daniel Neagreanu lived hand-to-mouth. They lived like butterflies, flying from parlour game to parlour game, casino to casino looking for the classic opponent who over-estimates their own skill, making them vulnerable, like prey, to the skill and cunning of games-players such as these.
But what do these well known faces from the World Poker Tour, who now bank hundreds of thousand of dollars in prize money since the poker revolution, have in common? First and foremost, they’re world class backgammon players.
In backgammon, knowledge is king and it’s knowledge that determines where you sit on the food chain. Skilled players play money games because in the long term, they are sure to be winners even though there’s always a reasonable chance of losing to a weaker opponent on any given day.
The problem with games like backgammon and poker is it’s easy to believe you’ve reached a skill level that makes you feel like a born winner.
Trouble is, in both games, when you’ve got the ‘nuts’, the worst player on the planet will struggle to lose against the world’s best.
Like poker, backgammon is a game of luck and skill. To succeed in money games or match-play, a backgammon player must be both strategically and mathematically strong and be able carefully consider what percentage chance or ‘equity’ (as it’s known in the trade) they have in any given position.
In the 1970s players would ‘roll out’ positions dozens of times to glean insight into what’s right and wrong. However, the backgammon landscape changed in the mid 90s with the presence of artificial intelligence software ‘Snowie’, which now in it’s 4th edition. Snowie offers serious backgammon players precise information on complex positions giving them a significant edge over their opponents.
Now, with the growth of online gaming, we’ve seen a new breed of professional players, glued to their computer screens playing online games. With the success of poker, more and more online backgammon playing environments have sprung-up. Most are money-play orientated but backgammon also has a distinct ratings system and thousands obsessively work on their computer ratings for the extra feel-good factor.
TrueMoneygames.com, one of the leading backgammon servers has more than 500 players at any one time playing for short money matches of 1 or 3 points. TrueMoneygames founder Johannes Levermann and one of the world’s strongest players believes their playing structure works for both stronger and weaker players. “Strong players prefer quicker action where they have higher equity per hour and weaker players benefit because they have a better chance of winning in a short match scenario.” But Levermann also fires a warning shot at those starting up, “there are dangers for players who overestimate their skill levels, as a beginner, you must read the theory, try practising online, with ‘play’ money, and then analyse your matches with Snowie.”
After the success of poker on TV, backgammon comes to our screens for the first time with a four part match-play series from the World Championships in Monte Carlo, which will air on Sky Channel Pokerzone this December. The series is commentated on by electrifying backgammon legend Paul Magriel and John Clark, one of Britain’s best. Clark is a regular player on backgammon server GamesGrid, where players play mainly for ratings and he’s a believer in online play, "playing backgammon on the internet for rating points or money is a great way to improve your game. It is fast, you are sure to get paid and you can often hook up with old friends from around the world.”
Other online betting companies such as UKBetting and SportingBet are investing heavily in backgammon, believing it is sure to grow rapidly.
In poker, the skill levels of the thousands of online players has improved and it’s becoming harder and harder for the intermediate play to be a money winner. Now, as backgammon grows online, a striking opportunity exists for the intermediate player who can also target the ‘right’ opponents. It’s now possible to make significant amounts of money online as a pro or by just subsidising the day job at night as many backgammon players do. But watch out for the hustlers and beware of overestimating your own skill levels or you may become the target!