Strategies, tips and stories about backgammon.

Advanced Backgammon Tactics

After all is said and done with the mathematics and “right moves” in backgammon, you need to move to another level. You will, after your initial birth into the game, hopefully be by now a convert! What this means is that the books out there become somewhat redundant for you- as you will be playing against players who of a certain standard- knowing all “the moves” like the back of their hands.

So you need to start developing a “feel” for the game that is not taught, not mechanical and is based on experience, instinct and, most importantly, pure guts. This is what happens when you play over and over- especially if you are playing the same person. It is likely that you will both know each other’s wonts. One likes to make a run for it and get into their board as quickly as possible, while the other likes to hang back and play the waiting game- pouncing on any vulnerabilities.

The way to conquer this monotony and predictability in your play is to be unconventional. For example, if you are losing heavily- but have the doubling dice under your control, so have nothing to lose- spread yourself wide open- getting hit so many times that you end up destroying your opponent’s neat little set-up.

This is just one of many tactics you can employ to upset your opponent- not just on the board, but also in psychology. The better player is the one who racks up the most points- so time your energies to win the big point games, rather than wasting it on single pointers.

In reference to the “waiting game” that was described earlier then this style of play is perhaps best suited to players that are not experienced or knowledgeable in aggressive game play. Sitting back and waiting to pick off your opponent is a tactic that befits some players more so than others.

It is no different in poker, some players simply play an aggressive style better than others while other players do better with a counter attacking style of play. It is simply to do with how styles fit certain individuals and the same thing applies with the styles of football teams and football managers. I prefer as a rule the counter attacking style when I am facing opponents over who I have little edge or my own experience level is fragile.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador for 888poker

Improve Your Backgammon

When you own a cube actually has some worth. Owning – in this instance – means having the ability to double your opponent, but your opponent cannot. Let us say that your opponent is having a good roll and has checkers on his 5 and 6 points. You, on the other hand, have 3 checkers on your 4 point. Your chances of winning the game (if both you do have not doubled) is zero.

Your opponent should double and you should drop. But in a situation where your opponent has doubled and you have “taken”, you will still have about a 14 per cent chance to win the game. So what this means is that you should not double with a small lead.But you should also be wary that you not wait until the game is iced. Let us take the position that I described above. If you are the player with two checkers on, then you should double.

You should not give your opponent a free chance to get ahead of you by getting a lucky draw. If he wrongly takes for any reason then you should thank your lucky stars. And if the chance happens that he takes and you lose the game then you can just attribute it to the luck factor in a game of backgammon .

Do not think that I am saying that determining what your win percentages will be is going to be easy. But you have to at least know the guidelines just like you do in other games like poker both live and online. There is one thing that I have noticed. When you are playing on the zone you will not usually double unless you have a stronger advantage than you would against a real player that you would assume to be as good as you are.

There is a world of difference in backgammon when the doubling cube enters the game. Solid winning players suddenly find that they can no longer win when the doubling cube is added. Suddenly it isn’t sufficient to play solid moves any more, you now have to understand equity.

In poker then this is like escalating the pot in terrible circumstances when your chances of winning are very slim. Experienced players know when their equity is poor and adjust their strategy accordingly. If you cannot comprehend equity in the modern online poker world or in backgammon for that matter then you will not be able to compete with very good players.

Carl Sampson plays online poker at 888poker and is a poker ambassador

The need to double better in backgammon

As I remarked in my previous article, backgammon is incredibly similar to games like poker and chess and the doubling cube brings poker into the equation even more. I play almost exclusively poker these days at sites like www.888poker.com  but that isn’t because I like playing poker more. In fact if I were to be given a game where I had to play for nothing then I would pick backgammon more than poker. It is very difficult to play poker well when there is no money at stake and it stops becoming the same game as it was.

The doubling cube in backgammon when used is akin to raising in poker. If you raise the pot in poker and it is the first raise of the hand then the dollar amount will be quite small. If the blinds are $1-$2 then the first pot raise will be to $7 and no more. However if another player wanted to re-raise then the next pot raise would be to $24 which is more than three times the initial raise.

In backgammon the first double puts the dice on 2 and the next double takes it to 4. The second double is more than the combined effect of the previous double and playing a single game. This is exactly the same if there is another double to 8…….this double is more than all of the other moves put together. This element of the game introduces equity into the equation and this is where the best players excel because they simply estimate the equity in a position better than the other players.

Doubling in backgammon is a risky move for two reasons, firstly you are doubling the stakes of the game and secondly it hands control of the cube across to your opponent. This means that they can re-double you at their discretion providing of course that they accepted your initial double in the first place. While doubling is risky it is also essential and backgammon is what it is because of the cube.When you aggressively double with an edge in backgammon then you also need to be careful as well.

Doubling when you have an edge may increase your potential profits but it also increases the variance immensely. Some winning professionals often decide to give up on opportunities that only afford them very thin edges for this very reason. I myself often refuse marginal doubles in the games that I play in.

Carl Sampson is a poker pro and ambassador for 888poker

Going up in skill level

The cube introduces a whole new and multi-layered element to the game of backgammon. I have often thought that the delicate blend of strategy and piece movement along with strategic placement combined with playing for money and odds and equity makes backgammon sort of like a blend of chess and poker.

Some of the better players are very good at assessing equity in the position but as an inferior player then how should you go about playing a stronger opponent? Well firstly I do not think that you should be offering doubles very early in the game. The position in all likelihood would be too marginal and this would immediately lead to you losing control of the cube. It would also mean that your opponent could immediately double you back in a position that was marginal without being at a disadvantage.

If your opponent is aggressive and doubles you early in the game then you must stand your ground and take the double. The only exception to this is if your position is very bad after several fortunate rolls on behalf of your opponent or unfortunate rolls on your part. So controlling the cube against strong opposition is vital as is playing a solid game. If you try to open the position up without having the necessary skill to do so then a strong player will destroy you.

It is a far better strategy to keep the game tight even if it comes at the expense of a little fluidity in your position. At least you cannot get blown away by your opponent’s power play and you stand a good chance of gaining a win going into the middle game. In short match situations then aggressive players can and will often force you to take marginal doubles.

Sometimes this is an effort to get back into the game quickly if they are behind. But if you play your moves solidly then you should not fear such tactics and a merely doubled cube isn’t something to fear when you have possession of it.

Carl Sampson is a poker pro and ambassador for 888poker

Educating Yourself in Poker

These days poker is everywhere. Poker players are revered nearly as highly as sports stars. You can watch poker on television 24/7 and follow your favourite players. Ivey, Negreanu, Hansen, Brunson, Hellmuth. These guys are loved and respected by poker players all over the world. But is watching them play actually damaging to your own game the next time that you log on and play poker on sites like 888?

Players’ hole cards being shown to the viewing audience has revolutionised televised poker. This simple technology allows everyone an insight into the heads of the world’s best players. Viewers who have a solid game already and who understand the complexities of poker understand that the pros play in a different way to the regular Joe Bloggs for the simple reason that they are pros. They don’t follow the regimented patterns that we mortals try to follow when we are grinding away at $.25/.50. They play hands like Q6 and A3. There should be a Jackass-style warning that accompanies these shows saying; Do Not Attempt Anything You See.

These pros have honed their skills over decades of play. They often play in a style which is the complete opposite of the style all the poker books tell you follow. They are masters of the game, wizards of their trade. They employ misdirection, guile and cunning to lure their prey into a false sense of security. They are above the normal poker laws we abide by.

In short, watching television poker is hugely entertaining. Just don’t base your learning on it, and for the love of god, don’t try to copy the plays! Also there are other issues as well in which the average viewer isn’t cognisant of. Like for example when a player is advertising a company that have maybe paid them a serious six figure sum.

Now there is no way that a company would pay a player that amount of money without wanting some serious exposure in return. So the pro then makes sub-optimal plays simply to get noticed. They may take a long time to think when in actual fact they are folding all along and they just want the cameras on them for as long as possible.

Some of these poker programs have very high viewing figures and especially on the final tables of big events or the high stakes poker cash games. So do not be so quick to try and emulate these people or to attempt to learn from them.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro who plays at 888poker

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