Backgammon’s Long Association With Gambling

We have no historical evidence regarding the first people ever to stake money on a backgammon game, but it seems like backgammon gambling has been an intrinsic part of the game from its earliest days. The popularity of Tabula — the Roman version of backgammon, is one of the main sources of our knowledge of how the ancients understood how to play backgammon. It is interesting to note that tabula was exclusively focused on gambling. The Roman fondness for dice games is well known, and the tabula set with its many resemblances to the backgammon set we know today, gave them an ideal format for indulging in their love of gaming. When compared with the violent sports of the coliseum, backgammon must have been particularly welcome to the less-violently inclined Roman citizens, though there were no guarantees that a row over a game of tabula could not turn violent.

A key motivation in the development of the backgammon rules was setting the agreed framework within which the backgammon gaming could take place. Clearly setting out the rules concerning the moving of pieces, and defining what is considered legitimate and illegitimate, allows players to place their stakes in confidence that the game is being run according to mutually accepted rules. Interestingly enough, the first codification of backgammon rules was not published until the 1740’s, but clearly these rules were well known and broadly accepted long before this time.

The relationship between backgammon and gambling appears to be rooted in the additional excitement provided. Where stakes are placed on the outcome of the game, it becomes that much more interesting for all concerns. Players play backgammon hard when they see they have the chance of winning a significant sum, or losing a large amount of money. Thus the advent of the doubling cube in the 1920’s came to provide a big boost to international backgammon by raising the stakes and hence dramatically increasing interest in the game. For many players, there is no comparison between a game played for stakes and a game played for fun alone in terms of the way the adrenalin flows and the tension rises. Additionally, once a player feels that their skills at the game have reached a certain point and they find themselves winning many more games than they lose, it is natural to want to turn this talent into cash by playing for stakes.

When we come to our own time, the development of backgammon software was to a lesser or greater extent motivated by the idea of providing backgammon online gambling. Online backgammon provides many more opportunities for backgammon gaming than traditional club or meeting place settings. It brings players from all around the year in contact with each other. The prizes offered exceed those available in most other backgammon gaming settings. In addition, the tight control provided by computerized backgammon removes many of the concerns that certain players had regarding manipulated games. The guarantee of fair play offered by legitimate backgammon sites gives the re-assurances players appreciate.

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