Don't gamble - Backgammon double

Perhaps you have decided that you are going to play Backgammon seriously, to make money. You have found a pigeon who is rich and clearly not as good a player as you are, and you have managed to make him enjoy playing with you. Everything is set fair. There is a great temptation to raise the stakes and really get those winnings in quickly.

Beware! The doubling cube is a very dangerous feature of the game. Backgammon can be very cruel. You may steadily win 10 to 20 points a Session but then find lightning strikes suddenly. Your Opponent is 'steaming', i.e. he has lost his head, wants to raise the stakes, doubles when he has nothing like a double, accepts doubles which he should drop without hesitation, and is generally in a mess. You agree to start the cube at 2 (equivalent to doubling the stake). There is an automatic double taking it to 4. The game starts normally, with you getting a reasonable advantage and doubling to 8. The game swings in Black's favour and he doubles you back to 16. Already events have taken an unsatisfactory turn, but it is a clear-cut take, so you accept it and the game proceeds. The game now Swings back in your favour and you offer him a double to 32. You may have waited a turn or so later than normal because he is obviously in a mood to take a double later, but there comes a point where it would be ridiculous not to double. So you do it. But Black now really has the bit between the teeth and he is determined to get you at all costs. Although the double may be one which he should drop he decides, far from dropping, to beaver. The cube is now at 64.

Black's behaviour has been suicidal but, because he is the rich one, it contains grave dangers for you. He may now get on equal terms or slightly better and, feeling as he does, double right back again. This is the last thing you want, but it would be very bad play to refuse (because the game is still wide open), and so you accept the double to 128, and lose a gammon. That is 256 points out of the window, equivalent to about 15 sessions' winnings!

There is nothing very remarkable about this sequence of events. The lesson for you is a simple one. Watch the initial stake. If you cannot afford, without undue distress, those 256 or even 512 points, you are putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage because, in critical stages of the game, you may be tempted to refuse a double which you ought to take, or delay giving a double which you ought to give. No one enjoys losing 256 points and I am not suggesting that the stake should be so trivial that 256 points does not matter to you. If that were the case, you could scarcely be making reasonable money out of the game anyway. But it is vital that a loss of this kind should not be utterly disastrous.

Get redoubled

There is a special ruse to be used against the steamer. This is the early good double to get a bad one back. You know the danger of an early double. But if you know your man well enough to be sure he will redouble you too early, then the whole thing swings round. You may half hope he does get a reasonable position because if you can get the cube at 4 in a fairly even position you should be delighted. But remember your early double is a good one only if you have read Black's psychology correctly.