Psychology and Thinking of Backgammon

While you are learning to become an accomplished player, you must constantly remain conscious of the psychology involved in backgammon. Know your opponent! Is he a gambler? Is he a conservative player? Does he consistently play in the same manner? Is he a heavy drinker? Is he apt to press if he's losing? Is he apt to take a risky late double? Is he apt to refuse it? Is he hot or cold that day? Does he gloat when he wins? Is he a bad mover?

Although your skill is paramount in importance, the luck of the dice is an ubiquitous factor. There are times when knowing all of the odds and ascertaining the mathematical possibilities of leaving a certain man open cannot help you at all.

How many times have you left a man open to be hit with a one instead of a three? (Respective odds two to one, as compared to three to two, that the man gets hit.) In such a situation, sometimes you have a "feel," and often this feel proves to be correct. Again, you might leave a three open if in your estimation the play would give you a tremendous advantage. However, use this strategy only in crucial situations. Do not use it generally.

If your opponent is a born gambler, you must adjust your game accordingly. Take more chances than you normally would, but don't take as many as he does. Do not double early in the game. It isn't necessary, as a gambler will take your double later in the game even if it is risky. He will hope for a good series of rolls, forgetting that your chances for good rolls are just as good as his. A gambling opponent plays a selfish game, and does not analyze your game as much as he should. Quite often this type of player will show his nature by shaking his dice harder before he rolls. He usually shows his feelings more. He also takes unnecessary chances. Be careful of such a player when he is hot. Then you should become superconservative.

When playing a conservative player, be more aware of his game. He may have a tendency to be overconservative and is apt to pile up more than two men on one point. Be cautious in accepting a double from such a player. He will only double when he feels he has a tremendous advantage.

If you judge that your opponent is of approximately the same skill as you, and that the dice are rolling about the same for both of you, use the doubling block in the same way he does. If an opponent plays in the same manner you do, he will be your easiest opponent. The best dice will always win.

As for your approach to backgammon, confidence is the rule. If you are a good player and show confidence, you will befuddle your opponent. Also, if you are playing against a good player, display as much confidence as you can. Bluff it, if need be. Remember that even though he may be an excellent player he is human and can make mistakes. He is also subject to luck. Don't let him intimidate you. Time and time again, a great player will sit down at the table with great aplomb and try to impress his opponent. He often will, through his relaxed manner and casual approach to the game. You can approach your opponent in the same way.

Further, try to keep an open mind. If you are a beginner or an intermediate player, don't get into a rut. Don't play one certain style. Continually try to improve your game. One way to learn is by playing with and observing the games of people who play better than you do. Notice that often you won't agree with a play they have made. However, keep in mind that they may have made this play for a special reason. Perhaps it is the best move to make in a bad situation. Study these moves. A good player makes them for his own experienced reasons.