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The resurgance of backgammon

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Saturday, 9 May 2015, at 4:12 p.m.

What made backgammon so big back in the 70's? Gambling.

People saw that it was a great game to play for money, and wealthy, famous people have money and love to gamble, and the rest of the world sees that and they also like to gamble and play a fun, exciting game for money. That's why poker got so hot...fun way to gamble. And it's also skill and intellectually stimulating.

Yes, I know tournaments were much bigger then too...but that was still about gambling. The winner of the Vegas Amateur walked away with $100,000 first place, and back them $100,000 would buy you a lot more than a decent car.

And yes, backgammon is also a great, fun, intellectual pasttime even if you are not gambling. It's a fantastic game for kids and families, and we all have played in tournaments and on line where there is little or no money involved and still love the game and work hard to improve and win. So I am all in favor of growing the game at the grassroots.

But what is going to make this game big again is the gambling. The glamour. The excitement of big money play, and celebrities playing, and more people playing in chouettes, and more money-added tournaments and the calcuttas and side action and things that make people want to come and enjoy not only the game, but the gambling.

Yes, we all love the game...we could be playing poker and gin or go to the track or the crap table if we are strictly interested in gambling...but there is no gambling game I've ever played as much fun and exciting as backgammon, and I am finding out through my students and travel that more and more people are coming back to or discovering backgammon for the same reasons.

There IS a resurgence! It's happening. We're just not seeing a lot of it at the tournament level or on this forum, or in the Federations....there are large groups of individuals out there playing in private games and chouettes in cafes and on street corners and in private homes that we don't see, and there are wealthy people and famous people playing for big money all over the world. Casinos are having private backgammon tournaments for high rollers...this is going to make more high rollers get excited about backgammon (some have already signed up for lessons just to get ready for these events).

I am seeing and hearing about more and more of these people, and even teaching and playing with many of these people as some of them realize they can get an edge by taking lessons and buying XG and reading books. But the good news is, it's happening.

So why am I posting this? To remind everyone not to forget, as we keep talking about how to grow the game, what really attracts people to the game and what really grows the game and has in the past: money.

You want to see more people at tournaments? Attract sponsors and added money. Make more money available at the top levels...the people who really compete for the big money...the Giants. At the same time, make the game more affordable and fun and rewarding for the intermediate and novice players, and you will attract more of them too as they want to be part of an exciting scene where we have our heroes and big stakes involved.

How do we attract sponsors and get money added? Marketing, sales, growing the numbers. And that's what has been lacking, and that's where we need to put more of our energy and resources.

The good news is that I have never been more optimistic about the growth of the game. We need to push our leaders...the Federations and the organizers, to do more to organize, work together, coordinate efforts, and create marketing programs to promote the game internationally to attract more of the big money players and sponsors to bring the game more into the limelight.

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