Unpopular Opinion: The gamblers have destroyed backgammon more than the geeks

I keep hearing this lore of the geeks destroying the popularity of backgammon. The story goes that the beautiful and/or rich set abandoned the game when geeky players started to bring some discipline and data to the game through hand and computer-assisted rollouts.

While there may be some truth to that, I think the more significant long-term contributor to the decline in popularity was - and to some extent is - the predatory gamblers. I have run into several “clubs” that are nothing more than a $25 chouette that does nothing to welcome new players. Just a group that eat each other alive. They do nothing to grow the community and, through poor behavior, actively chase away any new person who dares to walk in.

On the other hand, geeks are motivated by their passion for the game. While they may get a little intense, they are enthusiastic and ready to share knowledge.

While someone only interested in the social aspect - to see and be seen and have breezy fun - may not want to hang out and talk about technicalities, it certainly doesn’t cause bad feelings like being preyed upon.

You can’t build community without intention.

I am seeing the popularity of backgammon starting to rise again. On both US Coasts there are groups that are drawing hundreds of people a month for casual fun backgammon play.

Let’s learn from them, they are doing what the traditional clubs are lacking.

9 Likes

Trying to garner any significant income from backgammon always struck me as the wrong tack to take. If one actually manages to win much, another person is being hurt by the same degree (unless they’re the rare player who doesn’t mind losing money). If this continues, they end up being driven away from the game. The purely profit-driven player can easily become a parasite, and will have a hard time finding opponents.

A better way to build a community is to be a geek - to play because you find the game fascinating. And striving to share this fascination, being generous with ideas. This kind of geek keeps the game alive! So I’m totally with you on this.

PR obsession can become tedious, but most players with low PRs also happen to be fun and kind people, and able to break out of that perfectionist mindset when appropriate. I still regularly play with no money on the line, against beginners; in fact that’s about the only game I can find locally. It’s a fine way to spend time with friends who don’t take backgammon as seriously as I do.

That’s a heartening bit of news that you’re seeing a resurgence! I find the coasts inspiring for many reasons, like geography and history, and this is another. Can you tell me where all this is happening? I’ve heard San Diego, for one…

4 Likes

I can only agree with you wholeheartedly. The difference to chess, where playing for money is the exception, is clear. It’s obvious that the cube is pointless without stakes, but activities that are useful in the long term and for others are rarer (asking: what’s in it for me?).
Nerds are different and instead of finding some kind of victim, they can now earn money with lessons.

3 Likes

This is fantastic news. As a newer player myself, I would love to see the player base continue to grow. I keep telling my (non-backgammoner) friends that we are one Netflix Queen’s Gambit away from backgammon exploding (and that they should definitely take up the game themselves of course) :stuck_out_tongue:

3 Likes

This editorial is spot on.

1 Like