A History of the Game – Part Three

By Jana Bohrer

The Byzantines were enthusiastic gamblers and spiced up the game by using three dice. 

The Emperor Zeno was a particularly high roller, if not a lucky one.  The Emperor once found himself in the following remarkable position. 

Red (Zeno) to play a 2-5-6.  Money game.
Snowie says the result is negative equity of -996.02%
EX BG has it at -1025.23%

Zeno64 cube

Staring down the barrel of a loaded triple, Zeno patiently asked for a position parchment and penned the play for posterity, then pointed to the palace guard who “paid” his opponent. 


The incident did result a positive technological development.  Zeno decreed that henceforth, match recording scribes could use the previously outlawed and heretical Arabic numeral system to notate games as Roman numerals were proving a bit cumbersome.

A History of the Game – Part Two

By Jana Bohrer

In Egypt, by 1077 BC backgammon had become a talisman for the dead.  It was believed that a successful player was lucky; and thus protected by the powerful deities Gengen-Wer, the goose god, and Heket the goddess of frogs. Consequently, boards were placed in the grave to ward off attacks by watch geese and flies in the afterlife.

Conversely, players who had failed in 36 consecutive games to roll an opening 3-1, were held to be cursed by Bes the dwarf god.



The Book of the Dead Chapter XVII mentions that such people were routinely transformed by Bes into “little people” who were trampled under the chariots of Pharaoh.



A History of the Game – Part One

By Jana Bohrer

Excavations of the Persian city of Shahr-e Sukhteh (literally “The Burnt City”) in Iran have shown that backgammon existed there around 3000 BC.  This recently deciphered clay tablet found buried with alongside an ancient stone set, indicates that the city acquired its name following a chouette that went terribly awry.

clay tablet

Translated, it says:

And then Asurbanipal rose up and smote the captain Yazdegerd upon the head with his cube saying, “Why didst thou double for me when I was in the men’s room?  Dost thou not know  how to count pips?!?  We are cubits behind!!!!”

Whereupon Yazdegerd became wroth and gave Asurbanipal a noogie.  And Asurbanipal’s beard didst catch fire in the candle flame during the noogie.  And as it had not rained in the city for 40 days and 40 nights, the city didst burn to the ground.

Interestingly, this is also the first known written use of the word “noogie”.

If you…

…are willing to take an oath that you have NEVER rolled double sixes – except from THE BAR!! You might be a backgammon player.

…have ever thrown the dice into a hotel bathroom from across the room during a full consulting chouette.  You might be a backgammon player.

…have ever been heard to “give up this f****** game forever”.  Then immediately gotten online to register for a tournament in Uzbekistan.  You might be a backgammon player.

…have ever asked your girlfriend to sleep wrapped in a tablecloth in a corner of the Starlight Room of an Airport Hilton because, “the chouette isn’t over honey and I already checked us out of the room”.  You might be a backgammon player.

…have position cards – and I don’t mean the kind of positions discussed in the Kama Sutra – you might be a backgammon player.

…think discussing the above-mentioned position cards is more fun and interesting than practicing the positions in the Kama Sutra.  You might be a backgammon player.

…buttonhole total strangers in hotel bars to tell them about the time your opponent “ROLLED DOUBLE SIXES SEVEN TIMES IN A FREAKING ROW IN THE FREAKING BEAROFF!*!”  to win the match.  You might be a backgammon player.

…only rollout the positions that you know will lower your rating.  You might be a backgammon player.

…you ever taken a pipcount before dropping “just to get your money’s worth”.  You might be a backgammon player.

…know how to take a pipcount and think it’s fun.  You ARE a backgammon player.