Backgammon and Poker
So my wife bought me a backgammon set for xmas, which was a great gift considering it's a game I've been curious about for a while now, but had literally no clue how to play. We've all probably heard of the famous poker players who also were/are apparently accomplished backgammon players; Harrington, Magriel (who wrote the backgammon "bible"), etc... so I knew there must be something to backgammon.
I'm still getting up to speed with the game, but the seemingly confusing rules at first are easily mastered, and then the real strategy starts to develop. The similarities to poker, most specifically NL Hold'em, are many:
- the above noted "minute to learn, lifetime to master"
- a rather optimal balance of luck and skill (short-term variance, long-term positive results for good play)
- places within the game where moves are automatic, others that involve tough decisions and gambles
- always having outs: either game allows you to be very far behind, yet arise to victory
- starting position has a powerful effect on outcome and subsequent strategy: in backgammon, this deals with "opening moves"; in Hold'em, starting hand selection
- the ability to escalate the stakes and put your opponent to tough decisions (as well as the reverse)
- those awful moments when your opponent can simply do no wrong, either always rolling exactly what you fear, or catching exactly the card he needs
As you can see (or already know if you play both), the two games are a good match. Backgammon's complexity may be best demonstrated in the fact that programmers were able to simulate and write effective chess playing programs, before they could do so with backgammon. Interesting as well, are the other variations of "tables" games played similarly on a backgammon board.
I've been playing at play65.com, and although my rating there took a big hit getting up to speed with the game, I've been winning more, and scored my first "backgammon" (and it was doubled!). I'm not sure how seriously I'll end up pursuing backgammon, and poker is still the focus, but backgammon may be a welcome break from poker for those times where you just need to put your mind somewhere else for a few days.