What Backgammon Can Teach Us About “Luck”

Benya Clark
3 min readJan 5, 2019
Photo by Josh Pepper on Unsplash

Backgammon has been my favorite board game ever since high school. I’ve always felt that it hits just the right blend of luck and skill. There’s enough luck involved to make every game fresh and exciting, but enough skill to reward careful study of the game.

For anyone unfamiliar, backgammon is a dice and checkers game. Players take turns rolling two dice and use the results of their rolls to race checkers around the board. Along the way, they can capture their opponent’s pieces and defend their own. You can find a complete explanation of the rules on Wikipedia’s backgammon article.

Even though backgammon is just a game, it actually teaches a few valuable lessons about luck — lessons that are applicable not just to board games, but life in general.

Creating Opportunities for Luck

When a beginner backgammon player watches an experienced player, it often looks as if the experienced player is getting incredibly lucky. Roll after roll seems to provide the experienced player with exactly the moves that they need to get their checkers into a perfect position.

Sometimes, the experienced player really is just having a lucky run, but more often their apparent luck is actually a result of their careful strategy. Experienced players know how to position checkers…

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Benya Clark

I’m a lawyer turned writer from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, and more. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at exploringsobriety.com.