Casino Games – Backgammon

Backgammon is a gambling game but, notwithstanding high-profile tournaments, such as the Backgammon World Championship, which is held annually at the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo, Monaco and offers $250,000 in prize money, is not really a viable proposition for bricks-and-mortar casinos. Traditional backgammon is a board game that can accommodate just two players and requires no dealer, so is better suited to private cash-only contests than regular casino play. A table game, known as Casino Backgammon, did make a brief appearance at O’Shea’s Casino in Las Vegas, in the days before its closure and relocation, but lacked the skill component of traditional backgammon and did not last long.

Traditional backgammon is played on board divided into four quadrants, known as the home, or inner, board and outer board for each player, each of which contains six, alternately-coloured triangles, or points, making a total of twenty-four. A raised ridge down the centre of the board separates the home boards from the outer boards. Each player starts the game with fifteen counters of a particular colour – typically black, or red, for one player and white for the other – arranged on the board in prescribed fashion.

Players have their own pair of dice, which they roll in turn, with the object of moving all their counters into their home board and bearing them off, or removing them from the board. The first player to do so wins the game. A single counter standing alone on a point is known as a ‘blot’; if an opposing counter lands on the same point, the blot is said to be ‘hit’, placed on the bar and must be ‘entered’ into the opposing home board, according to the dice roll on the next turn.

Movies – Rounders

Miramax Films’ ‘Rounders’ is a 1998 crime drama film directed by John Dahl and starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. In the days before playing poker for a living became socially acceptable, ’rounders’ were professional gamblers who, quite literally, ‘made the rounds’, travelling from place to place in search of high-stakes ‘underground’ poker games.

Mike Mcdermott (Damon) is a brilliant, intuitive young poker player, but the opening poker scene in ‘Rounders’ sees him looking on, breathless and unbelieving, as he loses everything, including his law school tuition fees, to ‘mad Russian’ Teddy ‘KGB’ (John Malkovich) in a hand of Texas hold’em. Rejecting an offer by his mentor Joey Knish (John Turturro) to stake him, on a 50:50 basis, while he rebuilds his bankroll, McDermott abandons poker in favour of law school, much to the delight of his girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol).

However, following the release from prison of his childhood friend Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy (Norton), McDermott feels obligated to help his friend repay his gambling debts, worth $15,000, and is drawn back into the New York underground poker scene. However, having tried, and failed, to raise the money, the pair part company, on hostile terms, when Murphy confesses that he owes the money to none other than Teddy ‘KGB’.

Nevertheless, as co-guarantor, McDermott still needs to raise the money and, assisted by a $10,000 loan from his law school professor Abe Petrovsky, his path inevitably leads towards a final showdown with Teddy ‘KGB’. In fact, Mcdermott wins not one, but two, heads-up matches against his nemesis and, in so doing, wins enough money to repay all his debts and restore his original bankroll. Finally, he heads off the Las Vegas to pursue his ‘pipedream’ of playing in the World Series of Poker Main Event.