The Great Backgammon Swindle

by Sheila Baker

Anyone who had ever played backgammon have probably found himself wondering whether the opponent's successive doubles are a result of probable probabilities or the outcome of a rig. In backgammon, as in other games that combine, luck, skill and the opportunity to sweep money prizes, the (not necessarily irrational) fear of being cheated is always present.

To cheat in a real life backgammon game, one that runs face to face, one must have abilities like jugglery, impudence and fearlessness. To cheat in an online backgammon game, all you need is a good assisting program. At least that is what we used to think.

At the beginning, internet backgammon was indeed a fertile land for all sorts of backgammon cheats. They used to let the bot (abbreviation of robot, a neural-net based program, trained to play backgammon, analyze positions and assess the winning chances of every move at any given position during the game) play for them; intentionally disconnect from the web right before losing a game; or falsely dropping the rating (the rank that indicates each player's relative skill level) and to rob beginning players' money. But not for a long time.

The online backgammon room Play65, established in 2004 and revolutionized online backgammon, was the first to fight against the bots users and other internet backgammon hustlers (unless acts like requiring all players to turn on their webcams or asking most successful players to prove similar success off-line). Play65 has approached some of the brightest mind of professional backgammon and asked them to take part in the battle for the purity of the game. At the same time, they encouraged the backgammon software users to report on every suspect of third kind encounters.

The result was a special committee dedicated to bust the bots of the popular backgammon site territory. With the help of Play65 board of trustees - composed on one Japanese world backgammon champion (Masayuki Mochizuki, or simply "Mochy"), one Giant of Backgammon (Matvey Natanzon usually known as "Falafel") and one glorified American backgammon Player (Robert (Bob) Wachtel) - dozens of banned players' accounts and tens thousands of dollars returned to the players accounts.

About the Author

Play65 is the largest backgammon room online and the first one that offered real solution to the common problem of cheats in internet backgammon (using computer programs or other restricted activities) with the help of an anti backgammon bots committee.