Backgammon, Clubs & More

Monday, February 13, 2006

An Introduction to Case's Backgammon Leagues


A few months ago, I was playing in a tournament in Yahoo organized by one of the free, all-volunteer Case's backgammon leagues. A particular match I played there perhaps subliminally sparked the idea for this blog.

Before I tell you about this match, let me explain what Case's is. If you are an avid online gamer, then Case's is a good place to find free tournaments for any game you like. Backgammon, chess, poker, pool, scrabble, and probably even tic tac toe...you name it and there are many free leagues for you to join. Anyone can start a new league there anytime for any reason for any game.

What's great about Case's is the statistics. There are statistics for everything. Top Skill Ratings, Top Ranked Players, Most Games Played Players, Top Win-Loss Percentages, Hotest Players, Coldest Players, Top 20 Ladder Players...and this is just scratching the surface of the stats.

Another good thing about Case's leagues is the "TDs" or Tournament Directors. These are the selfless volunteers that forego their own play to organize tournaments, congratulate and console their tourney players, and moderate squabbles between players. Playing in a Case league on such a public site as Yahoo keeps you are away from 99.9% of the psychopaths that you would normally encounter. TDs have the power to banish jerks from their leagues.

On each league's homepage is the schedule of daily tournaments. Also, there's usually links to future special tournaments for which you can register, such as Teams Tournaments, Battle Of The Sexes Tournaments, Battle Of The Champions Tournaments, Pro-Am Tournaments (I'm still not sure what these are since no top ranked world players I know of play in a Case league), and Multi-Day Swiss Tournaments.

If you have a taste for the exotic, try no-hit, first-hit, neckgammon, swiss, and others. Personally, I'm hopelessly addicted to double eliminations and team tournaments. Playing in these tournaments may well be what has kept me playing online for so long.

Some of the Case's backgammon leagues play at Yahoo; some play at MSN Zone or other free online sites. Some leagues allow matches played on multiple sites, including FIBS and GamesGrid, to qualify for their league statistcs. Check Case's out at: www.myleague.com .

I've played mostly in Case's Yahoo leagues because of Yahoo's user interface. It's the best I've seen of the free backgammon sites that partner with Case. I stay off of MSN Zone because I have the philosophy that the less dealings I have with Microsoft, the better off I and the world are.

Each of the Case leagues has a different flavor, a different ambience, to it. For instance, the Ace Point League plays in Yahoo's Advanced Avenue. This club takes its room name very, very seriously. Most of the players are very, very serious.

Ace Point is not a league where players dawdle over the board chatting about the architecture of Istanbul. Instead, silent abulutions are performed to the Yahell Dice Demons for favor with the lopsided dice. Focus, concentration, and Snowie is what it's all about. It is a bloody shame that all the serious energy of Ace Point is wasted using Yahoo dice. And all that ego, too.

Most Ace Point organizers and players don't consider themselves merely "advanced" players, but expert players. Some have even shown up at the Monte Carlo World Backgammon Championships. Granted, they may have lost in the first round, but they did think they were good enough to pay that huge entry fee and travel there.

Meanwhile, on the flipside in Yahoo's Tarantula Theater, the Cheers League simulates the Cheers bar of the famed TV sitcom. And they really want to know your name, too. And everything else they can find out about you.

Cheers is a touchy-feely league with lots of chatting up in the lounge and at the tables. Very friendly people, I am sure, but I really don't want to have to remember all their real names. "StumpyB", "HunnyBunny", "The Skunk" and "Underdog" work just fine for me. Plus, these reveal a lot more about the players than their real names possibly ever could.

If you play backgammon online as a preamble for making friends, then Cheers is for you. They will make sure you are not left out of the chatter in their home room...as much as you try otherwise. Like I said. Very friendly people. They may have the right attitude, though, for playing in Yahoo. Perhaps Yahoo backgammon should only be background noise for good converstaion.

There are plenty of other Case's leagues on Yahoo. Play in any Yahoo backgammon room and you'll see never-ending spam about joining the league that uses that room. You'll also be viscerated with spamming for about five to ten minutes before a tournament starts telling you what you already know--that the tournament is about to start. In the chattier leagues, you'll witness a lot of personal information given out freely for everyone in the room to see. Just try not to blush...or to steal it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Why Another Backgammon Blog?


"Enough of these Yahoo backgammon dice!" I screamed silently, for what seemed to be the millionth time, to myself and my computer screen tonight.

While Yahoo backgammon can be a pleasant enough place to meet people around the world and have a friendly chat, there are a few things to be said about the lopsidedness of the dice. While online dice are a controversial topic on most backgammon sites, there doesn't seem to be any difference of opinion on Yahoo. Winners and losers. Long-time Yahoo players and Yahoo newcomers. Everyone agrees that these are "Dice With Eyes".

"Enough is enough!" I screamed again at the screen. Finally, tonight, after years of Yahoo's black magic, I have vowed to look elsewhere for a game. Preferably offline with no more discussions on random number generators, artificial intelligence, program senility, and marketing factors built into Java applets.

In all honesty, though, I have no clue if dice in real life ever match the mathematical acrobatics and inprobable perfections of Yahoo dice. And if they do, can they possibly do it as consecutively and consistently as the programmed Dice Demons of Yahell?

Since I tend to be a reclusive introvert, I haven't played on anything more than a virtual backgammon board since there were virtual backgammon boards...and that goes back before Windows, using a text-driven MPG environment. I've forgotten what it feels like to hold a set of dice in my hands; much less the true randomness of the tosses from a cup.

However, as much as I like kibitzing with my bot-like online buddies, I am determined to leave the glowing fluorescence of my current gaming tables in search of warm bodies and real dice. I want to hear dice rattle in a cup. I want to see them hit the table fairly and squarely.

Surely, in the sprawling metropolis where I live, there must still be some sort of club or coffee house to play on a real board with real dice and have real conversation with real people? By the way, I forgot. Exactly what does a real board look like anyway?

I've started this blog to track my progress with discovering other backgammon resources. Maybe my play will improve with real dice and maybe it won't. But maybe in my searching, I'll find other keys to smarter play. If you're a backgammon player, then this blog's for you.

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