Normally where you find large amounts of money - in a high stakes game of backgammon, for example - you find slightly unscrupulous people who would like to give themselves an edge by illegal means. In other words, plain old-fashioned cheating.

So is there much cheating in backgammon? In any game you can cheat only if the opportunity arises or can be created. This is far easier in a game such as bridge where card sharps and colluding partners can wreck havoc. Backgammon is a game of open information: all the playing pieces are always visible, and thus it is much more difficult to get away with a false play. The rules have also been tightened considerably over the last few years to deal with the problem of accidental illegal moves.

The main area where cheats have been successful in backgammon is with the dice. A good dice mechanic can appear to roll two dice from his cup where in reality he only rolls one of them and places the other on his required number. Being able to "throw" a number at will obviously confers a huge advantage on the practitioner. This problem has been largely overcome by the use of baffle boxes. A baffle box is a device placed at the edge of the board consisting of a number of angled bars of wood enclosed in a boxed structure. Each player must shake his dice in his cup and then into the baffle box. The box completely eliminates the possibility of dice manipulation.

The most ingenious such manipulation was perpetrated by a well known West Coast expert who always did quite well in club play, but exceptionally well in home chouettes. The explanation was a magnetised board and dice operated by a device concealed in his trouser pocket. Needless to say the expert is now persona non grata in the backgammon world! My advice is use a baffle box if you can, always use dice cups (preferably ones with large internal lips) and use precision dice if possible.

There are other possible forms of cheating such as falsifying the score in a money game, collusion in chouettes, taking a break in a long tournament match and bringing a different scoresheet back to the table than the one you walked away with and then arguing over the score ... and probably countless other small finesses.

However, I am pleased to say that in all my years of playing, other than a couple of bounced cheques, and one person with a somewhat dubious dice rolling action, I have never - to my knowledge - had to deal with any form of cheating.

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