How to Use the Backgammon Doubling Cube

Although millions of people around the world play backgammon, only a small percentage know what a backgammon doubling cube is.

The backgammon doubling cube makes backgammon more enjoyable by raising the stakes and adding an additional level of strategy.

Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced player, now is the time to learn all about the backgammon doubling cube and how to use it.

We’ll step you through it.

Backgammon Doubling Cube: What it Looks Like

backgammon doubling cube
Doubling Cube: Here the doubling cube is in its initial position on the side of the board with the 64 face upwards.

The backgammon doubling cube is the shape of a regular die, but is usually a little larger. It has the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64 printed on its faces.

At the start of the game, the doubling cube is placed halfway between the players. It is placed either on the bar or on the side of the board, with the number 64 facing upward.

Things you Need to Know Before Learning the Backgammon Doubling Cube

Before learning how to use the backgammon doubling cube, there are a few things you need to know.

Once you master the below terminology then we can move on to discussing the doubling cube.

Introduction to Backgammon Match Play

In one sitting, backgammon players will typically play a series of games against their opponent instead of just one game.

The series of games is called a “match”.

When you win a game, the amount of points that you gain depends on how you won.

Winning one game doesn’t mean you win one point.

You can win one, two or three points depending on the type of win. And using the doubling cube that number can increase even more!

Let’s go ahead and learn about the different ways to win a game.

Winning a “single game”

If you win a game, and your losing opponent has borne off (removed) at least one checker, you have won a “single game”.

Winning by a “gammon”

If you win a game, and your losing opponent has not borne off any checkers at all, you have won by a “gammon”.

Winning by a “backgammon”

If you win a game, your losing opponent has not borne off any checkers at all, and still has one or more pieces on the bar on in your home board, you have just won by a “backgammon”.

More About Backgammon Match Play

Now we understand that if you win one game, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you win one point. How many points you gain after winning a game, depends on how you win.

Let’s get back to backgammon matches.

There are two different ways of competing in a backgammon match.

Usually the players will compete to reach an agreed-upon number of points. In this case they will play game after game until one of the players reaches the number of points they agreed upon.

Alternatively, a backgammon match can be played with a set number of games, after which the player with the most points at the end of all the games is the winner.

Recap of Terminology

Before we move on to discuss the backgammon doubling cube, lets recap the information we have just covered.

We know that a match is a series of games.

We know that the number of points you gain after winning a game, depends on how you win the game.

We know that matches can be played where the players either play a set number of games, or they compete to reach a particular number of points.

Ok! Now it’s time to learn how to use the backgammon doubling cube!

We’ll explain how to use it by telling you a story about two backgammon players, Robert and Sarah.

Backgammon Doubling Cube: Example of Use

Let’s imagine two players, Robert and Sarah, have met in a cafe to play a match of friendly backgammon.

It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon. It’s cosy and warm inside. Robert has a scotch toddy and Sarah has a mulled wine. There are hardly any other customers, and nowhere else to be.

They have decided to play a match of backgammon, and whoever wins will be making dinner!

They start the first game of the match.

Robert has a great start to the game, with a few lucky rolls. After a few minutes it seems obvious to him that he will win the game.

Of course he wants to win as many points as possible, because if wins the match he will have dinner made for him. Robert dreams about Sarah’s carbonara.

As we know, Robert can win more than one point just in this game, depending on how he wins it.

He can also use the doubling cube to potentially increase the number of points he wins in this single game.

With the strong feeling that he will win this game, he picks up the doubling cube. He turns it over so that the number 2 is facing upward, and then he offers the doubling cube to Sarah.

Sarah has two choices:

A) She feels that yes, she is most likely going to lose this game.

She does not take the doubling cube from Robert. This means that she ‘passes on the double.

At this stage, Robert automatically wins the game, and gains just one point.

B) Sarah feels that actually, she does have a chance of winning the game.

Sarah is dreaming about the porterhouse steak with mushroom sauce that Robert will cook if she wins the match.

She takes the doubling cube from Robert and places it on her side of the board (either on the bar or on the side), with the 2 facing upwards.

Sarah now “owns” the cube. As she is in control of the cube now, only she has the power to offer the next double.

The game is now worth the number of points showing on the doubling cube: two points. Whether it is Robert or Sarah who wins, they will gain 2 points.

The doubling cube can continue to be used to double the stakes up to the ‘64’ face, though it will rarely get that high.

The Backgammon Doubling Cube Raises the Stakes

As we can now see, the backgammon doubling cube is used to raise the stakes.

This adds an extra level of enjoyment and strategy to a match.

Let’s come back and talk again about the different ways you can win a game.

This will help illustrate how the doubling cube raises the stakes.

Way of winningHow many points you gain for winning a game this wayHow many points you win if the doubling cube face also says ‘2’How many points you win if the doubling cube face also says ‘4’
Win by a “single game”124
Win by a “gammon”248
Win by a “backgammon”3612

Backgammon Doubling Cube: Starting Position

We know that at the beginning of a match, the backgammon doubling cube will be sitting on the bar or the side of the board, with the ‘64’ face upwards.

At this point, before the doubling cube has even been touched, the die is considered to read “1”.

This means that the game has the same stakes as if the cube were not in play.

Note: if you do not have a doubling cube then you can use pencil and paper instead to keep track.

Backgammon Doubling Cube: When to Use It

It takes time to develop the skill of knowing when to offer a double, when to accept it and when to decline it.

One important thing to know, is that when you have a solid lead, you should contemplate offering a double.

When to accept/take a double that your opponent offers one? A common rule of thumb is that you should take it when it seems 25% or more likely that you will win the game.

Pass on the double when it seems that your odds of losing are 75% or more.

Of course it takes time to get a feel for when you have a solid lead, and when your odds of losing are 75% or more.

Keep on playing the game, trying out the doubling cube and learning your backgammon strategies. Your sense of when to use or accept the doubling cube will improve with time.


Frequently Asked Questions about the Backgammon Doubling Cube

What is the doubling cube for in backgammon?

The doubling cube keeps track of the current stakes of the game.

If you have a solid lead, you should offer the doubling cube. If accepted, the stakes for the game will double.

At the end of a game, the winner calculates their points by multiplying against the number facing up on the doubling cube.

What is the 64 cube in backgammon?

The 64 cube is the backgammon doubling cube, which is used to raise the stakes by increasing the amount of points you can win.

At the start of the match, the 64 equates to 1, until, in the unlikely event it's been turned 6 times in one game, it really means 64.

Who invented the doubling cube in backgammon?

Nobody knows who invented the doubling cube in backgammon. However we do know that the doubling cube became popular in New York in the 1920s.

Jacoby and Crawford dedicated “The Backgammon Book” (1970) “To the genius who invented the doubling cube and made backgammon the game it is.” (p. 4).

When was the doubling cube introduced in backgammon?

The 1920s.

While nobody knows for sure when the doubling cube was invented, we do know that during the 1920s it spread in popularity in New York. As it raises the stakes of backgammon, the doubling cube makes the game more exciting.

What is a doubling cube?

The doubling cube is a cubical block, slightly larger than a regular die, with the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 marked on its faces. The doubling cube in backgammon is used to raise the stakes of the game, and to keep track of the player who has the right to double next.

What is the Crawford rule in backgammon?

Backgammon matches are usually played following the Crawford rule. The Crawford rule is: if one player reaches a score one point short of the match, neither player may offer a double in the immediately following game. The one game with no doubling is called the “Crawford game”.

What is a beaver in backgammon?

To beaver is to redouble, retaining control of the cube, immediately after your opponent doubles. A beaver in backgammon is something only permitted in a money game session, and is never played in a tournament.

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