How Does the Doubling Cube Work in Backgammon?

Backgammon Doubling Cube
Game Play

Backgammon is a great game to learn, with lots of different elements and game strategies to take on board. It takes a while for newcomers to get to grips with the moves and gameplay. Then, many are thrown off their game at the suggestion of adding a doubling cube. How does the doubling cube work in backgammon? Also, is it really worthwhile?

What is the doubling cube?

Some new players may assume that the doubling cube is much like a die, that a player rolls it to determine new odds or double their turns. This is not the case at all, although it is shaped like a die. The cube has 6 numbers on its sides: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64. The cube is placed on the side bar of the board and acts as a marker. Players simply propose new stakes to the game and use the cube as a marker to determine the current situation and the person creating the odds.

So how does this “doubling” all work?

When a player wants to double the stakes they must propose the solution to their opponent, who has the choice to either “take” the stakes and play on, or “drop” them and resign the game. If they accept, that player changes the face of the die on their side of the board. This essentially puts the ball in their court, and shows that it is their chance to re-double the stakes in the future. The skill comes in knowing when to propose a double to an opponent. Those that do so at the right time can increase their chance of earning lots more points on a finishing move. Alternatively, they may force a cautious opponent to forfeit in a game that isn’t going so well.

Of course, the rules aren’t that simple and there are many different approaches to doubling and the limitations of the die.

There are many different styles of backgammon, with different regions and even different clubs adopting their own variations on gameplay. One such variation is The Murphy Rule. This is an alternative approach to the marker that takes it out of the control of individual players. Players that roll the same opening number can place the doubling cube in the centre of the board, making it available to both players at any time. Then there is The Crawford Rule that ensures that the doubling cube cannot be used in a subsequent game if a player of the previous game ends up one point short of winning.

As you can see, there are all sort of complex amendments and caveats attributed to men that either wanted to make the game fairer, more interesting or more complex. Then there are those that want to use the doubling cube to their advantage for betting. Here the beaver rule allows players to continue doubling past the limit of 64 to create higher stakes and more jeopardy.

Is doubling cube worth the risk?

There are many new and casual players of backgammon that have never gone near the doubling cube. This isn’t for those still learning the game. This is for those competitive clubs and friends that play frequently and want to add some excitement to the game. It is the ideal way to raise the stakes, but it’s not for everyone.