Backgammon Clubs in the U.S.

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I have been asked to offer my thoughts and opinions about Backgammon Clubs around the U.S, and since I have played at most of them, I guess that makes me about as well-qualified as anyone.

Bill Davis’ Backgammon Club
Of course, being from Chicago, I am prejudiced, but I think the evidence is clear that Bill Davis’ Bar Point Club has to be held up as the shining example for all. Bill’s club has been playing every Tuesday night for over 25 years, which in itself is an achievement, and in addition to the Tuesday games there are special events Sunday bimonthly, a Club Championship event, and a Doubles Championship.

The attendance Tuesday night is so large that Bill runs two backgammon tournaments: a “Masters” event, limited to 16 players that starts at 6PM and has a $20 entry fee, and the Open with space for 32 players that starts at 7PM. The first round losers of the Masters can usually finish in time to get in the Open, and first round losers in the Open feed into the Consolation flight.

Bill keeps careful records of points won and offers Silver Dollars and other special prizes to the Top 20 every year.
What makes this venue so special is that Bill always holds the backgammon tournaments at a restaurant or hotel so that people can come early and play chouettes, stay and have drinks and dinner, and stay late for more chouettes.

Another thing that makes the Bar Point Club special is the quality of the play. I doubt if there is a club in the U.S. that comes close to fielding as many legitimate Open level players each week.

Another unique feature of the club is that we really encourage new players. I run an ad in the Chicago Reader advertising free lessons and tournament play, and anyone in the area that comes to the tournament for the first time is offered a free entry and a free lesson on tournament play and protocol so they do not feel so uncomfortable.

In addition to running the club, Bill puts out the Chicago Point newsletter with standings updates, articles, and general information on backgammon play and players all over the world. Without question, thanks to many years of leadership by Bill, the Chicago Bar Point Club stands out as THE BEST BACKGAMMON CLUB in the U.S.

There are excellent backgammon groups in other major cities, and the best that I’ve played at include LA’s Gammon Associates, run by Pat Gibson; Dallas’s Club run by Tom Weaver; Atlanta’s Clubs run by Dave Cardwell and Greg Cattanach; the Detroit area backgammon clubs run by Dean Adamian, and Paul Berg; the Las Vegas Club run by Jason Lee; and many, many others around the country I have played at in the past few years. I love the clubs and players in Madison, Peoria, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and in the suburbs of Illinois run by Tim Mabee and Trudie Chibnik, and in New York.

Eric Barr’s and Kathleen Davis’ backgammon clubs in Kansas City

What really stands out for me are Eric Barr’s and Kathleen Davis’ clubs in Kansas City. Along with other clubs around the country, they are promoting the United State Backgammon Association, based on the idea that tournament backgammon should not be about the money or gambling, but pursued more like bridge or chess, as a fun competition where the goal is to gain status by winning points. I truly believe there is great merit to this approach and that if organized and promoted properly, it will help attract a lot more people to the game, particularly entire families and younger people.

Tom Weaver’s Dallas backgammon club

gets an excellent turnout every Wednesday night, and I love the way he offers a progressive side pool so that players can take additional risks to the extent they choose. I notice that on the rare nights when Malcolm Davis doesn’t show, a lot more people get into the bigger side pools!

I have not had the pleasure of playing in the San Francisco area clubs, but outside of Chicago, New York and L.A., that area certainly has a impressive list of high-level backgammon players, and it is a club I hope to make it to some day.

Carol Joy Cole backgammon club in Flint Michigan

Carol Joy Cole, 2009 US Backgammon Open champion has run the club in Flint, Michigan for 30 years. The amazing thing about this club is the high level of interest and participating in Backgammon for such a small town. There are many large cities that are no where near as well-attended or successful, and you’ve got to credit Carol’s efforts for that.

Elayne Feinstein’s backgammon club in Ft. Lauderdale

I want to give a special mention to Elayne Feinstein’s backgammon club in Ft. Lauderdale. She gets a an excellent turnout every week, and all of the members are able to take advantage of a lot of free advice and help from two members of the club who know the game as well as anyone in the world: Mike Corbett and Perry Gartner. (They are also happy to play you for money if you are wealthy and dumb enough to try them.)

Did I mention that one of the things I love about Chicago’s Bar Point Club is that Bill Davis permits match play on Snowie if both players are in agreement. This allows players to run the evaluations and review errors, see who is playing at exactly what level, and to share positions or entire matches with everyone in the backgammon community. We often make wagers on who will play the best, and the evaluation creates greater interest in the matches. It also forces the players to really concentrate and play their best no matter what the score. It is my hope that some day this will be allowed in all major tournaments as well. (One of the all-time point leaders at the club is Tak Morioka. I didn’t realize how good he really was until he played a 9 point match on Snowie and registered under 4.0.)

I also want to credit Bill Davis in another area. If anyone is interested in starting a backgammon club, anywhere in the world, they can contact Bill and he will give them a basic guide to starting and running a club and offer a lot of helpful ideas and suggestions.