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Phil Osophies:

  • Sarcasm is irritating and unsettling and should be used frequently.
  • Save a dollar a day and some day you'll be sorry it wasn't two dollars.
  • If you say something stupid and no one disagrees, then you know you're the boss.
  • Variety is the spice of divorce.
  • An egotist is a disgusting, low person who is more interested in himself than he is in me.
  • The better the opportunity appears to be, the more likely it is that you don't know all the facts.
  • If everyone agrees with me I reconsider.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to repeat yourself to make a point. Sometimes.
  • Just because you call the shots doesn't mean you're at the right end of the barrel.
  • We only owe our children two things: love and hope.
  • Never repress anything but your pants.
  • The two dumbest things I ever said were, "I do."
  • I'd rather be lonely alone than lonely with somebody else.
  • Always take the road less traveled--unless it's through Gary, Indiana.
  • If you want to make someone hate you, explain to them, logically and politely, why they are wrong.
  • I wash and wear the pants in my family.
  • It is dangerous to be right when the boss is wrong.
  • I can handle criticism so long as it isn't about me.
  • When the heart is full, the head is empty.
  • The two most common reasons for losing are: not knowing you're competing in the first place, and not knowing with whom you really are competing.
  • We're all a little nearsighted and must take a step back to see things more clearly.
  • The best way to kill someone's enthusiasm is to tell them "yes".
  • Shit in a giftbox is still shit.
  • When your competition's sleeping, it's best to tiptoe bye.
  • You can make your own omelet: either scramble your brains with drugs and alcohol, or just keep your sunny side up.
  • Thank God there are only 10 Commandments!
  • I don't mind sleeping on an empty stomach so long as it isn't my own.
  • Life is only in balance if you play as hard as you work.
  • If you stop to consider all the options before you act, you will always know what to do next time.
  • "Tact" is when the mind says, "Go to hell!" but the mouth says, "Hope to see you again, real soon."
  • Listen to your heart, but use your brain when you open your mouth.
  • Don't come on too strong when you hold the winning hand or you'll find yourself playing solitaire.
  • The biggest problem with stupid people is they don't know it.
  • Friendship, love, can have each only to the extent you are willing to compromise the other two.
  • Being worse is no excuse for losing.
  • The only thing you can be sure of in New York is death in taxis.
  • The stepping stones of life are often made of flesh.
  • There are two kinds of people in this world: dumb people; really dumb people; and really, really dumb people.
  • There's nothing wrong with promiscuity that a fatal disease wouldn't cure.
  • If everyone likes you, you must be doing something wrong.
  • There are many ways to measure success, but only one you can spend.
  • Spare the rod.
  • I try to maintain a positive attitude even though it seldom works.
  • The only people you should admit your transgressions to are your great, great grandchildren.
  • Peace of mind grows in my garden.
  • The deeper the thought the more I want a beer.
  • You can't win if he has nothing to lose.
  • If you don't laugh at yourself once in a while, others will.
  • Love goes without saying.
  • If you can't find the tune, it's classical. If you find it and lose it, it's jazz.
  • What you are is more important than who you are.
  • Being divorced means knowing how to maintain a rejection.
  • Even your favorite dessert tastes bitter if it's shoved down your throat.
  • If success does not buy happiness, what's the point of being happy?
  • There's an inverse relationship between availability and desirability.
  • If you want people to remember you, tell them something really interesting about them.
  • If you can't beat 'em, don't play 'em.
  • "Thank you, I would like a banana," is the most you should tell your competitor.
  • You are where you eat.
  • No matter what the subject, be passionate about it, or forget it.
  • An empty closet is the devil's playground.
  • Pulling your weight is smarter than pushing your luck.
  • If you don't love yourself neither will anyone else.
  • Honesty is the best foreplay.
  • All I want is someone to hold me. And pay me for it.



     by Phil Simborg & Stu Katz

If you're like most of us, you're sick of hearing your friends tell you about how they lost a match or game that just "couldn't be lost".   Aren't you tired of hearing  about someone's opponent rolling  6-2 from the bar to win the match?  Or "dancing twice in a row on a one-point board"?  Or "the idiot rolled double one's."


We got sick of hearing it from both others and each other, so we developed a system (code) to save time.  This code has added greatly to our lives, so I thought I would share it with all of you so that, in the future, when you're telling me about "the disgusting, almost impossible way" you lost the match, you can spare us the details. 


It's simple:  we've simply numbered all the typical situations, and now we only have to say to each other, "He rolled a No. 4."  Or whatever.  Here's the code:


No. 1  You danced once or more on a one or two point board.

No. 2  He rolled the only number that hits you to win the game.

No. 3   He rolled many doubles in the bear off and beat you.

No. 4  You were down to  2 or 3 checkers on your ace, rolled a one, got hit    and lost.

No. 5  You couldn't roll a number higher than a 3 for four and had to

  break your prime;  but you should still have one and he rolled jokers.

No. 6  He made horrible plays, while you played like a master, but he rolled    out of his kazoo and beat you anyway.

No. 7  He took the worst double you've ever seen and was sure to get     gammoned, but he rolled jokers and won.

No. 8  You rolled the perfect roll to win the game but it was cocked dice.

No. 9  You know he rolled a 2-1 but he swore it was a 1-1 and the     tournament director made you flip a coin and you lost and you lost.

No. 10  He went to the bathroom and you're sure he either ran to his car and

  used Jellyfish or he talked to Jake and found out what to do.


So in the future, don't bother us with long, sad stories...just give us the number.  And by the way, if we respond "No. 1 Response," that means:  "What makes you think I give a damn how you lost your stupid match?"



By Phil Simborg


We all know that an irritated, distracted opponent will play worse.  Here's some "advanced" tips for you:

1.  Call his worst rolls for him.

2.  Call your second best roll, and if you roll your best roll, complain.

3.  If he wins a game or match, tell him how lucky he was.

4.  If you win a game or match, tell him how amazing it was you won with all those bad rolls.

5.  Whenever he's thinking about a tough play, or counting pips, tap the table impatiently, sigh heavily, and keep shaking your dice to distract him.

6.  Whenever you get a perfect roll that closes him out or ends the game, pretend you don't see it right away and make the play very slowly, acting like you're thinking about doing something else.

7.  Whenever he makes a daring play, like leaving a voluntary shot, or gambling for a G instead of doubling, and it doesn't work--be sure to tell him you wouldn't have done that.

8.  If you gammon him, tell him he was very lucky not to get backgammoned.

9.  Whenever he rolls a repeater, even if it's a terrible roll, remind him that he really should shake his dice.

10.  Practice your rolling technique so that whenever you have an important roll the dice will be off the table and you'll have to roll over several times.

11.  If you are sure you are not going to double, finger the doubling cube for a while and then change your mind.

12.  Yell "YES!" whenever he rolls a really bad roll.

13.  Especially if you are playing with his board, eat something really messy while you play and drip food all over the checkers and the board.  (If you smoke, ashes look lovely on an opponent's board.)

14.  Whenever he has a forced play, tell him it's forced and move his checkers for him.

15.  And lastly, if you win, be sure to report it to the tournament director in the loudest possible voice.

I can guarantee you that if you use the above strategies two things are certain:

1)  You will irritate the hell our of your opponent, and;

2)  You will need a good dentist.


Thought you'd enjoy this. I'm playing Jake Jacobs in the semis of our weekly Chicago Bar Point tournament last nite, and it's kind of a big match as both Jake and I are in the top 10 at the club and the points are close; there's about $250 to the winner of the tournament; he and I have a side bet (7 point match, he pays $60 and I pay $50); I have side bets on that match, etc.

I play BRILLIANTLY of course, and we get to 5-4, I'm leading, and Jake has a winning position and is thinking about cubing. He spends a long time studying the board, computing match equities, gammons, counting shots and return shots, counting the race, thinking about whether or not I would take or drop, etc. At the same time, I quickly determine I don't have a clue if it's a take or drop and I'm thinking about whether to have the jello or rice pudding that comes with dinner.

Finally, he turns the cube. Whereupon I pull out a coin and say, "Heads I take, tails, I drop." The crowd goes crazy, and Jake is of course a visibly way does he want the outcome of any match to reside so much on luck, and by my action, I ensure that luck plays an even greater part in the action. (That tends to bother any player who believes he is playing an inferior player, by the way!) Anyway, I figured, I didn't know whether to take or drop anyway, so what the hell? I might as well flip a coin, and then, whatever happens, why not have some fun?

It came up tails, I dropped, the match went to 5-5; Jake doubled early in the next game and was crushing me, and of course, my last 3 rolls were doubles, as they had to be, in order for me to win the match.

I have never felt more sorry for my opponent. I love of the sweetest (and most unusual) people I have ever known, and I had beaten him almost entirely by luck. (By the way, my tournament record against Jake is excellent, and I would venture to say that Jake probably thinks I am one of the luckiest players on earth, as he has coached me for years and knows how poorly I play.)

It didn't make Jake feel any better that I was trounced in the finals by a player that Jake would probably beat 9 out of 10 times. And my points for finishing second have put me just ahead of Jake in the standings. Well, you can be sure I will bring that lucky coin with me and use it. Every time I play Jake.

Epilogue: After a few minutes and a couple of beers, Jake was in his usual good cheer and happy to have some new material for a future book. I asked him what kind of book he was planning, and he replied, "It's about a homicide."



By Phil Simborg

I don't know if anyone has yet written a definite code of ethics, or code of conduct for backgammon play, but it is sorely needed.  And it's needed not just because there are some jerks with very poor ethics and courtesy playing the game,  but because  many of us just don't realize how certain things can be perceived as unkind, or rude.  So, for what it's worth, here are things that bother me that I would like to suggest should be the do's and don'ts of backgammon play.  Most of these apply to both live matches and electronic (internet) play.  Chouette play has even a more complex set of standards.


1.  Always greet your opponent in some friendly manner.  You can just say hi, shake hands, wish them luck, wish them a good match, tell them where you are from, or whatever…but don't just sit down and start rolling the dice.

2. When a match is over, always say goodbye.  Or thanks for playing, or whatever you are comfortable with.  You don't have to say "good match" if you don't believe it was, but if you are the looser, congratulations and best wishes in the rest of the tournament or on line is a reasonable goodbye.

3. When you double, place the cube gently in the center, and say double.  If you take, put it on your side and say "take".  If you drop, be sure to put the cube in it's proper place and say "drop" or "pass" clearly.

4. Both parties should keep score, and you should announce the score or acknowledge your opponent's announcement of the score, after each game.  If it is a Crawford game, announce that at the start and take the cube off the board.

5. Always shake your dice at least three times and roll them out.  Do not shake while your opponent is playing or thinking about a play.

6. Be quiet and still while your opponent is thinking or playing.

Now, the "don'ts":

1.  Do not point out your opponent's luck, or lucky rolls, either during or after a match.    Whether you mean to or not, pointing out your opponent's luck suggests that he is winning or has won due to that luck and not due to his skill.  Even if he was unbelievably lucky, it's poor form and bad sportsmanship.  And most players fail to see their own good luck as well as the many bad rolls the opponent probably got too.  Most players also forget that the better you play, the luckier you seem to be, because you are set up for more good rolls and protected against more of the bad rolls.  When a player tells me how lucky I am just after I've beaten him, I say "Yes, I was lucky to play someone who played so much worse than me." 

2. Do not call your opponent's bad rolls, or your own good ones.  It's irritating and capricious.

3. Do not handle the doubling cube unless you mean to double.  In fact, this could even be, consciously or unconsciously, a form of cheating…you reach for the cube and see if the opponent reaches for the score sheet or reached to take the cube…or simply check out his reaction. 

4. Do not roll until your opponent has clearly picked up his dice.  Rolling too soon, or just as he's picking up his dice, can only create conflict as to whether or not the roll counted, or whether or not the player had truly finished thinking about his play.  And quick rolling unfairly rushes the opponent into playing.

5. Do not laugh, chortle, or giggle when your opponent gets a really bad roll, and do not rejoice when you get a really good one.  (Paul Franks and Dougie Roberts can often be heard exclaiming a resounding "yes" just about every time they come off the bar with doubles and hit their opponent.)  It's irritating and not nice. 

6. Don't play like a turtle.  It's fine to sit and think about a really tough play or cube decision.  Even the top experts need time to consider all the variables.  But if you have a simple choice between two plays early in the game, taking more than a few seconds to make the choice is really inconsiderate.  We all agree that longer matches are fairer (the better player is more likely to win), but we are often discouraged from having longer matches because some people just take too long.  It ruins the fun, as well as the fairness of the game.  If I had an hour to look at every move, I am sure I would make less mistakes.  But it would be a horrible game to play or watch.  (When playing on the internet, it is particularly unsportsmanlike to take a long time, as that time could be used to run the position through a computer program such as Snowie or Jellyfish.  Even if that's not done, it's not fair to make your opponent have to worry about that.)

7. Do not engage in conversations with kibbitzers or people at the next table.   Don't talk on your cellphone, listen to headphones, or anything else but give your full, polite attention to the match.

8. If you wish to stop and copy a board position for later analysis, ask your opponent if they mind first.  Do it quickly and don't do it too often.

9. Do not say "nice roll" or "good game" after every good roll and after every game.  Complimenting your opponent's rolls is just another way of telling him he's lucky.  If you want to compliment him on a play, or cube decision, or well-played game, on exceptional occasions, or after the match is over, that's fine.

Have you experienced any of the above?  Of course you have.  Is it because your opponent is a bad sport?  Not always….often, people just don't realize that these things are offensive or bothersome.  Maybe tournament directors can make this article available to participants as a reminder, and I hope to see a copy posted with some of the internet servers for reference. 


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