Tips on Forming and Operating|
a Local Backgammon Club
- Find a good location.
To keep your club sociable, choose a location that serves reasonable food
and drinks. You also want an establishment that remains open until at
least midnight. Check out bar/restaurant locations that are easily
accessible to players in your metropolitan area. A side room with
individual tables or booths is better than a closed room with long
tables. Also, try to immediately get the waitress on your side. Give her
a nice tip each week, and encourage your players to do likewise. Tell her
to report to you if anyone is ill-mannered. An efficient waitress is a
valuable asset to your club.
- Be flexible on the day you meet.
If you find a nice place, ask the owner which day he would prefer
to have you on a weekly basis. That's the day he most needs the
- Pick a friendly club name.
Avoid "corporation" or "association" in your
name. These are words suitable for a business environment. You want your
players to think of the backgammon club as a sociable place to go for
food, drink and friendly competitive action.
- Reject the notion of a formal club "board of
Again, too business-like. Besides, if you're a fair-minded monarch,
you'll be able to make a lot more "good" decisions for your
club in much shorter time.
- Don't charge a membership fee.
A membership fee is a possible option when your club is established, but
not when it's just beginning.
- Hold a
"Grand Opening" event.
Try to guarantee a big turnout by having flyers printed and doing
mailings. Put up flyers in the bar and at colleges in the area. Also make
phone calls. Try to get a free listing in the "Events Calendar"
of your local newspaper. This regular listing will be your broadest
exposure. Keep the entry fee at a level that your area's economy is
comfortable with. Return 75%-85% of the entry fee in the Open division
(perhaps higher for your kickoff event) and make the "Grand
Opening" entry free in the Beginner division (award prizes like
backgammon books, precision dice, etc.). You'll lose money on the first
tournament because of the supplies, advertising costs and prizes, but
this is to be expected with any new business.
- Be prepared for initially low attendance
following your "Grand Opening."
It will take a number of months to build a base of players. Just make
sure that you always hold a tournament, even if there are only four of
you. Occasional players must know that if they decide to attend, there
will always be a tournament and the chance to win cash prizes and master
When You Get Into Operation
- You'll need to develop your own mailing list
by taking every player's name, address and telephone number the first
night they attend. This is the only way to be sure of a true
"up-to-date" area listing.
- Gather the supplies you will need:
Pencils, score sheets, chouette sheets, a notebook, tournament draw
sheets, numbered cards for the draw, ... and a briefcase to carry
- Have a master point system.
Follow the American Contract Bridge League's concept: the more you
attend, the greater your chance of earning points. Never deduct master
points (like they do in chess tournaments). The idea is to encourage
attendance. Honor each "Player of the Month" with some small
token (perhaps a free drink). Award prizes to your top players at the end
of each year at an "Awards Night."
- Set up a monthly newsletter
that lists the master point standings and perhaps some club news (results
from previous month, upcoming events, etc.).
Ways To Build Up Your Attendance
- If things aren't going well, seek a new location.
(See "For Starters" above).
- Work hard to get a free listing in the "Events Calendar"
of your local newspaper. This is the broadest long term
advertising exposure that you can achieveand it's free.
- The players must always come first.
When they come to you with results, you must be receptive even if you're
in the middle of a match. The same is true if you're involved in a
chouette. The players must never feel like they're bothering you when
they approach you with results or a question.
- Arrive at least one hour prior to the tournament
and order dinner. You'll be surprised how many others will join
you. Dinner begins the evening on a sociable note and provides the
restaurant with a reason to host your club.
- Offer free lessons to beginners.
If you're busy taking sign-ups, perhaps one of your regulars will help
- Warn the new players if your waters are shark-infested.
Money-hustling sharks must be exposed. They are a backgammon club's most
- Stress the importance of everyone playing in the
Let people know that if they only come by to play on the side, they're
not supporting the club. Charge non-tournament players a side fee and
limit the number of times they may attend without entering the
tournament. This rule is the best way to weed out your sharks because no
true shark will want to waste three or four hours playing in a small $5
or $10 tournament.
- Start the tournament on time.
If you advertise holding the drawing for byes at 7:00 p.m., then hold
it at 7:00 p.m. If you're regularly late in starting, players will be late
in arriving. And adhere to a cut-off time when entries are no longer
accepted. You may turn away a few players, but those players will never
be late again. And if you let them play, the entire tournament
will run late thus penalizing those who arrived on time.
- Keep tournament entry fees as low as possible,
yet still interesting. It's unlikely that you'll lose any players who
enjoy the game and you may gain some players who live on a tight
budget. If you survey the players on raising the entry fee, take the
results with a grain of salt. Money-oriented players will push for a
raise, and few will challenge them, because who wants to admit that their
money is tight?
- Offer an optional side pool
for those who seek extra action. If your entry fee is $10, perhaps the
side pool would be $5 or $10. The player in the pool advancing the
furthest in the tournament wins all the side money. This is a good way to
increase the action in your tournament without increasing the required
- Hold a special tournament once each month.
Perhaps you'll award double master points, or maybe return more of the
entry fees. The idea is to get an increase in attendance that will carry
over to the other weeks.
- Consider awarding a free play
(or free pool entry) to regulars who bring a new player.
- Buy a drink for players
who have perfect attendance in any given month.
- Don't be afraid to make a difficult decision regarding
a trouble-maker if that decision will benefit the club as a whole. You
may lose the respect of the trouble-maker, but you'll win the respect of
those who understand fair play.
- Above all, seek out players who enhance the social
aspects of your club. The friendly, skilled player who shares his
knowledge with others is your club's best friend. The money-hungry shark is
your worst enemy.
See also: Chicago Bar Point Club Tournament Procedure
: Backgammon Galore