Backgammon Articles

Tips on Forming and Operating
a Local Backgammon Club
These tips were kindly supplied by Bill Davis
of the Chicago Point newsletter and Chicago Bar Point Club.

For Starters

  1. 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.

  2. 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 additional business.

  3. 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.

  4. Reject the notion of a formal club "board of directors." 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 points.

When You Get Into Operation

  1. 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.

  2. 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 everything.

  3. 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."

  4. 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

  1. If things aren't going well, seek a new location. (See "For Starters" above).

  2. 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 achieve—and it's free.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Offer free lessons to beginners. If you're busy taking sign-ups, perhaps one of your regulars will help out.

  6. Warn the new players if your waters are shark-infested. Money-hustling sharks must be exposed. They are a backgammon club's most destructive force.

  7. Stress the importance of everyone playing in the tournament. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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 entry fee.

  11. 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.

  12. Consider awarding a free play (or free pool entry) to regulars who bring a new player.

  13. Buy a drink for players who have perfect attendance in any given month.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

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