Playing Tavli (Backgammon) in Greece with Omilo

Playing Tavli or Backgammon is a very popular Greek habit. Almost every Greek has enjoyed a sunny morning with cold coffee (preferably a frappe) and a round of “Portes” or a summer afternoon with a glass of ouzo accompanied by a “meze” and a round of “Plakoto”.

Backgammon is a board game for 2 players. It consists of one board, twelve checkers for each player and two dice. Tavli or backgammon has different ways of playing. The main games are: “Portes” (doors), Plakoto (crash down) and “Fevga” (leaves). All games combine luck with strategy. The result depends on the dice and the player’s ability to move the checkers. The duration of each game is not very long, so the suspense and interest is always very high.

Backgammon is known since Antiquity and has several varieties. In Mesopotamia and in Egypt, a game similar to the modern backgammon already existed. Later, we find it in Greece with the name “Pessoi” and in the Roman Empire with the name Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum (game of 12 letters). Also in the Middle Ages it was popular, although the church prohibited playing backgammon. When it was banned in England, the English players made a board which looked like a book so they were able to carry it without fear. Backgammon owes its current appearance to this “construction”.

In modern Greece, backgammon is popular within every age. In the beginning, you could find it in men’s cafes (kafeneia). Men who used to frequent the cafes were playing cards and backgammon. Gradually everyone loved it and “tavli” even ended up being a student habit. Today, you can see people playing backgammon everywhere: on the beach, on the boat, in the café, in the park, and at Omilo!

During one of our Greek courses on the island of Syros, the Omilo teachers were teaching the Omilo students how to play “portes” (“doors”) or how to improve their scores. It seemed to be popular, since many bought a backgammon before returning home! So what do you think? Maybe a good idea to ask for a Birthday Present!