How to play Tavli – Greekstyle

How to play Tavli – Greekstyle

For Greek people (men in particular), one of the main forms of entertainment (aside from eating, staring, gossiping and…eating some more…) is the game TAVLI. ‘Tavli’ means ‘board’ and is basically the Greek version of backgammon…with a lot more shouting. The game is generally played for fun, but sometimes also for money.

I have many fond memories of my Greek relatives playing Tavli. When my Papou (Grandfather) used to come to England, he and my father would shut themselves away for hours playing Tavli, engulfed in a cloud of smoke and sipping ouzo until the wee small hours of the morning.

There are three games of Tavli:

  • Portes – most similar to Western backgammon
  • Plakoto – a game where one checker can trap another checker at the same point
  • Fevga – (Turkish origin) where one checker by itself can block a point

The games are played one after the other, in matches of 3, 5 or 7 points.

Dimitrios the Great with his game of Tavli

Dimitrios the Great with his game of Tavli

The following rules apply to all variants of Tavli:

  • Only one pair of dice is used.
  • In the first game, each player rolls one die and the higher number goes first.  That player then rolls the dice again to begin his first turn.
  • After the first game, the winner of the previous game goes first.
  • The first player to bear off all his checkers gets one point, or, if the winner bears off all his checkers before the loser has borne off any, he gets two points. There is no triple game.
  • No doubling cube is used.

Tavli is a very fast paced game and there are regular wins which credits the players with points. It is a game that can easily become addictive…much like food.

So grab yourself a Tavli board, add some olives, feta and ouzo to the mix and you have yourself one very Greek night of entertainment.

May the best Greek win! OPA!



  1. 12th October 2018 / 9:45 am

    If instead you prefer playing a Tavli game alone on your computer, you can try the iTavli game.

    • Ekaterina
      12th October 2018 / 10:43 pm

      Thank you!

  2. 22nd November 2015 / 6:42 am

    I never knew that there was a western style and Greek style of play. I am half Greek American and my father taught me backgammon and I just took it for granted that was how you played everywhere. I feel like an idiot. I am a little sad the doubling cube isn’t used in Tavli because it’s one of my favorite aspects of the way I learned to play!

  3. 6th October 2015 / 11:32 am

    Excellent game and can be very tactical. I play it every day and guess what? ‘I’M A CHAMPION!’ 🙂

    • Ekaterina
      6th October 2015 / 10:17 pm


  4. 20th January 2014 / 2:01 pm

    Reminds me when I was a kid, being stuck in Rhodes due to a snow storm and learning how to play Tavli from the ‘champion’. Well, this older grandfather type, said he was the champion …

    • EBotziou
      20th January 2014 / 2:58 pm

      Apparently they’re all ‘champions’!