Tim Holland (backgammon)

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Tim Holland (March 3, 1931 – March 10, 2010) was a world-champion backgammon player, highly paid teacher of the game, author of three backgammon books and successful gambler who has won more major backgammon tournaments than anyone in history.[1][2][3][4]

Early years[edit]

Simeon Harold Holland was born in 1931 at Rockville Centre, New York, the only child of Simeon and Inez Holland.[5] He learned to play bridge and golf very young and won a father-son and a mother-son golf tournament when he was seven. He was an outstanding player on his high school golf team, and golf became his preoccupation for the next twenty years.[6] After graduating from South Side High School in 1948, he enrolled at Lehigh University, but transferred to Adelphi University after six months. The following year, he decided that Florida was the best place to play golf, so he transferred to the University of Miami. During his college years, he played a lot of golf and won most of his wagers, but still managed to graduate with a degree in business administration in 1952. He studied at the UM Law School for two years, but did not graduate.[7]

In the mid-1950s, Holland considered playing golf professionally, but the prize money at most tournaments was small—typically only $5,000. Most pros were in their late 30s or 40's, and the golf association discouraged gambling, so he abandoned the idea.[8] At the time, the La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach had over one hundred millionaire members and was, according to Holland, the "gambling capital of golf".[9] For several years, he made his living playing golf for high stakes, but in 1958, he noticed several older members playing a board game in the clubhouse. He asked to play and got hooked on backgammon. It took several years and $30,000 in losses to achieve a mastery of the game, but once he did, Holland was dominant.[10]

Resurgence of game[edit]

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the popularity of Backgammon surged, in part due to the charisma of Prince Alexis Obolensky, who was known as “The Father of Modern Backgammon”.[11] "Obe", as he was called by friends, co-founded the International Backgammon Association[12] which published a set of official rules. He also established the World Backgammon Club of Manhattan, devised a backgammon tournament system in 1963, then organized the first major international Backgammon tournament in March, 1964 which attracted royalty, celebrities and the paparazzi. The game became a huge fad and was played on college campuses, in discothèques and at country clubs;[11] stockbrokers and bankers began playing at conservative men's clubs.[5] Cigarette, liquor and car companies began to sponsor tournaments and Hugh Hefner held backgammon parties at the Playboy Mansion.[13]


Tim Holland was a striking figure at 6’3” tall and always well-dressed. He was supremely self-confident that his skill would prevail, and when he played, he completely focused on the game. He kept a poker face and did not converse with his opponent but was a chain-smoker.[5] Tim Holland was club Backgammon champion at the Regency Whist Club before he won the first World Backgammon Championship in 1968 and held the world title until 1973. No championships were held in the years 1970 and 1971. He won the International Championship of Backgammon, played in London, England in 1966, 1972 & 1973. During the early 1970s, Holland averaged $60,000 per year in prize money from backgammon tournaments, not including his personal wagering.[1]


Following his championships, he was much in demand to teach game strategy. He wrote his first book, Beginning Backgammon in 1973. Holland followed it up with a volume for intermediate players titled, Better Backgammon in 1974, and his final volume was 1977's Backgammon for People who Hate to Lose, which addresses the psychological aspects of the game.[2] He also created a teaching aid for the game, Autobackgammon.[1]


The Park 65 Backgammon Club opened in 1978 with Tim Holland as president.[14] Park 65, as well as most other backgammon clubs, closed or shifted to card games towards the end of the twentieth century as backgammon’s popularity again faded. Tim Holland returned to the game of bridge which he learned as a child, and played professionally until his death.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Tim Holland was divorced four or five times, according to his daughter. Models Joanna Ulrich and Simone Terweij were two of his former spouses. He fathered two children: his son, Joe predeceased him; his daughter, Vanessa is the mother of one granddaughter, Stephanie.[5] Holland married the former Nancy Zorn in 1982, and they were still married at the time of his death.[15]


Tim Holland died on March 10, 2010 of emphysema at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gray, Francine du Plessix: [1] New Yorker Magazine, January 14, 1974, Talk of the Town, Backgammon
  2. ^ a b [2] Backgammon for Beginners, Book: Beginning Backgammon
  3. ^ [3] Golden Riviera website, Backgammon World Championships
  4. ^ [4] OnLineBackgammon, Tim Holland
  5. ^ a b c d Hevesi, Dennis: “Tim Holland, Backgammon Master, Dies at 79” New York Times, March 16, 2010 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NYT" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ Bradshaw, Jon: Fast Company, page 132, Vintage Books, 1987, ISBN 0-394-75618-5
  7. ^ Bradshaw, Jon: Fast Company, pages 136, Vintage Books, 1987, ISBN 0-394-75618-5
  8. ^ Bradshaw, Jon: Fast Company, pages 136–7, Vintage Books, 1987, ISBN 0-394-75618-5
  9. ^ Bradshaw, Jon: Fast Company, page 137, Vintage Books, 1987, ISBN 0-394-75618-5
  10. ^ Bradshaw, Jon: Fast Company, pages 140, Vintage Books, 1987, ISBN 0-394-75618-5
  11. ^ a b [5] GammonLife
  12. ^ [6]
  13. ^ [7] Play65.com, World Backgammon Championships
  14. ^ Margriel, Paul: [8] New York Times, January 26, 1978-Backgammon: Racing for the Moon – While Calculating
  15. ^ a b Sedensky, Matt: “World backgammon champion Tim Holland dies at 79” Palm Beach Post, March 11, 2010
  16. ^ Matt Sedensky (March 11, 2010). "World backgammon champion Tim Holland dies at 79". Associated Press. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

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