An introduction to the classic bar game of table shuffleboard.
Table shuffleboard is one of my favorite bar games.
One of the reasons I love it so much is that pretty much anyone can play shuffleboard. And most people take to it right away.
But some people decide that the game looks strange or complicated, and they decide it’s not for them. If that’s you, you’re missing out.
Don’t worry. After reading this guide, you will know how to play shuffleboard.
So the next time you find a bar with a shuffleboard table, you’ll be ready to join in the fun.
This post will begin with a basic overview of how to play shuffleboard with two or four people.
Then we’ll go a little deeper into basic scoring principles technique and equipment.
Let’s get started
(Click here for shuffleboard rules)
Shuffleboard with Two People
You and your buddy see an empty shuffleboard table. You decide it looks fun and want to give it a try.
Here’s how to play a game of shuffleboard with two people.
You and your opponent will stand at the same end of the table.
Decide who gets the red pucks and who gets the blue pucks. There are eight pucks total. These are also called weights.
Now decide on how many points to play to. The standard numbers are 15 or 21.
You will alternate turns sliding your pucks towards the opposite end of the table.
Your goal is to shoot your puck as far down the table as possible without falling off.
Your puck must slide beyond your opponent’s farthest puck to score. It must land in a scoring section, of which there are three.
Only one player can score per round.
You can also knock your opponent’s pucks off the side or end of the table. Hence the name of the game – “Knockoff”.
And you can make contact with your own pucks to push them into better scoring positions.
After shooting all 8 pucks, you have completed one round.
Both players now move to the opposite side of the table to review the puck locations.
Do not touch any pucks until both players agree on the score for that round.
After determining the score, begin the next round from this end of the table.
Rounds continue until one player reaches either 15 or 21 points.
How to Play Shuffleboard with Four People
Shuffleboard is also fun with four players.
First, choose your teams of two.
You and your teammate stand at opposite ends of table, each standing next to an opposing player.
You stay at your end of the table for the whole game. No alternating sides in this one.
Otherwise it is the same as 2-person shuffleboard.
You and your opponent alternate slides towards the opposite end.
Try to slide your puck into scoring positions. Only the farthest puck(s) of the same color will count. You can also knock pucks off the table.
And, a bonus is that your partner can offer some guidance from the other side.
After you agree on the score for that round, the next team begins their turn, shooting from their side of the table.
Four person games are usually played until one team reaches 15 or 21 points.
Playing doubles is a great way to enhance the social aspect of the game and get more people involved.
A note about shooting order in shuffleboard matches:
Shuffleboard matches may begin with a coin toss.
Winner of the coin toss gets to choose to either shoot last (be the “hammer”) or pick a color.
Most people pick to shoot last for the first round.
In shuffleboard it is an advantage to shoot last in a round.
This is also known as the “hammer”.
The hammer gives you the last chance to clear an opponent’s pucks off the board, or advance your own pucks into better scoring positions.
After the first round, players should alternate shooting order as follows:
- The player who scored in a round will go first in the next round. This way the non-scoring player can shoot last.
- If there are no scores in a round, the team or player with the hammer in the previous round shoots first in the next round.
An Overview of the Shuffleboard Table, Pucks and Accessories
The game of table shuffleboard has some unique physical features. In addition to reviewing the rules of how to play this game, it’s also helpful to know more about the equipment you’ll be using.
Here’s a quick review of essential shuffleboard equipment. Starting with the table.
22 Foot Champion Worthington Shuffleboard Table (Learn more at The Shuffleboard Federation)
The Shuffleboard Table
A shuffleboard table has a long and narrow playing surface.
In fact, the length of a full-sized tournament table is 22 feet. That’s over twice the length of a regulation pool table.
The playing surface of an official table is 20′ 8″ long x 20″ wide. And the height of the table to the top of the playing shuffleboard surface is 30 inches.
If you’re at a bar with a full size shuffleboard table, consider yourself lucky. It’s a real pleasure to play at this scale.
But to fit in the tighter spaces of bars and basements, recreational tables can range anywhere from 9 to 20 feet.
A common length for a barroom shuffleboard tables is 12 feet.
Recreational shuffleboard tables also vary in width. But it’s definitely more fun to play on a table with a surface that is at least 18” wide. This allows for adequate spacing between the pucks on the table.
Shuffleboard tables have hardwood playing surfaces. High quality surfaces are usually made from maple and coated with epoxy to protect against dings and scratches.
Most surfaces are also concaved. This means the center line angles inward to keep pucks from wandering off.
If you own a table, clean, wax and spray the surface with silicone on a regular basis to maintain it.
What’s that powder for?
You may notice that powder covers the playing shuffleboard playing surface.
Shuffleboard powder is sometimes called salt or wax. But the powder is actually made from silicone beads and cornmeal.
The powder helps provide a fast, smooth and straight glide.
You can apply a new coat for each game.
Also, a player can apply powder from the gully if they notice dry spots before a shot.
Enjoy the Game
Stay tuned for more posts about how to play shuffleboard, including technical tips, an overview of variations on the popular “knock-off” format, and some of the best bars with shuffleboard tables in the US.
And for some more inspiration, check out this shot:
Learn More About Shuffleboard Tables: McClure Tables
Official Rules of Table Shuffleboard
The History of Shuffleboard from Bower’s Corner
How to Play Table Shuffleboard
Here are some basic notes on how to play shuffleboard—from just prior to the game to the very end.
Prior to the Game
Prior to beginning a game of table shuffleboard, the two individuals (or teams of two in “doubles”) will flip a coin. The winner of the coin flip can either have his choice of the red or blue-colored pucks; or he may choose the order in which he—or his team—will shoot (who will go first and who will go second). Because there is no real advantage to shooting with either the red or blue pucks, in most cases the winner of the flip will elect to shoot last—a position known as “the hammer.” In table shuffleboard, being the hammer carries with it a pretty good advantage, given that the last player has an opportunity to knock an opponent’s winning puck off the table.
Prior to the game the two sides must also agree on how many points it will take to win the game. In regulation table shuffleboard, games are played to 15 points; but in many recreational settings the game is finished when one team reaches 21 points.
Each player or team plays with 4 pucks.
The following list will give you a great idea of how the game of table shuffleboard is played from start to finish.
- Alternate Shots. After the order is determined the game starts when Player 1 shuffles his first puck towards the scoring area, from there, players will alternate shots until all eight pucks have been shot.
- Must Stand Behind the Table. When shooting, players must stand with at least one foot behind the table. They are permitted to lean on the table for support, but they are not allowed to shake or move the table.
- Only farthest pucks of one color score. Only pucks that are farther than your opponent’s highest scoring pucks are eligible for points. Only one player or team can score per round.
- Pucks must clear the foul line. Only pucks that have cleared the foul line in the middle of the table are eligible for scoring (or blocking). Pucks that do not reach the foul line are cleared off the table.
- Three scoring zones. Players can score points in one, two or three scoring zones. Pucks must completely pass the line preceding the scoring zone to score points in that zone.
- Hangers. A hanger—when the puck is “hanging” over the edge of the playing surface on the opposite end—is worth 4 points in table shuffleboard.
- After each round. At the conclusion of each round, both players—or both teams of two players each—must agree upon how many points were scored and which player received credit for those points. The player who earned the points is required to shoot first in the next round. If no points were scored, the player who shot last in the preceding round must shoot first.
- Winner. The winner of the match is the first player or team to reach 15 or 21 points—depending on the number of winning points that were decided upon prior to the game.
- Dusting the Table. If during the match a player notices a dry spot on the table, he may reapply more powder from the excess in the well. Also, after each match the table should be completely re-powdered as a courtesy to the next players or teams on deck.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO FOLLOW THIS TUTORIAL:
When learning how to play shuffleboard, ensure you have the following items beforehand:
- Shuffleboard tabletop: Shuffleboards mostly have a wooden finish and vary in length according to your preference. They have gutters on either side of the table.
- 8 pucks: 4 of one color and four of the other, usually red and blue.
- Shuffleboard wax: to ensure the board is smooth to help the pucks glide on it.
- A coin.
- A scoresheet.
Alternatives for Shuffleboard Tabletop:
Instead of a tabletop, you can use a bank-board which is equipped with cushions at the sides of the table instead of gutters. You can use a regular table as well, however, it must be smooth enough for the puck to slide across. I would recommend using the original tabletop as it is much smoother and slipperier, and the pucks will not harm it as much. It is easy for the puck to bounce off a cushion and so, a table with gutters is preferred.
Alternative for Pucks:
Coins can be used as replacements for pucks as they are easily available. However, I would not recommend using them if you had any other choice. You might have noticed that coins have small ridges at the edges, these can seriously damage the smoothness of the board. I recommend good old pucks for the best play.
Alternatives to Shuffleboard Wax:
Shuffleboard wax is great to use on a traditional lacquer board, but it can be slow as you need to buff the wax in. The fastest alternative is an aerosol polish which could be harmful to your health. Powder works great as well, however, it can be easily used in excess and the pucks will end up plowing the powder, slowing them down. I have found the shuffleboard wax to be the best for beginners learning how to play shuffleboard.
About the shuffleboard poster
Here is more of what this product entails:
- Price: $14.99 (+ $4.99 shipping)
- Where to buy: Amazon.com
- Shipping weight: 1 lb
- Amazon Standard Shipping Number (ASIN): B002L45A9Y
- Play Shuffleboard Right 11 x 17 Laminated Poster contains the Basic Rules of Shuffleboard along with the Rules for Horsecollar
- Included in our poster is a Helpful Hints Section to take your game to the next level along with descriptions of different types of Shuffleboard Shots.
- This Poster would look Great in any Game Room, Bar or Club.
Table Shuffleboard Requirements
You will need a shuffle board as well as the disks that usually come with it. You will also need to gather a group of people so that you’ll be divided into teams of two. You will also need to have the shuffleboard scorer next to you to tally up the points.
- Decide which team goes first by flipping a coin or deciding on your own.
- The team who goes first chooses a player who is then handed a disk. This player will then attempt to push the disk into one of the marked sections. Only the team whose disk is ahead of their opponents will be able to score. The goal is thus for you to try and beat the other team by staying ahead of them all the time.
- These marked sections are for scoring purposes and they work as follow:
- If a disk hangs over the far end of the table that team will receive 4 points.
- If a disk crosses the far line without hanging over the team scores 3 points
- If a disk crosses the nearer scoring line the team will receive 2 points.
- If it crosses the foul line but no other lines the team will receive 1 point.
- If a disk should cross or touch any of the scoring lines it will receive the value as score in the lower numeral area. WikiHow explains this by saying that if a disk should cross the 3-point line, but it still touching the line, the team will only receive 2 points.
- Teams may shoot their opponents’ disks off of the table so that they start again, and individuals may also use their disks to shoot their team member’s disk into a certain scoring block.
- Once you have reached the end of the table pick it up and start again. The first player to reach 21 points will be the winner.