Shuffleboard is a game that's easy for anyone to play, no matter their age, size, or strength. It brings folks together that way, and now you're about to find out the ins and outs of the game. You'll have a great time, whether you're playing for drinks, bets, or points!
It began in Europe around 600 years ago. King Henry VIII is said to have loved playing the game, as well as betting on it. Some people say shuffleboard died in the '60s. But, just as everything comes back around, it's now hotter than ever, and likely here to stay.
Although there are many variations of the game, we'll focus today on the basic rules of the most popular version. It has a lot in common with curling and air hockey. Paddles are used to "shove" pucks (or "weights") towards a target zone.
It's a favorite amongst bar crowds and many others. But how do you play? Check out this guide to learn the table shuffleboard rules.
Table vs Floor Shuffleboard
Although the basic difference is obvious, with floor (aka "deck") shuffleboard, cues are used rather than paddles. These are used to glide the weighted pucks down a narrow court marked off on the floor.
Table shuffleboard is played on a specialized game table rather than a court on the floor. This table is smaller than a floor court would be. You will shove your puck down the table and into the scoring area at the other end.
The Shuffleboard Table
Official table dimensions are 22 feet long by 20 inches wide by around 30 inches in height. Some people like to use unofficial sizes as short as 9 feet long, but they all need to be the same width. This table is waxed to decrease friction as you shove your puck down the table.
You'll notice lines at 6 and 12 inches from the other end. At 6 feet from that end, you'll see the foul line. There's a gutter surrounding the table called the "alley", which we'll cover in a minute.
Table Shuffleboard Rules
To score points, your puck needs to cross this line without falling off the shuffleboard table. Some shuffleboard games play from one end, others play from both. When playing from both sides, you'll each have a foul line.
1. Gather your players. There will be 2 teams in total. Singles are one-on-one and doubles are two-on-two. Bring your adult beverages, because you're about to play one of the best drinking games in existence (or play for points).
2. Each team gets 4 pucks. Usually, these pucks are red for one team and blue for the other. They may be marked in a different way to distinguish the 2 teams, but the red and blue coloration is most common.
3. Who starts? A coin toss is the easiest way to determine which team goes first. Have a team member call heads or tails and proceed accordingly.
4. Begin the game. Take turns sliding your puck down the table until they're all used. You're trying to get your puck to stop at the farthest end of the table without falling off. One of the most enjoyable elements of the game is knocking your opponent's puck off the table with your own.
5. Score your pucks. The team with the pucks furthest down the table can score points. Note: Only the pucks that went past your opponent's furthest puck can score.
- Score 4 points if your puck hangs over the end of the table (This is called a "hanger")
- Score 3 points if it crosses the far line without falling or hanging
- Score 2 points if it crosses the nearer scoring line
- Score 1 point if it crosses the foul line
- Score points equal to the value of the lower scoring area if your puck crosses a line or lands in between lines.
6. Grab your pucks and start over. The winning team starts the next turn. When playing with only 2 players, whoever scores 11 or 15 points wins the whole game. When playing teams, the first team to get 21 points wins.
If someone needs a handicap, let them score 1 extra point in all cases. Decide on this before starting the game or it could turn into a shuffle scuffle, and nobody wants that.
Shuffleboard Rules Expanded
In the name of good sportsmanship, it's good to shake hands before starting a game. In the time of Covid-19, perhaps an elbow bump will do.
As I mentioned above, flipping a coin is the easiest way to determine which team goes first. But take into account that you have an advantage by going second. You get to go first for the next round.
Penalties & Technicalities
If your puck doesn't pass your foul line, it's removed from the table. This is called being in the "illegal" zone. If your puck falls into the alley, you have to sit out the rest of the round.
Receive a 1 point penalty if you:
- Touch the playing surface at any time
- Hold a puck in your hand while the other team is playing
- Cause the table to vibrate or move by any means
Try to hit the other team's pucks to push them into the alley. This will hopefully move your puck into a higher-scoring area and eliminate their puck from the game. If yours happens to pass the foul line and bounces off a puck, you might end up in the illegal zone, in which case both pucks are removed from play.
During a doubles game, a player from each team will stand on opposite ends of the shuffleboard table and shoot alternately. It's a lot like playing 2 games at once and then combining each team's scores.
Players are not allowed to go to the other end of the shuffleboard table to check out the positions of the pucks. You have to rely on asking your partner.
What Makes Table Shuffleboard a Great Drinking Game?
It's not just the points, but the penalties and slang that should earn it a place on your fun drinking games list. There are so many little penalties that are easy to make if you're a little tipsy. It'll result in friendly shouting and laughter as you point out that the other team did this or that to get docked a point.
Table shuffleboard was originally developed for rowdy crowds in pubs, to keep them out of otherwise destructive antics during the evening. How would we keep the very fabric of society together without the game of shuffleboard? Well, we wouldn't, and the world would fall apart at the seams.
Friends gather to watch and get loud, have a blast, and stay out of trouble. It's a compact, easy-to-play game, which makes it perfect for pubs. There are a few ways you can make this a drinking game whether you're at the bar or home, so let's go over some scenarios:
For this version of table shuffleboard, you'll play doubles, meaning 2 on each team. If you don't have enough people for doubles, take the opportunity to make new friends by coaxing people over to play. You could make a new friend or get a date out of this!
Each player must hold a beer in one hand during the whole game, knocking them off balance a little. If they put their beer down, they have to take a drink. "Joe just put his beer down! Drink up, buddy!"
Make your own rules surrounding when sips are taken, such as with each penalty, point, knock-off, round loss, etc. It depends on what kind of night you want to have (and how you want to feel in the morning).
Build your skill and celebrate a championship with more drinks! Remember to grab a ride home, because a shuffleboard night can get a little crazy.
Shuffleboard is Timeless
I used to frequent a few bars back in the day, but one stands out in particular. As I walked in, my eyes were hit with a sleek, inviting shuffleboard table, well-lit under the dangling fixture, the surrounding floor well-worn. It was a timeless spectacle, setting that particular establishment apart from the rest of the neighborhood haunts.
All over the world, people are feeling the same way. It's not only the gaming aspect but the bonding and aesthetic aspects that make the inclusive "table shuffleboard" unique and cool. Now you know why this game has staying power.