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Shuffleboard Rules and Scoring: Indoor and Outdoor

Shuffleboard is a game with a long history, especially in England and the United States, and it is still a popular pastime today. But shuffleboard can be a confusing game for new players to understand. Indoor and outdoor shuffleboard games have completely different rules and scoring systems, and there are also many variations to each that can further confound new players.

If you want to learn how to play table shuffleboard and ground shuffleboard, as well as learn the differences between them, you've come to the right place!

What Is Shuffleboard?

While there is still some debate over who officially invented shuffleboard as we know it today, we do know the earliest version of the game, "shove-groat," was played in England in the 15th century. From there, it continued to evolve over time, and it made its way to the American colonies before the Revolutionary War. As the game grew in popularity, there was even a court case in 1848 over whether shuffleboard was a game of chance or of skill — the jury concluded it was a game of skill.

The rules of shuffleboard have continued to change since its beginnings. Today, shuffleboard is played predominately in two forms — outdoor shuffleboard, also known as ground shuffleboard, and indoor shuffleboard, also known as table shuffleboard. While these games carry the same name, they are very different in terms of rules and scoring. But there are some basic similarities in gameplay.

How to Play Shuffleboard

Whether it's played indoor or outdoor, there is always a shuffleboard court. For indoor shuffleboard, the court is on a raised table, a little lower than waist height. Shuffleboard court dimensions have changed over time, but usually, the table is about 12-feet long and 2-feet wide. Those dimensions vary depending on which table you purchase. Outdoor shuffleboard dimensions are very different — the outdoor court is installed in or painted on the ground and is usually 39-feet long and 6-feet wide.

There is no specific shuffleboard scoreboard — you can keep score in your head, or you can purchase a scoreboard to keep track of points throughout the game.

But how do you play shuffleboard? Shuffleboard gameplay consists of sliding pucks to the opposite end of the court in an attempt to score. In table shuffleboard, the pucks are metal and sometimes called weights. They're smaller and can fit in the palm of your hand, so to play, you use your hands to slide them.

In ground shuffleboard, the pucks are plastic, often called biscuits or discs. These pucks are much larger, about the diameter of your open hand. To play, you use a six-foot pole with two prongs on the end, called a cue, to push the discs down the court.

Both types of shuffleboard can be played with either two or four players. If there are four players, split into teams of two, with one player from each team at each side of the court. Every round, players compete against the player on their side, and when the round is finished, the pucks will all be at the other end for the other two players to take their turns. If you're only playing with two players, simply switch sides of the court each round.

This is the essence of shuffleboard — competing against another player as you slide pucks down the court to try to score. Beyond this, the rules and scoring systems diverge completely for indoor and outdoor shuffleboard.

Indoor Shuffleboard Rules

To start indoor shuffleboard, stand side-by-side with your opponent at one end of the table. You'll each have four weighted pucks, and you'll take turns sliding them down the court.

If you're not sure how to decide who shoots first in shuffleboard, you can flip a coin, and the winner can choose who goes first. The final shot of a round, known as the "hammer" shot, is considered to be an advantage, so the winner will generally choose to let the other player go first. The loser can choose which color puck they want to play with. In later rounds, the player who scored in the previous round is the player who goes first.

Each side of the indoor shuffleboard table is marked for scoring. The section closest to the edge of the table is worth three points, the next section two points and the last section one point. This last section extends all the way up to the foul line. We'll get into scoring later, but your main goal is to get your pucks as close to the three-point section as possible without going off the table.

As gameplay begins, there are a couple of important rules you need to know. Shuffleboard rules are simple, but they're important to learn to keep the game running smoothly:

  • Cross the foul line: Each puck must cross the foul line to count as a legitimate shot. If it does not cross the foul line, that puck is taken out of the round, and there are no redoes — it's the next player's turn.

  • Aim for your opponent's pucks: You are allowed, and even encouraged, to target the other player's pucks. If you don't think you can pass the other player's pucks with your shot, you can instead try to knock their pucks off the table into the alley.

After all of the pucks are played, players move to the other side of the table, take score and play the next round.

Now that you know the table shuffleboard rules, let's look at how you score shuffleboard.

Indoor Shuffleboard Scoring

Indoor shuffleboard is typically played to 15 points, but you can play to any score agreed upon by all players. At first glance, learning how to score shuffleboard might seem complicated, but once you play a few rounds, you'll get the hang of it.

The most important of the table shuffleboard scoring rules is that only one player can score per round. The player with the puck farthest down the table is the only player who gets points, and this player only gets points for their pucks that are past all of the other player's pucks.

Pucks are scored based on the number of the zone they're in, so a puck in zone two earns two points. If the puck is between line one and the foul line, it is worth one point. If any part of a puck is touching a line, it's automatically worth the lesser of the two point options. For example, a puck on the line between zones two and three would be worth two points, no matter how much or how little of the puck is in zone two.

Pucks can also hang off the edge of the shuffleboard table without falling into the alley. Pucks in this situation, called "hangers," are awarded five points.

If your shuffleboard table has smaller red numbers next to the larger black numbers, you can choose to use the "handicap scoring" method. Essentially, this allows players of different skill levels to evenly compete with one another. The more experienced player is scored based on the red numbers, while the less experienced player is scored based on the black numbers.

This scoring method means the more experienced player would receive two points for a shot that the less experienced player would receive three points for. However, if you don't want to play with this scoring method, you don't have to!

Now you know the rules and scoring system of indoor shuffleboard. All that's left is to hone your skills through practice and to have fun!

Outdoor Shuffleboard Rules

Even if you've mastered the rules for indoor shuffleboard, outdoor shuffleboard can feel like a completely different game. The court is three times as long, you slide the pucks using cues instead of your hands and the scoring system looks totally different. But once you get the hang of outdoor shuffleboard, you'll find it's not as complicated as it looks.

Outdoor shuffleboard setup is simple. Like indoor shuffleboard, you will begin on one end of the court with your opponent. Each of you will have four discs, which you'll take turns sliding down the court toward the scoring area. The player with what are often yellow discs keeps their discs to the left of the center triangle in the 10-off section. The other player keeps their discs to the right of the 10-off section.

Deciding how to go first in outdoor shuffleboard is similar to the indoor process. In outdoor shuffleboard, the player with the yellow discs always goes first. If you need a method for determining who gets the yellow discs, you can flip a coin to choose. After the first round, the player who scored the most points in the previous round is the player who goes first.

Now we can get into the gameplay. Each side of the outdoor shuffleboard court is marked for scoring. The scoring area is a large triangle divided into sections. The tip of the triangle, closest to the players, is worth 10 points. The next section of the triangle is worth eight points, and this section is split in half down the center. The bottom of the triangle is worth seven points, and this section is also split in half.

Below the triangle, there is another area, almost as wide as the triangle's base, that says "10 off." Many people wonder what 10 off means in shuffleboard — it simply means that if your puck lands in this section, it is worth -10 points.

We'll discuss scoring later, but your basic goal is to score the most points. In indoor shuffleboard, you try to get as close to the far edge of the table as possible — in outdoor shuffleboard, it's the opposite. The highest scoring area is the section closest to you.

Like indoor shuffleboard, there are also foul lines marked on the court. Each disc must get past the far foul line to be kept in play. If a disc doesn't go past the far foul line, it is removed from the court.

As you begin playing, keep in mind some important outdoor shuffleboard rules:

  • Slide the puck properly: To slide a disc legally, the slide must be one smooth motion, beginning in the 10-off area and ending before the tip of the scoring triangle. If a player's cue continues