How to Play Skee Ball: Rules and Best Tricks

For this article, we've chosen the most thorough info on how to play skee ball: basics, winning techniques and even how to make your own skee ball machine
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Last updatedLast updated: February 14, 2024
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Skee ball is, without a doubt, one of the most popular games in the world. After all, skee ball is right up there with pinball and basketball games in popularity amongst arcade games. While almost everyone thinks that they know how to play skee ball, most folks only understand the most basic principles of this arcade favorite.  There is actually quite a lot of skill that needs to be developed if you want to be a successful skee ballplayer, no matter if you are only playing for fun or competitively.

While it might seem simple to roll a ball into a variety of hoops, there is a lot to consider before each roll. There are also a variety of shots that you can add to your arsenal so that you can win more often, but they take a bit of practice and know-how to get right. Thankfully, we will guide you through everything that you need to know to become a skee ball master in this article.

Skee ball facts

How to Play Skee Ball: Rules and Best Tricks

Of course, before we get into the tips, tricks, and strategies that you need to use to become a great skee ballplayer, we need to take the time to understand the ins and outs of the game, from its humble beginnings to its rise to prominence as the quintessential arcade game.

Skee ball was first introduced in 1908 when a man by the name of Joseph Forestier Simpson applied for the patents for the game’s different elements and mechanics. Once he had all of that in order, Simpson decided to license out the construction and distribution of his tables to a company called Skee-Ball Alley in 1909. These original tables were 32 feet long but didn’t immediately take off. In fact, it took until they were installed on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1914 that they gained true popularity.

While the popularity of the game continued to grow, the patent was passed around between several different companies. Then, in 1929, the game would gain an even bigger boost in popularity when the patent came into the hands of the National Skee-Ball Company. This is when it truly became a mainstay at any and all arcades and seaside boardwalks across the country.

The actual design of the game hasn’t changed too much over its century-long history. One of the biggest differences from the original design is that skee ball lanes are usually much shorter nowadays. This is mostly due to the space requirements within an arcade. Most places simply can’t handle a 32-foot-long table. Another hugely important update is the adding of a cage. This simple yet effective, anti-cheating measure helps to ensure that every game of skee ball is played as fairly as possible. This is what helps to level the playing field amongst amateur competitors and make it necessary to practice in order to truly become a skee ball master.

Skee ball machine construction

One of the best things about skee ball machines is their simplistic design. There is not a whole lot that goes into making one, which makes them easy to manufacture and maintain, which why they have stayed so popular for so long in an arcade or bar setting. Skeeball has three main components that are all connected to each other. First, you have the table. This long and slightly angled surface is highly polished so that balls go up it quite easily. These tables also have sideboards to keep the balls from falling off.

At the end of the table, there is a highly angled ramp. This is also highly polished so that the balls don’t get stuck and instead fly off. This ramp is 8.5 cm high and has an angle of 40 degrees.

The final section of the game has the actual scoring components. This is another angled surface that has various holes in it worth different amounts. The largest hoop has no points assigned, while the others have 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 100, based on how easy it is to get the ball into the holes. Each hole is connected to a tunnel/tube that returns the balls so that you can keep playing. Of course, in most paid versions of the game, you need to put in more money before you would get the balls back for another round.

This simple design makes this an excellent option if you are looking to make your own DIY skee ball table. Of course, you could also get a great model like the Barrington Premium or this offering from Hall of Games to play at home.. That way, you can play as often as you like. All you will need are some simple tools like a miter saw, a scroll saw/band saw, and a drill. From there, you need to make the three different components described above to whatever specifications that you feel will work in the space you have a store, such as a table. Once completed, you can use floor hockey balls to play the game.

Skee ball rules

Most likely, you have never really given too much thought to the rules of skee ball. After all, if you are playing an automated game at an arcade or along the boardwalk, then the game will automatically count your points and give out the balls to match the rules. However, if you are really looking to improve your skills, you need to know the basic rules like the back of your hand.

There are two different sets of rules that need to be adhered to depending on how you decide to play the game. The first set, or the “traditional” rules, involves 12 rounds of back-and-forth play between teams of 3-12 players each. In this set of rules, each team gets a chance to roll a frame of nine balls and then totals all of the points accumulated. This continues until 12 rounds have been completed.

From that point, a final “mystery” round is played. These rounds can be played by any rules that the players all agree on, but the three most common are:

  • Speed – In this iteration, each team picks a player. These two players then race against each other to see who can roll their nine balls as quickly as possible. The first one to finish all nine balls is the winner of the round.
  • Relay – In a Relay round, each team gets nine balls. From there, every team member gets a chance to roll a ball one at a time. The team needs to go in the same order until all nine balls are used. Whichever team has the most points at the end wins the round.
  • Price is Right – For this type of bonus round, each team tries to score exactly a predetermined number of points. If a team goes over, then they cannot win the bonus round.

The other system of rules that can be used is for “match” play, which involves two teams competing in a best-of-seven format. In each round, teams send up three players to roll three balls each for a total of nine balls per round. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the round gets one point to their team’s total. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Skee ball scoring system

How to Play Skee Ball: Rules and Best Tricks

Scoring in skee ball is relatively straightforward. You simply need to roll the ball into the different hoops, with each hoop counting for a different amount. The four center holes are marked for 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50, with the points increasing as you roll higher. In the corners of most games, they also have two smaller hoops that are each worth 100 points. The more points you score, the better your odds of winning are.

Skee ball techniques

One of the best techniques that you should always keep in mind when you are playing skee ball is to make sure that you provide enough oomph to the ball so that it will always score you some points. You also want to make sure to keep both feet on the ground and lower your stance. That will help to stabilize your body so that you can become more consistent with your rolls.

Something else that you want to do is start off by always aiming for an achievable goal that will provide you with good points while still allowing you to be successful more often than not. The 40-point hole is usually the best one to go for in this regard. You can also try banking your shots into the corners. This makes it easier to get the angle right, though, of course, this will take a lot of practice before you can do it regularly.

Final thoughts

While skee ball is a relatively simple game that is fun for everyone, it is still quite difficult to become a master. Thankfully, with the right amount of practice and hard work, you can easily learn how to play skee ball with a lot of success. Just make sure to take your time and carefully aim so that you can learn to develop a consistent technique that works for your throwing style, and you will be crushing the competition in no time at all!

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