Shuffleboard Table History, Rules, & Maintenance

Shuffleboard Table History, Rules, & Maintenance

Whether you have one in your home, enjoy playing with others in arcades or bars, or want to buy your very own, table shuffleboard is a popular bar and home rec room game.

In this blog, we’ll explore the history of shuffleboard tables and explain the game’s rules and how it’s played.

The History of Shuffleboard Tables

Like similar table-based games, shuffleboard has a long and varied history. Also known as American shuffleboard, different variations of the game have existed for many centuries, the earliest known modern ancestor to today’s shuffleboard has origins at least as far back as 1400s England.


Shovegroat: The Earliest Version of Shuffleboard

“Shovegroat”, as the game was then known, was a popular game in 15th century England. This early version of shuffleboard was widely played.

In fact, English nobles were known to play it, with many examples of elaborate, handcrafted boards existing. The purpose of the game was simply to slide a coin, or similar object, across a tabletop and get it to stop as close to the edge as possible.

An offshoot, known as “shove-ha’penny”, remains a common game in English pubs.

Modern Shuffleboard Tables

Like England’s shove-ha’penny, American shuffleboard tables were most common in pubs and other public venues. Also like its English counterpart, shuffleboard ran into conflict with the law, with many questioning the game’s morality.


The Legal Status of Shuffleboard

Players, and even spectators, often bet on the outcome of matches. As a result, some questioned whether shuffleboard was a game of chance or a game of skill.

In 1848, a court case, The State v. John Bishop,  made it all the way to the North Carolina supreme court.

After observing people play the game, the judge ruled, “[shuffleboard] is not a game of chance, but one of skill.”

Despite this, many still continued to question whether shuffleboard was a legitimate game. Fortunately, the times have changed, and shuffleboard has grown to become a universally fun pastime.

Today, shuffleboard is regularly enjoyed by family and friends in a wide range of locations. It has even given rise to an outdoor version of the game, also called shuffleboard, that is often played on the deck of cruise ships and is popular among the elderly.

How To Play Table Shuffleboard

Compared to other table games, shuffleboard is relatively simple. The object of the game is to slide four pucks (also called “weights”) across the shuffleboard table with your hand. Whoever gets the most weights the closest to the opposite edge of the table, without their weight going over, wins. 

The surface of the board is covered in “wax”, which is actually special silica beads that help reduce friction against the weight as it slides across the board’s surface.

The use of wax allows the weights to more easily glide across the table. It’s also what helps give shuffleboard its unique challenge.


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Table Shuffleboard Rules & Scoring

Each player stands at the same end of the shuffleboard table and they take turns “shooting” their four weights across the board. Weights are typically colored in order to tell each players’ apart.

After all eight weights have been shot, one round of play is concluded. Scores are then calculated. A player’s shuffleboard score is calculated based upon:

  • The number of eligible weights that have made it across the foul line.
  • Traditionally, the player whose weight is the highest scoring, or closest to the edge, is awarded the points of that weight for that round. This means only one player will score each round.
  • Alternatively, points for both players can be added up, and the lowest players points are subtracted from the highest points, i.e., if Player A scores 5 and Player B scores 2, then Player A’s score for the round is 3.
  • If a weight hangs over the edge of the board, the player is awarded 4 points.

Generally, the player who reaches 15 points first is the winner. Some players may choose to play until 21 points, especially if there are two players per team.

Shuffleboard Table Dimensions

Shuffleboard tables are available in a range of dimensions. While there are “official” shuffleboard sizes for tournament play, you can find a range of lengths, from as short as 9-feet, to as long as 22-feet or more.

What Size Are Official Regulation Shuffleboards?

While there isn’t a single governing body that determines the shuffleboard rules and regulations for tournament play, most leagues consider 22-feet as the standard regulation size shuffleboard table.

This is the longest available standard-sized table. This shuffleboard table length makes it challenging to play on and is therefore ideal for experienced tournament players.

However, leagues may use shuffleboard tables with shorter dimensions for tournaments, especially those which are established for beginner or casual shuffleboard players.

Shuffleboard table dimensions

Space around the Table

Additionally, make sure to leave enough space around the table to play comfortably. This may vary depending on the specific size of the shuffleboard table and the level of play. 

Some general guidelines are keeping a minimum of 2’ on the sides of the table and 6’ on each end to accommodate players and their movements.

You can find shuffleboard tables designed to be disassembled for easier transportation. However, it’s best to measure the shuffleboard table, the doorway, and any hallways you’ll have to traverse, ensuring a proper fit.


How To Maintain A Shuffleboard Table

Shuffleboard tables only consist of a few parts. They’re relatively simple to maintain, but proper care can help increase their longevity so your family or customers will get the most out of your table.

The most important part of the shuffleboard is the play surface. Most often, this is a traditional finished wood that has been highly polished. Maintaining the wood polish is the key to properly caring for your shuffleboard.

Cleaning Your Shuffleboard Table

To clean your shuffleboard table, you’ll want to wipe it down at least once a month, although you may want to do so more frequently depending on how heavily it’s used.

To wash it, you can use a mixture of water and vinegar for most finishes. This will remove any grime, dirt, and wax from the board. If your board has a lacquered finish you will want to use a lint-free cloth and a quality furniture wax to wipe down the surface.

It’s important to note that different finishes can be used on shuffleboard tables to protect the playing surface and enhance its performance. Those finishes may have different requirements and sensitivities, and proper care and maintenance of the finish can contribute to the longevity of the shuffleboard table.

Some common finishes include a clear, high-quality lacquer or polyurethane coating, a polymer finish, or a silicone spray.

Preparing Your Board For Play

Before playing, it’s best to apply a silicone shuffleboard spray. This spray will cut down on the amount of wax powder you’ll need to apply and help minimize wear and tear to the board's surface. After using the silicone spray, apply wax to the board.

There isn’t a set amount of wax to apply to the board, as the amount is based more upon personal preference. The more wax, the more difficult the game is, as the weights will glide more easily across the surface, thus requiring extra control and precision.

Keeping Your Shuffleboard Protected

When not in use, you can help maintain your shuffleboard with a cover. Like covers for similar items, a shuffleboard table cover will help keep dirt, dust, and other unwanted buildup away from your table. A cover will also prevent any leftover wax powder from being blown or brushed off of the board. This can make it both easier to clean and ready for play.

Find The Perfect Shuffleboard For Your Home Or Business

Shuffleboard is a fun addition to any home game room or venue. At M&P Amusement, we have a wide selection of shuffleboard tables perfect for any room size or budget. Shop our online inventory of tables or contact us online with any questions!

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