Picture this: you’re up next at the shuffleboard table after having played shuffleboard all night. The game is tied and this is the last game of the night and your whole night is counting on this next throw. What can you do to finish the night on a high note? Here are some intermediate and advanced shuffleboard strategies to help improve your odds of victory.
Basic Shuffleboard Strategy
To begin with, let’s get into some basic shuffleboard strategies to follow when you’re playing. One of those basic strategies is to learn the in’s and out’s of the game. While that may sound obvious, there may be some nuances that you don’t know. Therefore, you’re going to want to learn about the rules of the game. Here’s a super bare bones breakdown:
The goal of the game is to outscore your opponent, using four weights, also called pucks
You have to slide the weights on the table, no throwing, and competitors take turns
The weights need to make it to the scoring area without falling off the end of the shuffleboard table to count and they have to be further down the board than your competitor’s weights to score
You can score 1, 2, or 3 points (4 points in special circumstances)
Another basic shuffleboard strategy to follow is to be mindful of what you’re actually doing with the weight when it’s in your hand before you slide or shoot it. You’re going to want to hold it to get a feel for it and see if it’s super heavy or light, which will determine how hard you should slide it on the board. Also, use your hands to feel how worn the weight is since that could determine how well it will slide on the table. Finally, figure out how you’re going to grip or hold the weight and what works best for you when sliding it. People use various grips but no one is better than the other, just preferences. If you can, take a few practice shots before starting the actual game to get a feel for the weights. Remember, not all shuffleboard pucks are created equal and there are definitely some pucks that are better than other shuffleboard pucks.
A third basic shuffleboard strategy to follow is to be mindful of the playing surface that you’re playing on and adjust your game accordingly. For example, if the surface of the board you’re playing on is a little warped you’re going to have to take that into account when you’re sliding the weight and try to compensate. Other things to look for and be aware of are cracks or divots in the surface and how easily the weight slides across the surface (silicone beads can be added to tacky surfaces to help weights slide more easily). Also, even if you’ve played shuffleboard before, shuffleboard tables come in different sizes, so be mindful of the table’s length.
Playing multiple games on the same shuffleboard table will ensure you are familiar with the playing surface. If you love shuffleboard and want to play on the same surface every time, consider buying your own shuffleboard table. There is a lot to consider when finding a table that’s right for you. If interested, take a look at this Shuffleboard Buying Guide and then look for the best table shuffleboards for your money.
7 Shuffleboard Strategies
With the basics out of the way, now let’s focus on seven intermediate to advanced tips to help improve your shuffleboard play. They are:
Understand the angles – Just like pool, shuffleboard is a game that’s all about angles and you need to know where to shoot the weight in order to take advantage of those angles. For instance, you might think that hitting a certain shot is impossible, like if your competitor’s weight is being shielded by one or two of his or her other weights. The thing is, if you play the angle of your next shot right and bank it off the side of the playing surface (assuming the table you’re playing on has side rails), it’s probably not impossible and you could very well knock your competitor’s weights out of the way.
Learn new shooting techniques – Doing the same shots over and over again will make your play predictable to your opponents. So, learning new techniques, approaches, and shots is imperative if you want to get better. Before you practice, you’re going to want to check out some other techniques to learn. Just like with learning the rules of the game, you can also learn new ways to play shuffleboard by browsing the Internet. A few fun shooting techniques that you can start with are:
Spin or Old English shot – This is when you spin the weight to get the weight into position, typically to go around a competitor’s weight
Side wheeling shot – This is when you use the rail of the shuffleboard as a guide to shoot the weight
Knock-off shot – This is a shot that you use to clear the shuffleboard of all of the weights, regardless of who threw them
Stick shot – This is when you knock off your competitor’s weight by clearing it out of the way to stick your own shot
Take advantage of your competitors’ weaknesses – As in any game, contest, or activity where you’re trying to win, you’re going to want to exploit your competitors’ weaknesses. That means when you’re playing someone else, you’re going to want to observe what he or she isn’t good at and use it to your advantage. Take a player who has a hard time using angles and banking shots as an example. If he or she is only able to do straight on shots, then you’re going to want to space your weights out and protect them so your competition is unable to use a straight shot as a knock-off shot. Instead, he or she will have to try to go with an angled shot to try to knock them off. Then, since your competitor isn’t all that great at the angle shots, he or she will have a hard time executing the shot and you’ll have the advantage. Sure, this may seem like you’re being a dirty player, yet in the spirit of playing games, this is the approach that anyone would take, so don’t feel bad about it.
Protect Your Pucks – Also known as “blocking” your pucks, the strategy here is to prevent your pucks that are in high scoring areas of the shuffleboard table from getting knocked off. You can do this by tossing pucks so that they are “in the way” when your opponent throws his pucks so your high point scoring pucks are protected from getting knocked off. When executing this strategy, be mindful of keeping a slight distance between the scoring point puck and your blocking puck. Anything too close could cause the blocking puck to hit the puck it was meant to protect.
Use the Corners – Another way to protect your pucks in scoring areas of the table is to utilize the corners of the shuffleboard table. When you do that, you prevent your opponent from being able to knock multiple pucks off the table from a single throw. Having your pucks in the corners or edges also makes your opponent have to choose between going head to head with your scoring pucks by trying to knock each one off or have to score even more points with each throw since you have pucks that are scoring points.
Be serious – What does this mean? This means that if you’re going to play shuffleboard, play the game right and be serious about it. For example, when you’re playing, make sure to bend down and get in the right position to shoot the weight like the player is doing in the image below. You don’t want to be fully upright when you’re shooting because you won’t be able to aim well. In addition to being in the right position when shooting, some other things to do include:
Avoid over drinking while you’re playing since it will affect your game over the course of the night
Skip eating until after you play since that food can impact your release of the puck especially if the food is greasy
Don’t talk over other people’s shots so you don’t distract them. Do this with the hope that they won’t talk over yours
Give your opponent the physical space he or she needs to shoot with the hope that again, they’ll do the same for you. If you crowd him or her, there’s a good possibility that he or she will do the same and that can make it hard to get in a good shot
Practice – Okay, so this may seem like one of those obvious things to do. Yet, just like learning the rules of the game, it’s a must if you want to win and come out on top. You can practice by yourself or against others if you like, either way, the more you play, the better you’ll get. And, if you really want to get the most out of your practice sessions, then go into them with a list of things that you want to work on improving. By doing this, you’ll be able to stay focused during your practice sessions and can check off the things you’ve accomplished as you go along.
In the end, if you use some of these basic shuffleboard strategies and intermediate to advanced tips on improving your play, you should be able to improve your overall game. For a fun variation of the game, check out How to Play Crazy Eights or Shuffleboard Bowling.
Okay, what are you waiting for? Time to practice these strategies and pave your way to a victory next time you’re out playing shuffleboard.