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Shuffleboard

Updated on May 5, 2010

Shuffleboard is a game for two or four players in which discs are pushed with a cue on a court having a scoring area at each end. The origin of the game is not known, but variations of it were played in England in the Middle Ages. The game was popular in the American colonies, but interest in it waned until the end of the 19th century, when it proved to be an ideal form of recreation for passengers on ships. It also became popular in winter resorts in Florida. In 1924 the first Shuffleboard club was formed in St. Petersburg, Florida, and in 1931 the National Shuffleboard Association was organized.

Photo by Garann Rose Means
Photo by Garann Rose Means

Shuffleboard Equipment

Eight wood or composition discs are used, four black and four red. Each disc is 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. The cue, or stick, has a crescent-shaped or wedge-shaped head. The combined length of the cue and head may not measure more than 6 feet 3 inches (190 cm).

The standard outdoor court, which usually has a smooth concrete surface, is 52 feet (15.8 meters) long and 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide. One end of the court is termed the head of court and the other the foot of court. Near each end is the scoring diagram, a large triangle divided into spaces marked with the numbers 7, 8, and 10. Behind each triangle is a penalty zone marked "10 off", with a small triangle dividing it. Near the center of the court are two parallel lines called the dead lines.

Shuffleboard Rules

The players shoot, or slide, the discs into the marked-off spaces on the opposite triangle to score seven, eight, or ten points. The shooting action must be one smooth continuous movement, and a penalty is incurred if a player hesitates during a shot. Players are not allowed to step over the back line. If the disc fails to cross the far dead line, it is removed from the court and no score is made. If the disc lands in the 10-off zone, ten points are subtracted from the player's score. Players take turns shooting the discs and may prevent an opponent from gaining points by knocking his discs out of a scoring position and, if possible, into the 10-off zone. Because the scoring area is relatively small, the game requires great accuracy and control.

Order of Play

In singles, each player first shoots one disc toward the far dead line and the player whose disc comes closest to the line receives his choice of colors. To start play, the discs are lined up in the 10-off zone of the head of court. The red discs are placed to the right of the separation triangle and the black ones to the left. Red plays first, then alternates with black until all eight discs are shot, which completes a half-round. The discs are then lined up in the foot of court. In the second half-round, black takes the lead and plays from the right side of the 10-off zone.

In doubles, the order of play is determined in the same manner by one member of each team. However, the players do not change playing ends after a half-round is completed. Instead, the game is continued by their teammates from the opposite end of the court. The color lead in doubles does not change until a full round has been played.

Shuffleboard Scoring

Only the discs lying completely within the scoring spaces are counted. The score is tallied at the end of each half-round. The game is won when one side's score totals either 50, 75, or 100, depending on prior agreement. If the winning score is reached before a given half-round is completed, the game still continues until all eight discs have been played. A tie score in a game of singles is broken by playing another full round. In doubles, two full rounds must be played in the event of a tie.

Penalties

A penalty of five points is charged against a player if his disc is touching the front or back line of the 10-off zone when he starts the play.

He also loses ten points if he steps over the back line or if he interferes with his opponent's play. A ten-point penalty is incurred when the disc being played is touching the separation triangle or the side line of the 10-off zone, or if a player hesitates when shooting the disc.

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