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A shuffleboard game being prepared on the deck of the MV Aurora

Shuffleboard, more precisely deck shuffleboard, and also known as floor shuffleboard, is a game in which players use cues to push weighted discs, sending them gliding down a narrow and elongated court, with the purpose of having them come to rest within a marked scoring area. As a more generic term, it refers to the family of shuffleboard-variant games as a whole.


The full history of shuffleboard is not known. Though there is some knowledge of its development, its actual origins, the place and date where it was first played, remain a mystery. Inevitably, this uncertainty gives rise to some debate, even disagreement, about which country can claim to have invented it. However there is no dispute concerning its age as a form of popular amusement, and in Europe has a history that goes back over 500 years.

The game was played and gambled over by King Henry VIII of England, who prohibited commoners from playing; evidently he did not always win, as the record of royal expenses for 1532 show a payment from the Privy Purse of GB£9, 'Paied to my lord Wylliam for that he wanne of the kinges grace at shovillaborde' (contemporary spelling: 'Paid to Lord William, for he won, by the king's grace, at shovelboard').

In its goals, form and equipment, shuffleboard shares various features with (and perhaps influences by or upon) many other games, including air hockey, bowls, bocce, curling, croquet, carrom and billiards. Historically, the ancient shovelboard, about which little is known, appears to have diverged into modern shuffleboard and sjoelen, and with the former leading to the development of both table shuffleboard and shove ha'penny.[1]

Today, due to its popularity on cruise ships and in retirement homes because of its low physical fitness requirements, the deck game is often associated with the elderly, though it is increasingly popular among younger generations. Its miniaturized tabletop variant is very popular in bars and pubs.

Game play

In deck shuffleboard, the player uses a cue, called a tang, to push weighted disks, called biscuits, along a concrete or wooden surface (e.g. the deck of a ship), placing the disk within a triangular scoring zone at the far end of the court. The pinnacle of the triangle points toward the shooter, and the zone is divided horizontally into four numbered sub-zones, the numbers representing point values. If the biscuit lands completely within the small triangular tip zone without touching any part of the borders of the triangle, it is worth ten points; completely within the trapezoidal second tier of the triangle, it is worth eight points; and completely within the trapezoidal third tier of the triangle, seven points. If the biscuit lands in the large, rearmost and also trapezoidal 'minus 10' section, it causes the sender to lose ten points. If the 'biscuit' is touching the border of the sections, then the sender loses five points.

The game is played in matches of 4, 6 or 8 frames (a frame is both players or teams taking their turns). There is also the '75-point match', in which the player that reach 75 points first is the winner. The basic strategy involves deflecting the opposition's biscuits out of zones with a positive value, and increasing one's own points by landing discs into areas of a high point value.[2]

Top view of a shuffleboard

A standard deck shuffleboard court is 39 feet (12 m) long by 6 feet (1.8 m) wide. Each end of the court has a scoring triangle, obviating the need to retrieve the pucks and return to the original end of the court. Another 6 feet of space is provided at each end of the court beyond the scoring triangles, which is where the players stand, with play alternating in direction down the court after each frame.

A close up of the scoring triangle

Newer courts are now available, for use on decks or on any solid flat surface, in the form of roll-out plastic mats, or an adjustable system of plastic tiles. With the tile courts, the dimensions can be adapted to the space available; e.g. it is possible to play on a court 30 ft long (9.1 m) by 5 ft wide (1.5 m). The roll-out mats are available in two sizes, 39 by 6 feet (11.9 m × 1.8 m) and 27 by 4.5 feet (8.2 m × 1.4 m). The smaller mats are designed to fit on a domestic patio or driveway. The biscuit and tang are the same standard size, regardless which court size is used.[3]

International Shuffleboard Association

The ISA was founded March 10, 1979, in St. Petersburg, Florida. The ISA was designed to make shuffleboard more popular in countries outside the North American continent, and to foster shuffleboard through international competitions. In 1981 in Muskegon, Michigan the first ISA Team World Championships were held, starting with teams from Canada, the USA and Japan only. Australia (1991), Brazil (1997), Germany (2006), Norway (2011) and lately Russia (2013) joined the World Championships, which take place yearly and last for one week. [4]


Equipment are 8 discs (4 yellow and 4 black) and one cue for each player.

Table shuffleboard variants

In table shuffleboard, the play area is most commonly a wooden or laminated surface covered with silicone beads (colloquially called 'shuffleboard wax') to reduce friction. In the United States, a long, narrow 22 ft table is most commonly used, though tables as short as 9 ft are known.

Players try to slide metal-and-plastic pucks, sometimes called weights or shuckles, to come to rest within zones at the other end of the board. Cues are not used, the pucks being propelled with the hands directly on the raised table. There are scoring zones at each end of the table so that direction of play can rotate after each frame, or so that teams can play both directions during one frame. More points are awarded for weights scoring closer to the far edge of the board. Players take turns sliding the pucks, trying to score points, bump opposing pucks off the board, and/or protect their own pucks from bump-offs. The long sides of the table are bounded by gutters into which pucks can fall or be knocked (in which case they are no longer in play for the remainder of the frame). A variant known sometimes as bankboard has rubber cushions or 'banks' running the length of both sides of the table, instead of gutters, and as in billiards, the banks can be used to gain favorable position. A common and even smaller-scale British tabletop variant is shove ha'penny, played with coins, while a somewhat larger wooden-puck variant called sjoelen, which has much in common with the ball games bagatelle and skeeball, is played principally in the Netherlands.

Object of the game

The objective of the game is to slide, by hand, all four of one's Weights alternately against those of an opponent, so that they reach the highest scoring area without falling off the end of the board into the alley. Furthermore, a player's Weight(s) must be farther down the board than his opponent's Weight(s), in order to be in scoring position. This may be achieved either by knocking off the opponent's Weight(s), or by outdistancing them. Horse collar, the most common form of the game, is played to either 15 or, more typically, 21. Below is an image of the weights on the board. Only the weights in front score.[5]


External links

1893 text

The game of shovelboard was played by two players (each provided with five coins) on a smooth heavy table. On the table were marked with chalk a series of lines, and the play was to strike the coin on the edge of the table with the hand so that it rested between these lines. Shakespeare uses the expression “shove-groat shilling,” as does Ben Jonson. These shillings were usually smooth and worn for the convenience of playing. Strutt says (“Sports and Pastimes”), “I have seen a shovel-board table at a low public house in Benjamin Street, near Clerkenwell Green, which is about three feet in breadth and thirty-nine feet two inches in length, and said to be the longest at this time in London.”

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

5 Annotations

George Tyler  •  Link

The game played with coins was known as shove ha'penny. Shuffle board was played with pucks that were propelled by sticks on on smooth floors and more recently on the decks of passenger ships.

Mary  •  Link

There is also the similar, Dutch game of sjoelbak

(pronounced roughly "shoolback)played with wooden pucks (1-inch thick wooden discs)on a long (about 2 metres) narrow board. The board has sides about 5 cm high to keep the pucks within bounds. One end (where the player stands) is open and the other is divided into 4 narrow alleys, each accessed by an opening cut in a 'bridge' that spans the whole width of the board. These openings are only slightly wider than the diameter of the discs. The object is to slide the pucks up the board into the alleys, each alley having a different value and score, from 1 point to 4 points. It's an excellent family game, as young and old can play together on more-or-less equal terms.

This game is also known in England, though not widely so.

Deborah Murphy  •  Link

Dutch Board Game

Jesse  •  Link

Today there's paper football 'in which a sheet of paper folded into a small triangle is slid back and forth across a table top by two opponents' . I can recall playing it in the late sixties during school lunch breaks on the smooth plastic coated tables. I was surprised it was so easy to find on the Internet and apparently still popular in this day and age of portable electronic games &c.

Paul Dyson  •  Link

A variation (?English) used to be Matchbox Rugby, played with an empty matchbox, pushed or flicked along the table in an attempt to score a "try" (3 points when I played it) by bringing the box to rest in a narrow area at the opponent's end, whereupon an attempt was made to add a goal (2 pts) in the same way as described in Paper Football. Matches used to be so many minutes "each way", usually about enough to fit in a game or two during school break. Health and safety considerations, smoking bans etc have probably killed the game off.

Shoveha'penny could also take the form of a simple version of table soccer, using larger coins (halfpennies in old money) as players and a smaller one (a sixpence) as the ball, the object being to score in a small goal by taking turns to push the halfpenny with an implement such as a comb so that it propelled the "ball" at a suitable angle, on principles similar to pool or snooker. To the English small boy of the fifties/sixties this opened up many possibilities of team names, leagues, prizes and above all something to do in rainy lunchtimes.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




  • Apr