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Official Air Hockey Rules

Air Hockey Rules

If you are looking for a beginner’s guide to air hockey, or if you just want to brush up on air hockey rules, you have come to the right place. You are probably in a hurry to start your game, so we’ll keep it short! The basic rules are simple – you score by hitting the puck with your mallet into your opponent’s goal area. The first player to 7 points wins the round, and a full game consists of 7 rounds – whoever wins most rounds wins the game. We will go into the game rules in more detail, what counts as a goal or a foul – and everything else you need to know about playing air hockey games.

There are two options for kicking off air hockey games, but either way you must first flip a coin to determine who starts at which side of the table.

  1. One option is to play the first round as the “face-off” round. Here, the puck starts in the middle of the playing surface and players battle to strike it first on the count of three. The successful striker also begins games 3, 5 and 7 in possession of the puck, and the other player has puck possession for rounds 2, 4 and 6.
  2. Alternatively, you could use another coin toss to determine who starts with the puck, and keep swapping as in the previous method.

If you haven’t already got an air hockey table, read our reviews of the best air hockey tables next to find the perfect one for your game room!


The first player to reach a score of 7 wins – but how do you know if your point counts?

What counts

If your puck enters your opponent’s goal mouth and stays there, that is one point scored. In addition, if your puck rebounds from your opponent’s goal but bounces back in, you have still scored!

What doesn’t count

If your puck rebounds from the opposing player’s goal and stays out, you do not score. Furthermore, it does not count if you strike while your opponent is distracted.

You must hit the puck within 7 seconds after it crosses to your side of the center line.

What You Need To Know About The Puck

  • You can strike the puck with any part of the air hockey mallet, but “topping” it is against the rules and will get you a penalty – this involves bringing your mallet onto the top of the puck to stop or drag it
  • Only one puck is allowed on the table surface at any given moment during play
  • You can only push the puck if it is on your side of the playing field, however if the puck touches the centerline, either player may strike it
  • It is possible to score an own goal if you hit the puck into your goal area – in this case, your opponent receives a point

Penalties And Fouls

We have mentioned that you cannot “top” the puck during play. In addition, a foul occurs if you do any of the following things:

  • “Charging the puck”: this refers to hitting the puck so hard that it flies off the table
  • Touching the puck with any part of your body during play
  • Reaching your mallet across the centerline constitutes a technical foul
  • “Goal tending”: it is against the rules for the defending player’s hand to be in the way of a direct path for the offensive player to score

A standard penalty in air hockey is forfeiture of the puck to your opponent who then makes the next serve.

Top Tips

Now you know the basic rules, these helpful tips from the pros will help you win more air hockey games!

Top Tips For Air Hockey

For example, if you watch pros play air hockey, you’ll notice that they don’t grip the knob with their whole fist. Rather, they place two to three fingers in the shallow ring around the mallet’s base. This allows a wider range of motion and more dexterity when you play.

Another good strategy is slowing down the puck. Your instinct may be to immediately shoot it back to your opponent’s side. But if you hit it defensively to slow down its forward momentum, this gives you time to strike more deliberately.

Take advantage of the time out rule! If you are in possession of the puck after scoring a goal, you may request a time out. However, one time out cannot last longer than 10 seconds. In addition, each player is only allowed one time out per game.

Frequently Asked Questions

You start an air hockey game by flipping a coin to determine who begins on which side of the table. You can then flip another coin to determine who begins in possession of the puck. Alternatively, you can begin play with a “face-off” round, where the puck starts at the center of the table and both players battle to strike it first on the count of 3.

The circles on an air hockey table are for indicating various things. The obvious ones are the semi-circles on either side of the table that mark out the goals. Many air hockey tables have an additional two circles per side that indicate where to hit the puck so that it ricochets into the opposing player’s goal area.

Yes, you can block the goal in air hockey. It is often a good play strategy to block the puck and slow it down, which will allow you more time to strike it more deliberately to your opponent’s side. Just note that once the puck enters your side of the centerline, you only have 7 seconds before you have to hit it back. Also, it is against the rules to “top” the puck.

You play air hockey with an air hockey table, one mallet or striker for each player and a puck. The puck refers to the disc that is passed between players and hit into goals, and the mallets are what you use to strike the puck.

You cannot cross the middle line in air hockey as this violation constitutes a foul. You can overreach the mallet slightly to push the puck if it is touching the centerline, but your mallet can never extend completely past this line. If you do so, your opponent receives possession of the puck and gains a free shot.


So there you have it – the basic air hockey rules to play are simple to learn, but there are a few details that might be easy to forget. You can keep this article open if you need to while you play the first few games, but you will probably get familiar with the rules air hockey beginners need to know in no time. Best of luck and enjoy your game!

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