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How To Play Skee Ball: Rules, Strategy & Techniques

How To Play Skee Ball
Popularized on seaside boardwalks in the early 20th century, the game of skee ball has become an arcade classic. While most folks think they know how to play skee ball, that generally only extends to the most basic principles. Compared with other arcade games, skee ball involves a fair amount of skill and there is a lot to learn if you are interested. Keep reading to learn the different skee ball games that exist, all the details of the official rules and tips and tricks to improve your game. Next time you play a match at the arcade you’ll know exactly what to do!

The Basics Of Skee Ball: Rules
If you don’t know what skee ball is, you might want to start here. Without further ado, here are the basic rules:

Game Play

Playing skee ball involves three essential elements: a “frame” of 9 balls, a ramp and a scoring area. The key elements of gameplay are simple: roll the balls up the ramp and try to get them into high-scoring holes!

Skee Ball Scoring System

The scoring area for a skee ball machine consists of a set of concentric circles. Each hole has a corresponding score similar to when you play darts. If you’re a darts aficionado, see here for the best electronic dart boards, and click to read more about bristle dart boards. In skee ball, the largest hole is worth 10 points and the smaller holes are worth 30, 40 and 50 points, increasing the higher you roll.

Most skee ball machines also have two smaller rings worth 100 points each!

Traditional Skee Ball Rules (12 Rounds)

Traditional Skee Ball Rules

Skee ball has two versions and thus two different rule sets. “Traditional” skee ball involves 12 rounds of back and forth play between two teams of 3 – 12 players. Here’s how it works:

  • For each turn, a player rolls a frame of nine balls
  • The score is added up according to where the balls landed
  • Teams can use 3 mulligans (or “re-skees”) per match if a player is not satisfied with their score
  • After 12 rounds, there is one final “mystery round”
  • The team with the most points at the end wins!

Match Play Skee Ball Rules

Some leagues also utilize a different set of rules known as “match play”, which involves two teams competing in 7 rounds. To play a round, each team sends up three rollers, who each roll three consecutive balls. These points are added up, and the winning team earns one point toward the final tally.

Mystery Round/Tiebreakers

In traditional skee ball, after 12 rounds, a final mystery round is played. In some skee ball leagues, this is only done if there is a tie. The tiebreaker varies depending on league house rules, but can include:


Each team sends a team member to their respective lane. These players roll all nine of their balls as quickly as possible. The first to land all their balls is the winner of the round.


Each player per team throws one ball, continuing until all nine balls have been thrown. The team members must throw in the same order for the whole round. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Speed Relay

Essentially a combination of speed and relay. Teams play according to the relay rules above, but the winner is decided not by total points but by the quickest team to have the machine count all their balls.

Blind Folded

One player from each team rolls a full frame while blindfolded. Teammates may offer verbal direction but may not physically aid the blindfolded team member. The team with the highest score wins.


Teams choose one player from the OPPOSING team to compete against one of their team members that the opponents have chosen. The roller with the highest score after a round of 9 balls wins a bonus 100 points!

Lowest Score

The team with the lowest total score after rolling nine balls wins the round! However, players must score at least 10 points with each ball.

Price Is Right

Each team competes to achieve an exact score in the course of a standard round like the classic game show. If a team goes over that number, they cannot win the round.

Scoring Or Machine Malfunctions

Machine Malfunctions

Depending on the age and model of the skee ball machines, scoring errors can happen. Here is what to do if this occurs:

  •  Immediately bring it to the attention of the opposing team and host.
  • If both teams are able to agree on how the score should be altered to fix the error, the game may continue.
  • If the teams are unable to agree, the host should make the judgment.


Skee ball is a social game that is more about having fun than winning or losing, so it is important to maintain good sportsmanship. Even if you’re playing in an arcade or your own home, you sometimes need to remember not to take it too seriously!

If you’d like to own your own arcade games, read more about air hockey tables, beer pong tables, foosball coffee tables and table hockey games here. More interested in a full-sized foosball table? Read more by clicking the link.

Skee Ball Tips And Tricks

Skee Ball Tips And Tricks
If you want to up your skee ball game, try these tips and tricks.

Develop A Strong, Low Stance

In skee ball, although you roll with your arm, all your power and control comes from your lower body. Keep your knees slightly bent and press your leg against the lane. Keep your feet on the ground and your core firm, just like when you hold a pool stick. If you are in the market for pool sticks, click here.

Keep Your Wrist Straight And Your Hand Flat

Once you have developed a solid base, the next step is improving the precision of your roll. Keep your arm as straight as you can with your wrist up. Maintain this form for the entire motion – no need to flick your wrist as you might in a basketball arcade game – click to read more!

Touch Counts

Skee ball lanes are short, so all you need is a soft arm motion, similar to when you play shuffleboard. Throw too hard and the ball may bounce out of the intended hole and land in the 10-point slot. Always grip the ball with your fingertips and use a smooth, gentle motion.

Aim Small, Miss Small

For the best score, aim for one of the middle circles. 40 is a good choice, because it’s one of the highest scores, but it’s also near other point markers.

If you aim for the 40 point hole and miss, you are still likely to score some points and could even score a 50.

Mind Your Appetite

Going for the 100 point holes is tempting, but these are notoriously difficult to land. If you miss, you’ll almost certainly get only 10 points or none at all. Best to steer clear!

Take Your Time

One of the great things about skee ball is that unlike in pool, there is no time limit when you’re taking your shot. You can take all the time you need to make the best shot you can.

Practice Makes Perfect

As with any skill, the best way to get better is to practice your techniques with every game you play and to play as many games as possible. Keep practicing this classic arcade game and watch your scores grow!

Frequently Asked Questions

The average skee ball score is 260, but anything above 200 is very respectable. In fact, most people score under 200 – the 260 average comes from the rare very high scores. Even seasoned players frequently score between 180 – 200. Newbies tend to fall short because they make the mistake of trying for the 100 point hole.

Skee ball came from the brain of one man: Joseph Fourestier Simpson, who patented the game in 1908. In 1909, Skee Ball Alley Company was founded to oversee construction and distribution of Simpson’s tables. However, they did not take off until 1914 when they were installed on the Atlantic City boardwalk and the game skyrocketed in popularity!

They call it skee ball because “skee” is an old alternative spelling of the word “ski”. When you roll your skee ball, it jumps or “skis” into the ring the same way a ski-jumper rises from the bump and lands back down to earth. The game was originally referred to as “skee-ball bowling”.

A skee ball is on average 0.33 lbs (150 g). However, there is no standard weight and it varies from one skee ball machine to another. If you are buying your own skee ball, keep in mind that it should be something that can be tossed freely without too much effort. You can find our list of the best skee ball machines here.

The dimensions of a skee ball game vary according to model and make. While the original machines were 32 feet (9.7 m), today the ramp is between 10 and 13 feet (3 – 4 m) long. The height of the machine at its tallest point (the top of the scoring area) ranges from 80 – 86 inches, or 2 – 2.2 m.


Now you know how to play skee ball and you will know exactly what to do in the next game you play! Hopefully this article has inspired you to give this awesome arcade game a try, to work on your techniques or even to join a league in the coming season.

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