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What Is Skee Ball?

What Is Skee Ball

Skee ball is an arcade game that gained popularity as a seaside boardwalk game in the early 20th century. Today, you can play skee ball at carnivals, fairs, retro bars and you can even buy your very own machine. But what is skee ball exactly? If you’re not sure, you have come to the right place.

Essentially, skee ball is a game that involves rolling balls along a ramp and into one of a number of scoring rings. These rings have different point values and your aim is to get your balls to land in the ring with the highest score possible. While there are different rules depending on which version you’re playing, the basic principle is simple – score as many points as you can! If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating game, keep reading.

What Is Skee Ball? An Introduction To The Game

A skee ball is the ball used to play the game of skee ball. Skee balls were originally made of sawdust, but these days are made from plastic materials. Nine skee balls is called a “frame”, as one player’s turn consists of throwing nine balls.

The basic rules of skee ball are that one team member from each team rolls nine balls per round and the points scored are calculated and added to the team’s score. A game is played between two teams, with 3 – 12 players per team. Games have 12 rounds and sometimes a final “mystery” or tiebreaker round. At the end, the team with the most points wins!

There is another version of skee ball with slightly different gameplay rules, known as “Match Play”. In this variety, two teams compete in 7 rounds instead of 12. 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. For more detail, learn how to play skee ball here.

While mastering the game requires practice and skill, it is very easy to learn how to play skee ball. Whether you’re playing in a league, arcade or your own home, skee ball is an extremely fun game. If you haven’t played it before, it might be time to give it a go! Click the link to read more about more fun home arcade games.

A Short History Of Skee Ball

History Of Skee Ball

The origins of this classic game go all the way back to the early 20th century when it was invented by New Jersey resident Joseph Fourestier Simpson in 1908. In 1909, Simpson licensed out the construction and distribution of his tables to a company called the Skee Ball Alley Company.

However, these original tables were 32 feet (9.8 m) long and were not immediately popular. Fast forward to 1914 and shorter versions were installed on the Atlantic City boardwalk. They were a hit!

As the years passed and skee ball’s popularity grew steadily, the patent was passed around between several different companies. Finally, in 1929, it was sold to a company that named itself the National Skee-Ball Company. This gave the game another boost in popularity and led to it becoming a fixture of arcades and boardwalks across the USA.

Since then, not much has changed about skee ball except the automation of its machines and the introduction of a cage around the scoring area to prevent cheating. Despite being invented over 100 years ago, skee ball is still one of the most beloved arcade games in the USA!

Skee Ball Scoring System

The scoring area for a skee ball machine consists of a set of concentric circles which each have a corresponding score. The largest hole is worth 10 points and the smaller holes are worth 30, 40 and 50 points, increasing the higher you roll.

Some skee ball machines also have two small 100-point holes in the upper corners of the scoring area. When playing skee ball, each turn involves throwing a frame of nine balls. Your score for the round is then calculated by simply adding up the values of where your balls landed.

Skee Ball Techniques

  • For best control when rolling a skee ball, keep your center of gravity low by bending your knees slightly and tightening your core.
  • When you make your shot, keep your arm straight with your wrist up throughout the entire motion.
  • Don’t throw too hard – grip the ball with your fingertips and throw smoothly and gently.
  • Aim for the 40-point hole. That way, even if you miss, you can still get a decent score. Avoid the 100-point holes – these are almost impossible to land, and if you miss, you get zero!

Where Skee Ball Can Be Played Today

Where Skee Ball Can Be Played

Boardwalks packed with games are a thing of the past, so where can you play skee ball today?


These days, many retro-themed bars have Skee Ball machines alongside other classic arcade games such as pinball and bar games like pool. If you’re into bar games, click to learn about the best pool cues.

Skee Ball Leagues:

Mile High Skee Ball In Colorado

DC Skee Ball Leagues

The Austin, TX Skee Ball League

Cleveland Skee Ball League

Boston Skee Ball Leagues

Brewskee Ball (Multiple Cities)

New York City Skee Ball Leagues


The number one place for skee ball, however, is still the arcade. Although public arcades have diminished in popularity thanks to the rise of home gaming systems such as Nintendo Switch, many are still a hub for social gaming. And if you can find an arcade, you can bet that it will have a skee ball machine!


If you can’t find a nearby arcade or retro bar that offers skee ball, why not check out your nearest college? Many fraternities have invested in their own skee ball machines that they break out at parties and for Skee Ball tournaments – sometimes with substantial prizes!

Play Skee Ball At Home

If you’d rather play in the comfort of your own home, you could invest in your very own skee ball arcade game. Check out our review list of the best skee ball machines or choose from the top two summarized below.

Hathaway Games Arcade Machine

Hathaway Games Boardwalk 8′ Arcade Machine
Read Full Review

Big Sky Colored Game Machine

Big Sky Colored Game Machine Roll And Score
Read Full Review

Is Skee Ball Popular?

Skee ball is not as popular today as it once was. However, many people around the world still love to play the game, whether it is at their neighborhood arcade or at home. Playing skee ball is a great way to challenge your friends and have fun without breaking the bank and it’s an awesome way to break the ice with new friends. You can compete in teams, as individuals or against yourself to break your personal best score.

Skee Ball Machine Construction

Skee Ball Machine Construction

One of the reasons skee ball has remained so popular is the simplicity of its machines. They are easy to manufacture and maintain and you can even build your own. A skee ball game has three main components:

  • The table: A long, slightly angled and highly polished surface that you roll your balls up.
  • The ramp: Also highly polished, with a sharp angle that the balls fly up from.
  • The scoring components: Includes various holes in it worth different amounts of points. Each hole is connected to a tunnel that returns the balls.

Skee Ball Facts

  • The original skee ball tables were a whopping 32 feet (9.8 m) long, while today the standard length is only 10 feet (3 m).
  • Traditional skee ball includes a final “mystery” round that differs according to league but includes intriguing rounds like “Price is Right” and “Blind Man’s Buff”.
  • The probability of scoring 10 points in a round is 5 in 10, while the probability of scoring 50 points is only 0.3 in 10!
  • Skee ball is named after an archaic spelling of “ski” because the ball jumps into the scoring area like a ski-jumper.
  • The first national skee ball tournament was held in 1929 at Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Skee balls are made of plastic for the most part. Originally, skee balls were made from compressed sawdust mixed with glue to keep everything together. But these days skee balls are almost always made from plastics, with a polyester core and polyurethane outer. However, some skee ball enthusiasts still enjoy the traditional feel of sawdust balls.

You beat a skee ball by aiming for the 40 point hole. 40 is a high score and even if you miss, you are still likely to land 30 or 20 and you may even score 50 points. If you aim for 50, you can easily overshoot and only hit 10 and if you aim for 100, you are likely to get zero. Also, remember to bend your knees and tighten your core and roll gently with your arm straight.

Skee ball tables vary in size 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 table at its tallest point (the top of the scoring area) ranges from 80 – 86 inches, or 2 – 2.2 m.


Hopefully, this article has answered your question of what is skee ball? Though the game may no longer be in its heyday, millions of people still love to play skee ball in arcades and fairgrounds throughout the country. If you think playing skee ball sounds fun, give it a try! It might just become your favorite game.

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