An Introduction to Skee-Ball

Anyone who’s visited an arcade has at least seen Skee-Ball. It’s been a staple of game rooms for over four decades. The game has undergone very little change over the years and continues to pop up in game rooms and bars everywhere in its original form. 

But despite its popularity, even those who play Skee-Ball often aren’t well-versed in its history or official rules. And although it offers tons of fun, it requires quite a bit of skill and dexterity to win.

Here’s a detailed introduction to this fun and addictive arcade game, with enough background information to confidently toss your next Skee-Ball. 

Where Does Skee-Ball Get Its Name from?

The game’s inventor, Joseph Fourestier, is responsible for coming up with its unusual and memorable name. Fourestier’s original Skee-Ball invention was patented back in 1908. Once everything was in order, he hired a company called Skee-Ball Alley to oversee the distribution and construction of the game tables in 1909.

The game wasn’t an immediate hit. It would take five years to go from everyone asking, “what is Skee-Ball” to becoming a common sight on the Atlantic City boardwalk, where its popularity would ramp up.

How Do You Play Skee-Ball?

Part of Skee-Ball’s appeal is how straightforward it is. Still, there’s more to the official rules to Skee-Ball than meets the eye. Automated games you find in arcades will tally up points and distribute balls to match rules, but there are many other ways to play and nuances to the game that you won’t find in your average Skee-Ball machine.

The basic objective of Skee-Ball is to roll one or more balls up a slanted board with enough force and accuracy to land them inside a series of concentric hoops. The smaller the hoop, the more points the player earns for getting their balls inside.

There are two sets of accepted Skee-Ball rules, both of which allow teams to use nine balls to score.

The first is a game with 12 rounds of back-and-forth play involving teams with three to 12 players. Each team gets their chance to roll one frame of nine balls before they rotate to the next team and tally up their points. These are often referred to as the “traditional” rules.

The traditional rules finish with a “mystery” round that allows teams to win bonus points. This round can be played with any of the more common rules, with the most popular being:

  • Speed — two players race to see who can roll their balls the fastest
  • Relay — team members take turns rolling one ball at a time
  • Price is Right — each team tries to score a set score

The second ruleset is known as “match” play. The match rules see two teams with three players competing to win a best-out-of-seven.

Each team can send up three players to roll every round. Each player rolls three balls, and the team with the most points at the conclusion of the round scores a point. The team that scores the most points after the seventh round wins. 

How Do You Win at Skee-Ball?

Your chances of scoring a Skee-Ball win will depend on which rules you’re playing under.

For the traditional rules, you’ll want to score high during the first 12 rounds and use strategy to conquer the mystery round. If you have a particularly fast player, for example, you can choose them as the player to participate in the speed round.

You’ll take a similar approach to match play, though you won’t have the mystery round to catch up.

One technique that could help you score better is aiming for holes with high points without lowering your chances of success. If you follow this logic, aiming for the 40-point hoop is much better than the 100 because you have a higher chance of getting your ball through it.

But no matter how you play Skee-Ball, the goal will always be to score the most points, even if you’re using an automated arcade machine.

How Does Skee-Ball Scoring Work?

Skee-Ball scoring is straightforward. Each hoop is marked with the points you get for getting the ball through it. Four holes in the center respectively award players 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 points for successful rolls; the points increase the higher up on the board the ball gets.

Most boards also have two 100-point hoops in each corner. These are smaller and more challenging to get your ball into, so focusing all your efforts on these holes can be something of a gambit.

Your score at the game’s end will also depend on the rules you’re observing. However, scoring for every round will be more or less the same — add up the points from each hoop you get, and you’ll get your score for that round.

The Key to Skee

Skee-Ball is a fun, simple game that anyone can enjoy. Still, it’s not without certain nuances that make it an exciting and complex game to master.

The key to mastering Skee-Ball is to practice whenever you can and develop a good technique. And one of the best ways to do that is with a Skee-Ball board of your own from Billiard Factory. Browse our quality machines and game tables to see what your game room is missing!