How to Play and Win at Air Hockey

Air hockey is a classic game that pretty much everyone has played at some point, but there are some interesting facts about it that only some know. 

For instance, did you know that air hockey was a brand name that became the accepted generic term for the game of table hockey? Kind of like how bandage and Band-Aid are synonymous, or how we say we “Googled it” when we looked something up on the internet.   

And did you know that there’s an international air hockey association called the World Table Hockey Association (WTHA) that holds significant tournaments for the game? Or that there’s an Air Hockey Players Association (AHPA) for serious competitors who really know how to play air hockey? 

If you’re interested in joining in on the fun, you will need to brush up on your skills, and we’re here to help you do it. This guide will not only show you how to play air hockey but how to win at air hockey.

The Rules of the Game

If you asked people how to play air hockey, they’d most likely give a lot of similar answers, only with slight variations in the rules. That’s because most people just play it for fun and go by their rulebook, which is fine, but if you’re looking to become a real table hockey ace, you need to know the official rules.


To start the game, you’ll need to determine possession. You can do this by simply flipping a coin. Whoever wins gets first possession. After the end of each round, the first possession goes to the player who did not have it in the previous round. 

Your possession ends when the puck crosses the centerline, meaning you cannot reach past the line for the puck once it has crossed. You’re also not allowed to touch the puck with the striker or mallet, which is the air hockey version of a hockey stick. 

One last possession rule: you may only call timeout if you are in possession of the puck or the puck is out of bounds. You get one 10-second timeout per round.


To score a point, you must hit the puck into the opponent’s goal without your striker crossing the centerline, and the puck must enter the goal fully. If it enters and then ricochets back out or gets stuck halfway in the goal, it is not a point. 

You cannot place your striker on top of the puck to hold it in place. This is called topping and will definitely get you scolded in a serious competition. 

Rounds go up to seven points. The first player to seven wins the round. The best of seven rounds is the winner.

How to Win at Air Hockey

Now that you know how to play air hockey let’s take a look at some tips for how to win at air hockey.

Hitting the Puck

The initial impulse with table hockey is to smash the puck as hard as possible toward the opponent’s goal. While this is certainly fun, it’s not very effective. You want to hit the puck from behind at all times. When you don’t hit from behind, you’re much more likely to get an awkward rebound that may wind up in your own goal.

Keep It Simple

Another impulse is to misdirect the opponent with a double-bank shot, but that slows down the puck and gives your opponent a better shot at blocking it. You want a good clean shot that banks no more than one time.

Defense Wins

It’s an old adage that persists because it’s the undeniable truth. Focusing on your defensive technique can keep you in the game against even the toughest opponents. You don’t have to stop every shot; you just need to stop more than they do.

Air Hockey Is a Great Game for Everyone

Whether you’re looking to become the world champion or you simply want to enjoy some friendly competition with your friends, air hockey can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t require a ton of skill to play but learning more about the strategy and technique behind it can keep you coming back for more time and time again.