Air hockey is a great addition to any man cave or game room. Additionally, many multi-use game tables will include air hockey as one of the game options.

There are a few things to know about the air hockey table though, most quality options will have a built-in blower that will keep the plug hovering above the table. You’ll also need a puck and a pair of mallets.

These will generally be included with the purchase of the table. But how do you go about playing this great game? Let’s take a look.

Basic Rules of Air Hockey

Starting the Game

Before the game starts opening possession must be determined, this is normally done with a coin flip, but any other method that is agreed upon can be used. The player who has possession gets to place the puck on their side of the center line and then hit it with their mallet to start play.

As play continues you can hit the puck with any side of the mallet but have to stay on your side of the center line. The player can move to the sides or back of the table, so long as the player and their mallet does not cross the centerline.

After a goal is scored, the player that  concede the goal gets possession.

Points & Scoring

The game of air hockey is generally played to seven points. This limit can be changed for any game, but the overall limit needs to be agreed upon before the game begins.

A point is scored when the puck goes into the other players goal. It doesn’t matter if you hit it in or if it bounces off the other player’s mallet and ends up in the goal.

Changing Ends

If opponents are playing several games in a row, players should changes ends after each game.

Which end players start the first game can be selected by any agreed means.

Center Line

A player can not cross the center line in to the opponents half to hit the puck.

However, both players can go for the puck if it is touching the centre line.


No player is allowed to place their mallet on top of the puck for any reason. This is called topping and is considered a foul.

The table is generally considered the playable surface, if the puck leaves the playing surface or is otherwise considered out of play, play is suspended until the puck is brought back into play.

A foul, called “palming” occurs when a player’s hand, body, or clothing comes in contact with the puck while it is in play. The only exception is if a puck is hit up off the table and contacts the other players hand.

Any foul that occurs causes the fouling player to lose possession of the puck.

It is a foul if a player takes more that 7 seconds to hit the puck, once in their half of the table.

Number of Pucks & Mallets

Only one puck may be in play at any time and each player may only have one mallet at any given time. Violations of either of these points is also considered a foul.

Some groups will place time limits on how long you can take while getting the puck back into play after a score or have a rule against purposeful delay of the game.

US Air Hockey Simplified Rules

Below is a list of the US version of Air Hockey:

  1.  The first person to 7 points (goals) wins.
  2.  A goal is scored when the puck drops into the opposition goal (unless play was suspended or a foul was committed).
  3.  Players change ends after each game.
  4.  The player that conceded a goal will start with the puck.
  5.  A player may only hand serve the puck after an opponent has scored.
  6.  A player may only use one mallet at a time.
  7.  The puck can be struck with any part of the mallet
  8.  The puck cannot be ‘topped’ by lifting the mallet and placing it on top of the puck.
  9.  Only one puck must be in play at all times.
  10.  A player has seven seconds to hit the puck once it crosses their half of the table.
  11.  Either player can strike the puck when it is in contact with the centre line of the table.
  12.  A player can stand anywhere on their half of the table behind the centre line.
  13.  It is a foul if any part of the player’s hand, arm, body or clothing touches the puck.
  14.  Each player can take one 10 second timeout per game.
  15.  A timeout can only be called by the player who has the puck or when the puck is not in play.
  16.  A player must clearly indicate they require a timeout.
  17.  The player who has conceded a goal has 10 seconds to restart the match.

Wrapping It Up

These are basic rules of air hockey. As a general guideline if you’re playing on a home air hockey table the house rules or other tweaking of the rules should be discussed and agreed to prior to the start of a game.

Also, if you are planning on playing in any type of tournament or league, it is best to double-check with the overseeing body to find their rules. Each different group may have some rules that add or more strictly define what will happen during the day.

More in-depth rules can be found on the air hockey players association website.  Lastly, we’d like to hear from you.

How often do you play air hockey? Got any tips?  Let us know in the comment section below.

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