how to play cornhole welcome picCornhole (also called beanbag toss, baggo or simply "bags") is a game in which you toss beanbags at a piece of plywood with a hole in it. Cornhole has been a staple of family fun in backyards and at picnics and tailgates for years, but bags is blowing up lately. Bars and microbreweries are setting up cornhole boards for people to play on; cornhole clubs, leagues and tournaments are popping up everywhere; and you can even see cornhole featured on ESPN pretty frequently these days!

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How to Play Cornhole

Cornhole is an easy game to learn how to play. I mean, come on, you're throwing beanbags at a board with a hole in it -- you can do that, right? The basics are obvious: You miss...bad. Land on the board, good. Get it in the hole...woohoo! But if you watch a competitive player throw a few bags you'll see there's more to it than that, and it can take years to master the game. Good news, though, we're here to teach you everything you need to know about how to play cornhole!


What You'll Need to Play Cornhole

Boards and Bags

how to play cornhole boards bags

To play a proper game of cornhole you'll need 8 bags and 2 boards. The boards should be 24" wide by 48" wide with a 6" diameter hole, and the bags should be 6" square and weigh one pound. There are travel/tailgate-sized boards that are 36" long, some made of plastic like Baggo, and you may come across bags that are smaller or lighter. Casual cornhole can be fun with such equipment, but we're focused on quality cornhole you get from higher-end cornhole boards and bags .

Court Layout

The boards are placed with the front edges 27 feet apart. The pitchers box from which players must throw is the length of the board by 3 feet.
how to play cornhole court

So you've got boards, bags and they're set up as a proper court, now how do you play cornhole?


How to Play Cornhole (by the Rules!)

Cornhole can be played singles (one on one) or doubles. Either way, the game consists of "frames" during which the players take turns tossing 4 bags each at the other boards. The goal,fairly obviously is to get the bags to land on the board, or better yet go into the hole. These are just the basics of cornhole rules, if you want to learn more read the official rules and regulations of the two big cornhole organizations, ACL and ACO.

The Throw

You need to throw the bag from within the pitcher's box, i.e. without stepping past the front edge of the board, and keeping one foot within 3 feet of the side of the board. Let's be clear: everybody...everybody...throws cornhole bags underhand. That said, the ACL rules and regs technically allow overhand or underhand throw, while ACO say underhand only, which we prefer.

Singles

In a 1:1 game, the players stand on opposite sides of the board and take turns throwing bags. When they've each tossed all four of their bags they walk toward the other end of the court while staying in their lane. That means they don't switch sides, so the player who was throwing from the right side of the board is now throwing from the left side of the board, and vice versa.

Doubles

In a doubles game the partners must be at opposite ends of the court, in the same lane. That means they're both on the same side of the boards, looking straight at each other.

Who Picks Side and Throws First?

Before each game, players flip a coin or spin the bag. If they spin the bag, they agree to some logo or other mark on the bag, stand on opposite sides of the board, and spin the bag. Whoever it's pointing at wins.

In either case, the winner of the coin flip or bag spin gets to pick who will throw first. After that is determined, the winner also gets to pick one of two things: 1) Which lane they will play in and which player will be at each end, or 2) Which of their opponents each player will face. Whichever one of those things they pick, the other team picks the other. For example, say the team that wins the spin picks their side and announces which end each player will throw from. The other team gets to decide which end each of their players will throw from.

Once the game has started, whoever scored most recently throws first in each frame.

Scoring

Each bag that lands on the board is worth one point, and each bag that goes into the hole is worth three points...kinda. Cornhole scoring involves a little math, but don't worry, you've got this move. Cornhole is scored with that's called "net scoring" or "subtraction scoring." Basically, whichever player scores more points in the frame gets the difference between their score and the other player. If I get four bags on the board (4 points) and you get two bags on the board but miss the other two (2 points), I score two points. Thanks to net scoring, only one player or team can score in each frame. When any player or team hits or exceeds 21 points at the end of a frame, they win!

House Rules

As with most games played in backyards and at tailgates, some folks make up rules. One common house rule is that you need to win by two. Another is that if you go past 21 points your score is reset to 11 or 15. Some people score bags hanging over the hole as two points. It's fine to play by house rules , but don't get too used to them as even at the most casual tournament they simply aren't part of the game.

Let's wrap things up by talking about how to get more of those valuable points and win the game.


How to Play Cornhole...Better!

As with any competitive endeavor, cornhole players develop and tune their own technique. We'll talk about the one technique that's common across every competitive bagger, then talk about the areas in which you'll need to figure out what works best for you. A good place to start is by watching this ESPN "Sports Science" breakdown of the game, featuring California state champ Nick Renevitz:

Job 1: Throw a Flat, Spinning Bag

While many backyard players wad the bag up in their hand and throw it willy-nilly so it tumbles through the air, virtually all experienced cornhole players hold the bag flat in their hand and give it a little spin so it flies through the air "flat."  Like rifling on a bullet, that spin improves the aerodynamics of the bag for more consistent flight. Second, landing the bag flat on the board reduces the unpredictability associated with coming in all crazy. And maybe most importantly, a flat spin means the bag will always land on whatever side was facing down when you released it. That's critical because good cornhole bags are sticky on one side and slick on the other. More on that in a bit.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Generally speaking, cornhole players throw bags with their feet staggered — one foot at the front edge of the board, the other behind them. Most right-handed players throw with their left foot forward, and lefties with their right foot forward. That said, but plenty of people throw "goofy footed" with their dominant side's foot forward. Experiment and see what works for you!

To Step, or Not to Step?...That is the Question!

Some players stand fixed in their throwing position, with their weight over their front foot. Others start with their weight on their backfoot and shift forward as they throw. The other common technique is to stand with both feet together toward the back of the board, and step forward as part of the throw, almost like an abbreviated bowling approach. Try 'em all and figure out what works for you!

Stick and Slick Strategy

Quality cornhole bags are sticky on one side and slick on the other. Combined with the ability to throw a bag that flies "flat," that lets you throw a bag that slides along the board, or that stops near where it lands. You'll want to throw your cornhole bag with the slick side down when you're trying to slide the bag the length of the board, or to push a bag that's already on the board into the hole. You'll want to throw the bag sticky side down as a "blocker" to deny your opponent a clean line at the hole.


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