All About Air Hockey – History, Tips, Air Hockey Rules

The table hockey or air hockey is a game in which two players compete, trying to score points on the goal of the enemy, using a table that has an area of a particular set of low friction, two decks, and a disk or puck. Playing table hockey requires an air hockey table, two decks, one for each player, and a puck that slides smoothly and rapidly across the table when hit with a mallet.

It is a game that is very particular in recreational centers for children where sometimes adults can also choose to play in this great air machine. How to play air hockey goes back quite some years ago. Still, even today remains latent, and along with foosball and billiards, one of the classics of recreational areas for children, adolescents, and adults.

Table hockey is essentially a version of foosball hockey that takes place on a small board of rink hockey. Pieces, mounted on the track, are moved by rods that protrude from the sides of the game. The objective is to shoot a little puck at your opponent’s target. Game lengths and how a goal can be scored is ultimately up to the participants, but the following rules apply to all official table hockey tournament matches.

What is Air Hockey?

If you are here, the logical thing is to think that at least you know what air hockey is, but it may only be that you have had a first approach that has left you hooked, and you want to learn as much as possible about this addictive board game so typical of the rooms recreational.

Air hockey is a game that tries to slide a plastic chip or puck into the surface with a kind of plastic mallet. The purpose of this game will be to introduce the disc into the opposite goal, which means that this game is only suitable for two people, although there are tables for four players as well.

Air hockey is a game that bases its meaning on the very surface on which the games are played: a table of an intermediate size between a pool table and a table football, with the surface completely smooth and polished, along with and width of which a series of holes are distributed from which air comes out when the coin is thrown and during the entire course of the games.

The air in air hockey tables merely is and only necessary so that the puck that acts as a shock element between the two players can slide freely across the surface without any problem. Not surprisingly, when the air ceases in an air hockey table, the pucks stop running, and the games are ended.

If you have come here in search of an air hockey table, above we have linked to our entire page dedicated to this product, from which there are two other specialized reviews:

  • The one for Large Air Hockey Tables, or professionals
  • And the one of Children’s Air Hockey Tables, smaller and for exclusive domestic use.

Now, at, we are known for being very curious. Therefore, it is time to learn a little about the importance and evolution of this game, so keep reading so that in the end, you take all the information to play air hockey correctly.

History of Air Hockey

For the vast majority who have played or are getting hooked on this game, it will be curious to know how air hockey or air hockey was invented, since its history, although it may seem strange, sank its roots many decades ago. It may turn out to be one of the newer board games, but still, it’s intriguing to know where air hockey was invented and who its creators were or are. Dare to know more.

Table hockey was created and designed by three characters: Bob Kenrick, Brad Baldwin, and Phil Crossman in 1969. These three friends were engineers and worked in a company called “Brunswick Billiards,” dedicated exclusively to manufacturing billiard tables.

From the manufacture of these tables, the three engineers chose to manufacture a table that was as far away from friction as possible and began to look for a way to design a novel board game that would give great recognition to the engineers. Still, years later, the grand plan of developing a board game from pool tables was stopped. Never better said.

The result of the first approach was the origins of air hockey, with tables without wooden holes, smaller than the current ones, on which chips were slid driven by two clubs, as can be seen in the photo above.

With the foundations in place, but without actually executing the idea, it was Bob Lemieux who decided to take the reins of what we now know as air hockey.

Lemieux was inspired by ice hockey and looked for a way to take it to a table, he lasted several days and several nights, thinking about how he would replace the hockey sticks until he decided to do it through round mallets, which (until the moment) have support to hold them. They are usually tied to the air hockey table through ropes, which prevents anyone from taking them home, or that they can be shot by mistake during a hit.

The goals in air hockey would continue to be the same as those of the ice game, so the tables were designed in a narrow way to be able to score and port as in physical play. Immediately, as soon as it was marketed and appeared in arcades in the early 70s, the game set the trend, becoming one of the best board games of the moment. Then they decided to adapt it for all kinds of ages, from the smallest to adults who wanted to be distracted.

In 1973, the first North American companies of what we could call table hockey were inaugurated, which were called the “Houston Air Hockey Association” and “Texas Air Hockey Players Association”. These companies took the leadership of air hockey. They began to define the general rules of the games, to formalize tournaments that considered air hockey as a table sport.

From this moment, air hockey began to appear in local places such as bars, casinos, and leisure centers, as all people and of all ages were looking for a way to play the new table game.

How to Play Air Hockey?

how to play air hockey

Table hockey is a straightforward game to play, have a bit of agility and skill, and you will score many goals. Sure, this is achieved with a little practice, but the truth is, the level of complexity of this game is deficient. If you are wondering how does air hockey work? Here we will give you the answer. See what it’s about.

  • To choose who will start the game, you can choose to play the classic “rock, paper scissors” or toss the coin and choose between heads or tails to see who will start.
  • The plastic disc must be in the middle of the table to start the game with a zero advantage, that is, both players will have an equal distance.
  • The player who opens the game must play within seven seconds of starting the game, or if not, he will have to give his turn to the other player, at the same time that the opponent must move the disc in a maximum time of seven seconds or he will be forced to return the disc as well.
  • Hit the puck consistently once the game has started to hit the opponent’s goal.
  • If the puck leaves the field of play, you must give your opponent’s turn to start the game.
  • The player who is capable of scoring the most goals in his opponent’s goal wins (initially, the one that reached the figure of 7 goals won, but in current air hockey machines, it is played by time, and not by the number of goals, within order to save the games.


Tips for Playing Air Hockey

It’s not that air hockey is a complicated game to understand, nor to play. As we say, even a child with the sole condition of reaching the height of the table can play air hockey without any problem. But there are a couple of tips that we would give you to start playing air hockey with a particular advantage:

  1. As a first tip, we recommend that you leave the deck about 20 centimeters from your goal so that you can attack and defend with greater agility.
  2. When you grip the mallet, try to do it with three or two fingers to propel the disc with more incredible speed and precision.

Penalties in Air Hockey

  1. If the mallet touches the disc from the top, it will be sanctioned and loses the turn, and the score in that case of having scored a goal, giving the opponent the exit.
  2. It is forbidden to touch the disc with any part of the body or clothing. In doing so, you must give the opponent the turn.
  3. When the puck is stopped during play, with an object out of reach of the mallet, a free throw will be used to the player whose throw was interrupted.
  4. If you take the puck to your own goal, it will be called an auto goal, and the opposing player will receive a point.

Unlike ice hockey, air hockey is more reserved in terms of game variations. The rules of the game do not change, you can only add two more players to expand the game, but this can only be done with a table of four goals. Otherwise, it is traditionally played with two people.

Now, if you have read carefully, you will surely agree with me that it is an easy and fun game to play. To solve your last question regarding where to play air hockey, I tell you that you can do it in-game centers when you go to take your children. In them, you will find hockey tables for the whole family or in bars or casinos, as I mentioned in The beginning.

Still, the idea is to enjoy yourself with the family, so you decide which is the most appropriate place for you.

Play Air Hockey at home

Obviously, not everyone has enough space in their home to house an indoor air hockey table, with the standard measurements, and sometimes not even a small air hockey table, of the children’s type. In short, we can have space for them, but there are so many toys that accumulate in the houses that many times it is not desirable.

In those cases, we can always opt for something as simple as making two goals out of a shoebox, improvising two clubs with two plastic cups, and opting for something as close to a large-size token as the hitting. This same concept of home air hockey is also available in-game mode in some stores, and it has the enormous advantage of being able to store and collect it anywhere:

But if space is not a problem, and we want to make a homemade air hockey that will serve as an alternative to the purchased ones, as you may have imagined, on YouTube, there are many explanatory videos in which models of air hockey tables are shown that, although they do not work with air (that is a big difference), they maintain the essence of the games with enough dignity.

Air Hockey Rules

Table hockey is essentially a version of foosball hockey that takes place on a small board of rink hockey. Pieces, mounted on the track, are moved by rods that protrude from the sides of the game. The objective is to shoot a little puck at your opponent’s target. Game lengths and how a goal can be scored is ultimately up to the participants, but the following rules apply to all official table hockey tournament matches.



Players must be on the hockey board when the game begins. Any player not in position 30 seconds after the start of the game loses by a forfeit score of 10-0. Matches last 5 minutes, with no clock stops, even if the puck goes out of play. If play is stopped for reasons unrelated to play (e.g., a broken play piece), then they are added towards the clock.

The match begins by placing the puck in the center of the court and center forward each player face to face. All face-offs in the game are done this way. After the start of a match and any face-offs, at least 3 seconds must be scored before either side can score. The player in possession must move the puck away from their center forward before it is legal to score (such as moving to another piece). No player may carry the puck for more than 5 seconds without passing or shooting.


Goal score

The puck must remain inside the goal cage to count as a goal. If a playing piece stabilizes the puck (that is, it is completely stopped) and then throws it, it does not count a goal. A player can approach a self-stopped disc and shoot. The puck cannot be pushed against a player’s goal by an archer or defenseman to bounce off the other goal – unless the puck bounces off the track or another game piece before that. The same goes for a defenseman pressing the puck against the goalkeeper. It must be a goal before the final bell to count.


The essential

The air hockey table has a centerline installed in the center of the table. Each player can hit the puck from anywhere behind the centerline. No player may have any contact with the puck, if the puck touches the sleeve or if the shirt is up and touches the puck, called a personal foul against that player. The puck cannot be hit by any part of the mallet, excluding the bottom as it comes into contact.

A player cannot beat the record, or pick up the hammer and place it on top of the puck. Only one disc and one deck are allowed for each player in each game. Any player can call a timeout per game, and it cannot last more than 10 seconds. A player cannot lift the hammer during lay play for any reason.

Starting the game

To see who goes first, a coin toss is done in the official game of the game. For random play, only one person should be chosen to go first. The player has chosen, or who wins the toss, will play in the first place. From then on, the player who scores the last point will be the next serve. Players alternate sides for each game. The game begins when a player or referee says, “Time in.”


Each player receives one point for each puck that gets in the opponent’s goal-scoring players. If the puck bounces off the door, then it doesn’t count. If it bounces off the opponent and the goal will count for the player who hit the puck. The player who accumulates 7 points wins the game. The table will cut off the power when the game is over. If a puck has been hit at the finish line when the power is cut, it is only counted if it leaves on the first table is off.

Air hockey features

Table hockey is also known as air hockey, air hockey, or air hockey. This sport is practiced on a unique table, between two players, and consists of scoring points by inserting your puck into the opponent’s goal.

To play table hockey, you need a table, a puck, and two decks, one for each player.

  • Air hockey table: it must have a completely smooth and polished surface, with a low coefficient of friction, for a better sliding of the puck. It will also have goals at each end, which is where points are scored when the puck is inserted, as well as a perimeter edge that prevents the puck or mallets from slipping out or falling.
  • Air hockey mallet: the mallet is a circular piece with a protrusion to hold it, although there are also flat mallets. It must be completely circular and symmetrical across its circumference. It is not allowed to alter or wear a mallet to change the angle of contact with the table. It must be uniform and made from a single piece, all of the same material. It can be of any color, but always different from that of the table, at least its outer edge. Its weight must not exceed 170.1 g, and its diameter must not exceed 10.32 cm. There are mainly two types of decks: high decks and low decks.
  • Disc or puck: discs are made of thermoplastic polycarbonate and are generally round, although they can also be square, triangular, hexagonal, or octagonal. Regarding color, regulatory discs can be yellow, green, or red.

The air hockey table has a rectangular-shaped playing surface, very smooth, with two opposing goals, in the shape of a slot, into which the puck must be inserted by pushing it with the mallet. Each player will try to score in the opposing goal and, at the same time, prevent his opponent from scoring.

The first roll of the game is drawn by flipping a coin. The first player to accumulate 7 points wins. Players can position themselves on either side of the table but without crossing the centerline.

Final Verdict

Nowadays, air hockey is so popular that it is regularly present in all types of leisure centers and game rooms. The rental of air hockey tables for parties, meetings, and events has also been a success. There are tables for up to 4 players, which, although they are not regulated, are extremely fun.

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