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How To Play Cornhole: Complete Official Rules

How To Play Cornhole: Complete Official Rules

Cornhole, in its wonderful simplicity, has become the backyard game of choice for holidays, weekends, family reunions, and graduation parties everywhere.

While Cornhole is a popular game often played outdoors and can be enjoyed by people of all ages, many people seem to forget the basic rules. Here is a look at the complete official rules of Cornhole. 

We will go over the basic gameplay and some of the more advanced rules you may not be familiar with. If you are interested in learning how to play cornhole or just want to brush up on your skills, you’ve made it to the right place.

Here is the official Caliber Games guide on the official rules of Cornhole!

What Is a Cornhole?

You may know Cornhole by a different name in your local area, but the basic game can be found with minor variations around the country. Cornhole consists of two slanted boards with a hole cut into each and several bean bags.

The origins of Cornhole are not well known, and several different potential origin stories place the invention of the game between 1400s Germany and 1800s Kentucky farmers. 

Whatever the origins of Cornhole truly are, we know that the game's popularity skyrocketed in the last two decades, becoming a staple at tailgates and backyard gatherings ever since.

How To Play Cornhole: The Official Rules

Woman tossing a bean bag while playing Cornhole

Knowing the rules allows you to make adjustments and changes for more fun games! Here are the rules you need to know:

The Aim Of The Game

You score points by tossing your team's bean bags onto the board or through the hole in the board to score more points than your opponent.

Step One: Setup

Cornhole boards, bean bags, and carrying bag displayed against a white background

The first to start playing Cornhole is setting up your Cornhole Boards Bundle. You should start by placing your boards 27 feet apart from front edge to front edge. This means the distance from your board's front line to your opponent’s board front should be 27 feet.

You should also ensure that each team or player has four distinct beanbags. If you are playing with more than two people, you should also divide up your teams at this stage to be ready to play.

Step Two: Throw the First Inning

Once teams are established and the boards are set up, you will decide who throws first. You may decide however you wish. Players or teams will then take turns tossing their bean bags from their respective sides (left or right) of the board until each player or team has tossed all four bags.

Once all eight bean bags are tossed, the players walk to the other board to record the score.

Step Three: Scoring

After you have walked to the other board, you can begin scoring the inning. The standard method of scoring Cornhole is cancellation scoring. This means that only one team can score points per inning — you subtract the scores of each team and the team with the remaining positive scores of those points.

There are two ways to score points, landing a bag on the board and scoring a bag through the hole. Bags that land on the board and remain on the board for the entire inning score one point. If a bag lands on the board and is knocked off before the end of the inning, it will not count for points.

The team or player will be awarded three points for each bag that makes it through the center hole. 

Here is a quick look at how cancellation scoring might play out: 

  • The red team gets two bags on the board and one through the hole for five points. 
  • The blue team gets two bags through the hole and one bag on the board for seven points. 
  • The score for the round would leave the blue team earning two points.

Step Four: Repeat

After you have scored the inning, you may remove the bags from the board and then start the next inning, tossing them back towards the other board. If you are playing with teams, the next team member will now be tossing for the inning.

You repeat this inning after inning until a winner is crowned. The first team or player to score 21 points or more is crowned the winner, so long as they win by two points. This means if the score were 21-20, more innings would be tossed until one team or player had a lead of two points or more.

Alternative Options For Adding Fun to Cornhole

Man and woman carrying the Caliber Games Cornhole Set in its bag at a family gathering.

  • Bust scoring
  • Move the board closer
  • Get Wet

Everyone loves putting their twists and turns on games, and Cornhole is no exception. Here are a few of our favorite alternative rules that can make cornhole extra fun!

Bust Scoring

“Busting rules” add a bit of drama to traditional scoring methods. With bust scoring, if a player or team scores over 21 points, their score will then drop to 15 points. This could potentially put the other team in the lead. So, yes, it is possible to be too good at cornhole in this instance. 

Generally, a team can “bust” unlimited times (unless rules prohibiting this are established prior to the game start).

This rule is similar to that of blackjack, where the goal is to hit 21. With the card game, going over 21 results in a “bust,” resulting in a losing hand. 

This adds additional endgame strategy, which can make comeback victories more likely.

Move The Boards Closer

Another change we frequently make for smaller children is bringing the boards closer. The 27-foot distance is great for teens and adults, but children may find accurately throwing the bags at the board challenging. 

15 feet is typically a good starting place for younger children, although bringing the boards as close or far as is comfortable is perfectly acceptable.

Get Wet!

If you are lucky enough to have access to a pool, you can play cornhole all summer long, regardless of the heat. 

By setting up the boards on opposite ends of the pool and tossing bags from the water, you can beat the heat and add a fun element to the game!

How to Play Cornhole: Takeaways

Cornhole is a great game for all ages that anyone can enjoy. The game is simple to understand and easy to play, making it perfect for parties, gatherings, and events. While the standard rules are easy to follow, many alternative rules can be used to add new elements and breathe new life into the game.

Caliber Games believes in the power of play. If you can take these rules and put them into action, then you can unlock hours of playtime with friends and family. Shop our games now to find more fun family products.

 

Sources:

Cornhole: The Game and Its History | Hudson Valley

CORNHOLE RULES | American Cornhole Association

House Cornhole Rules | Playcornhole.org