Cornhole: How To Play This Tailgating Favorite And Win Every Time

kid playing cornhole in backyard

Cornhole, which is also known as the bean bag toss game, is fun game that is taking the country by storm. This portable game, which can be played virtually anywhere, is very popular at parties and family get-togethers, and as it has gained in popularity, there are now even tournaments that pit some of the best cornhole players in the country against each other. You can even just have your own backyard tournament with a recreational cornhole board set.

In the following article we will discuss the game of cornhole in a bit more detail, starting with the rules of the game and how to play it. We have also included a section in which we will highlight some tips and tricks you can employ while playing the game—strategies that can help you win every time you play.

Setup, Basic Rules and How to Play

Cornhole is a fairly simple game, but we warn you; once you start playing you just might get addicted.

Equipment and Setup

The first things you will need to play cornhole are the two cornhole boards and the bean bags. Cornhole boards are slanted boards with a hole near the middle of the board. The board slants upwards ever so slightly from front to back, with the bottom portion very near to the ground, and the very top portion standing roughly 4 inches above the bottom portion.

Each cornhole board is typically made of plywood, is in the shape of a rectangle, and measures 4 feet in length by 2 feet in width. The top of the cornhole board is sanded smooth and is treated with a coating which allows the bean bags to slide upwards or downwards when they hit the bottom and top of the board respectively.

The hole in the Cornhole board is six inches in diameter and is centered nine inches from the top of the board and 12 inches from each side of the Cornhole board edges.

When playing tournament-style cornhole, the two cornhole boards should be placed 27 feet apart from front to front. However, for events like parties, camping trips and family reunions, the boards can be placed at any distance that the two individuals or teams deem fit.

Cornhole is played using 8 small bean-bag-like bags that are actually filled with un-popped corn kernels, hence the name “cornhole.”. There are 4 bags of each color to help keep track of each side’s supply of bags. Each cornhole bag measures 6 inches by 6 inches (6 square inches) and has one pound of corn inserted into each cornhole bag.

Cornhole Rules and How to Play

Cornhole is almost always played between two teams of two players each, much like horseshoes. Partners stand at opposite ends, called cornhole boxes, which are located to the right and left of each cornhole board. The two partners should stand on the same side, facing each other. This is done so that no advantage is given to either team.

Each cornhole team should have 4 bags of a single color. Like with horseshoes, all eight of the bags start at one end of the board.

Before the game begins, a coin flip is held to determine the order of play. The winner of the coin flip can elect to throw first or second, which is really just a matter of preference, as each position has its advantages and disadvantages.

One of the partners on Team A shall kick off the cornhole action by throwing a single cornhole bag at the opposite cornhole board. Players may throw the bag from any distance or angle, provided they are standing behind the cornhole board on their particular side. Once Team A throws their first cornhole bag, Team B will follow by throwing theirs. Game play continues in this fashion until the two opposing players on the same side of the court have thrown all of their cornhole bags.

If at any time a cornhole bag hits the ground and bounces up onto the board, the bag in question shall be removed from the playing surface.

The next round starts with the two opponents on the other side of the cornhole court throwing their bean bags, again alternating turns until all 8 of the cornhole bags have been thrown. Play continues in this fashion—alternating sides and turns—until one team reaches 21 (game) points.

Scoring and Winning in Cornhole

Scoring in cornhole is tallied as the game progresses. At the end of every round—when the two opponents from one side of the cornhole board have thrown all eight of the bean bags (4 each), the score should be tallied. In cornhole, points are awarded according to the following guidelines:

Three Points

  • Cornhole bag goes through the hole. When the cornhole bag goes through the hole on the cornhole board at the opposite end of the court, the team that made this shot will be awarded 3 (round) points. This is the highest possible score with a single cornhole bag.

One Point

All of the following scenarios will result in one point for the throwing team:

  • The Cornhole bag is hanging part way into the hole
  • The Cornhole bag is on the playing surface
  • The cornhole bag is hanging off the edge of the cornhole board, but not touching the ground.

Zero Points

Players/teams will receive no points for a given cornhole bag if any of the following are true:

  • The cornhole bag is off the playing surface on the ground
  • The cornhole bag is hanging from the playing surface, but part of it is touching the ground.
  • The cornhole bag is hanging from the front of the cornhole board, and the part that is hanging is touching another cornhole bag on the ground (Exception: if the cornhole bag on the ground can be removed without causing the hanging cornhole bag to hit the ground, one point will be awarded for that bag.

Important to remember here is that the score is tallied after each round. Therefore, the only automatic points a thrower can guarantee for his team is a throw that goes through the hole on the cornhole board. Bags that land on—or are suspended over—the cornhole board will certainly receive one point if they happen to remain in that position throughout the round, but keep in mind that the opposing player can always aim for those bags with the goal of knocking them off the board.

When scoring cornhole, there are “round scores” and the “game score.” The cornhole team with the highest round score each round, adds the difference of the two scores to their game score. In other words, if Team A scores 8 points in a give round, and Team B scores 5 points, Team A, as the highest scorer, would take the difference between the two scores—in this case 3 (8-5), and add those 3 points to his team’s “game score.”

After the scores are tallied after each round, the cornhole team who wins the round is given the honors and must throw first in the next round. If both cornhole teams have the same round score then the game score stays the same and honors stays with the team who had them the previous round.

Play continues in this manner until one team reaches a game score of 21 points.

Tips and Tricks for Winning Consistently

Now that you have a basic idea regarding how the game of cornhole is played, you might just be interested in learning some of the tips and tricks of the game that can help you win consistently, thus giving you bragging rights amongst your friends. Here we have assembled just a select few of those tips:

Upgrade Your Bags

If you’re just playing with the bags that came with the boards, then you might want to reconsider that. You see, the bags that come as a set with the boards are just your basic models. They’re not designed for serious players and really just meet the bare minimum for the occasional player. If you decide to upgrade your cornhole bags with some of higher quality, then you’ll likely see an improvement in your game performance at the same time.

Finding the Perfect Arc

When it comes to the perfect arc at which you should throw a cornhole bag there are various theories. However, for best results we suggest you throw at an arc of about 7-9 feet. Throwing the cornhole bag at an arc that is less than 7 feet will cause you to regularly slide the bag off the board. Similarly, throwing it higher than 9-10 feet may cause you to lose much of your control and accuracy, and end up with cornhole bags that simply bounce off the board—if they ever hit it in the first place. Finding an arc that is consistently between 7-9 feet, and then practicing that arc over and over until it becomes part of your muscle memory, will help you find the hole in the board much more often than not.

Try Spinning the Bag

Believe it or not, a spinning cornhole bag is much easier to control than one that simply flies flat and even, like a knuckleball in baseball. Much like a top is able to stay upright by spinning, a cornhole bag that is spun on the throw will land and stick to the cornhole board with greater accuracy, hence reducing the chance that it will simply slide of the board.

Proper Grip and Footwork

The proper grip and footwork can help you consistently score high in cornhole. When gripping the bag, always use your four fingers placed underneath the bag, with your thumb in the top center portion. Start with both feet slightly together and your knees slightly bent. Then, as you swing your arm up and forwards towards your target, step with the same foot as your throwing arm, leaving your back leg planted for leverage. This is the same way many of the professional cornhole players grip the bag and stand—always with good results.

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