Skee-Ball: How To Play And Win Every Time

by Mike Jones

Skeeball, also written as "Skee-Ball," is a super fun game that can be found at most arcades and some carnival midways. You can even get a home skee-ball game machine for your home's game room. Usually a one-person game, skee ball can also be played at the tournament level, where multiple individuals or teams compete for prizes and bragging rights.

At first glance it may seem like a very difficult game to play, but skee-ball is surprisingly easy to learn. Moreover, once you get the basics down you can then move on to some of the more advanced strategies, about which only a handful of the best players know.

In the following article we will first lay out some of the basics associated with this game-the rules and how the game is played. We have also included a section in which we will uncover some of the lesser known tips and tricks of the game of Skeeball-strategies that can help you win far more often than you lose

Skee-ball: Rules and How to Play

Skee-ball: Rules and How to Play
Skee-ball: Rules and How to Play

Although Skeeball can be played in a tournament format, for this first section we are going to talk about the rules and game play of Skee Ball as they relate to arcade play.

Skeeball Is a Redemption Game

Skee-ball is essentially what they call a redemption game, which basically just means that players receive a certain number of tickets for certain score ranges, with the highest scores being awarded the greatest amount of tickets. When taken together, these tickets can usually be used at a Redemption Counter to trade for prizes-prizes ranging from small toys and stuffed animals to expensive electronic devices.

The Skeeball Court

This game is played on a lane, much like bowling only considerably shorter. Although this lane starts out flat-from where the players stand-it has a gradual incline as it makes its way up. Each skeeball ramp in the arcade measures between 10 and 13 feet depending on the game manufacturer, although the 13 foot-ramp machines are the only ones used for tournament play. At the very end of the inclined ramp there is a sudden jump in the incline called the "ball hop." This ball-hop is what helps to propel or launch the balls towards the scoring area.

The scoring area on a skeeball game consists of a bullseye-like setup with several circles or rings. These rings essentially direct the balls into holes of varying point values, with the smallest and hardest to reach holes having the most overall point value. On most skee ball games there are five rings. The largest and easiest to reach circle is typically worth 10 points, and as the rings go up and get gradually smaller the holes within those rings award graduated point values of 20, 30, 40, and finally 50 points-the smallest ring on the game into which getting the ball is a true challenge.

Playing Skeeball

Players begin a game of skeeball by placing the required type of currency into the mechanism at the front or side of the machine. Skeeball games can be outfitted to accept quarters, tokens, or even Player Cards that subtract the amount needed to play the game from the card balance. Once the appropriate amount of currency has been added to the machine, players simply push a button or lever, which then releases the balls into a holding area or queue. For one game of skeeball players typically receive nine balls. These balls are made from either polished masonite or heavy plastic and each ball measures approximately three inches in diameter.

Once the balls have been released, players take the first ball in the holding queue and roll it up the ramp towards the scoring rings. Balls must be rolled in this game and cannot be bounced or thrown towards the target area. Most games offer a protective net over the scoring rings to prevent people from hurling the balls. Each ball in the queue is rolled in succession until all nine balls have been rolled up the ramp. Players do not need to keep their own scores, as the machine automatically tallies a player's score after each ball. For example, if the first throw landed in the 40 point ring, the machine will flash the number 40. Then, when the second ball is rolled and lands in, say, the 20 point ring, the machine will update the player's score to 60.

The object of this game, as you might have guessed, is to try and accumulate as many points as possible using all nine of your balls or rolls. Tickets are awarded based on a given score range that spans from 0-450. Zero is the lowest score one can achieve and can happen if each of the nine balls fails to land in even one of the scoring rings. 450 is the top possible score, and is achieved by landing all 9 balls into the very small and elevated 50-point ring-which is very difficult to do. Once all of the balls have been played and the final score tallied, the machine will issue the appropriate amount of tickets based on the player's score. In most cases, players much achieve a certain level of points to get a single ticket.

Tips and Tricks for Becoming a Skee-Ball Champion

Now that you know how to play the game, you may be wondering if there are any tips and/or tricks that can help improve your score and subsequently your haul of tickets. The answer to that question is a resounding Yes. Skee-ball, unlike some arcade and midway style games, is not merely a game of luck. It requires a little skill and know-how to become a true champion, and once you gain that skill and knowledge you can generally expect to score higher than you might have ever thought possible. Below we have listed just a few tips and strategies that can help you improve your scores.

Stay Low

When you are standing before a skee ball game you must keep the incline in mind. Unlike bowling, the skee ball lane is not flat, and thus when you stand before it you can lose some perspective. To counter that loss of perspective we recommend you get low before making each one of your rolls. Staying low will help you better judge the distance of each of the scoring rings, and once you get the distance down all you need to do is adjust your speed. Thus, when rolling the balls in the game of skee-ball, crouch down a bit to get a better look at things, but do NOT roll from your knees. This will restrict your arm movement and make it nearly impossible to judge the distance.

Create a Good Stance

In sports, say like bowling or baseball, a good stance can mean the difference between success and failure. The same concept holds true in this arcade game. When playing this game you want to develop a stance that you can repeat over and over? Why? Because consistency is everything in a game like skee-ball. A good stance in this game is when the foot of your throwing hand is braced against the machine, and your non-dominant foot is slightly behind you for leverage. Be sure to choose the same spot on the machine to brace yourself with every shot, and always follow through with your throwing arm.

Aim for the 40-Point Ring

The 40-point ring in skee ball is the "second-highest" ring in the scoring area. That being said, you may be wondering why we are not recommending that you aim for the 50-point ring. The answer to that question is fairly simple. The 50-point ring in skee-ball is not only the smallest ring in the scoring area, it is also the highest. And because this ring is the highest, going over it will cause you to land in either the 10-point zone or one of the areas in which no points are tallied whatsoever. This can gravely affect your score, bringing your ticket count way down.

For starters, the 40-point ring in skee-ball is much easier to land in than the 50-point ring. And, if you are successful with hitting the 40-point ring nine times, you will earn a whopping 360 points, which is usually good for about 5-10 tickets depending on the arcade and their skee ball setup. The best part about rolling your ball towards the 40-point area is that you will likely be rewarded for "overthrows" rather than punished. That's because the 50-point ring is right above the 40-point ring. Therefore, if you are "too strong" on one or more of your rolls, instead of receiving 0-10 points for your effort, you just might be rewarded with 50 points.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you ask the best players in the world what their secret to winning is, most would say "practice." Practice-a lot of it-is extremely important in this game because it helps you develop something called muscle memory. In other words, when you make a good shot in skee-ball, your mind and body work together to remind you how you did it. And then, when you keep practicing to refine and master that muscle memory, great games, with super high scores, will begin to be the norm rather than the exception.

About Mike Jones

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family."

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