Cornhole used to be a game that popped up every now and then in stadium parking lots or at backyard cookouts, but with the increase in popularity (there is even an entire organization dedicated to the game, more on that later) let’s take a closer look at what cornhole is and how to play it.

What is Cornhole?

In short, cornhole is a game that a lot of people have probably seen before. In fact, if you’ve ever been tailgating at a sporting event or been to a large backyard BBQ, you’ve seen it, even if you didn’t realize exactly what it was.

For those who need the image, picture two usually wooden, raised platforms or boards spread out at a certain distance across from each other, with each board having a hole in the top middle. People stand at each board and toss bean bags at the other board, attempting to get them through the hole, have them land on the board or even knock opposing players bean bags off the board altogether.

Getting the picture now?

Details for the Aspiring Cornhole Enthusiast

Just to be sure, here’s a little more background info for you. While cornhole is the most common name for the game, it can also be known as: bags, dummy boards, bean bag toss, dadhole, doghouse and baggo to name a few.

Additionally, while the boards can be blank and just the color of standard plywood, it’s very common to see them wrapped in official colors and logos of various sports teams, with matching color bean bags.  There are also a few terms you can throw out there to show your cornhole knowledge during a game. Here are some examples:

  • Cow Pie – A bag landing on the board.
  • Grasshopper – A bag that bounces off the ground and lands on the board.
  • Slippery Granny – Having three consecutive bags land on the board.
  • Screaming Eagle – A bag that is tossed beyond the board without ever touching it.

Setting up the Game

Ok, now you know what it is, let’s talk about how you play it.

First, in order to get started you need two boards, two sets of bean bags (with four bags in each set) and anywhere from two to four players. Each board is two feet by four feet with a six inch wide hole that is exactly nine inches from the top of the board. Additionally, each platform should be at an angle that has the hole raised 12 inches off the ground.

If you are playing by regulation rules, the boards should be placed far enough apart that there is 33 feet between the hole on each one. Of course, for those who are used to playing the tailgate or backyard BBQ variety, it’s very common to see them closer or even further apart in many instances.

There should also be a pitcher’s box outlined to the left or right of the board and players are not allowed to step outside the box when throwing the bags. For those of you who have only played or seen the game played in the non-regulation style, this is probably the first you’re hearing of that nuance. 

Playing Cornhole

Now that you’re all set up, boy, that was a lot of work, it’s time to actually play some cornhole. If you only have two players, each person takes a turn throwing bags, alternating with each person throwing two bags per turn.

If you have four players (two teams of two) you will stand at one board while your teammate stands at the other and each of you will have one of your opponents at the board with you.

All players at one board will pitch first (throwing two bags each) and then the players at the other board will do the same.

Once the bags start flying, there are a few ways you can score. First, you can get your bag through the hole on the board. That earns you three points. Second, you can get your bag to land on the board, that is worth one point.

Additionally, if you have one of your bags land on the board and your teammate hits it with another bag and knocks it through the hole, you get the full three points. However, you must also watch out for your bag being knocked off the board (by an opponent’s bag or one of your own or your teammate’s) because that will cost you the one point you earned when the bag landed on the board.

Additionally, a bag that is partially on the board and partially on the ground, does not count for a score. The ultimate goal is to be the first team to 21.

These are the basic rules for play and scoring.

There is one other option called cancellation scoring that allows each team to cancel out points scored by the other team. This scoring is typically used only in professional cornhole games and it means only one team can score each inning. For example, in the first inning, if the red team scores seven points and the blue team scores two, the red team would receive five points. The next inning would then be the blue team’s turn to score and the two teams would alternate each inning until one team reaches 21.

Professional Cornhole 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, there can’t be people who do this for a living. Well, there actually is something called the American Cornhole Organization or ACO, they’ve got a website and everything.

People across the country play in tournaments, are nationally ranked and win actual championships. In fact, at this writing, the organization is in its 13th year and New Jersey’s own Leslie Adcock is currently the number one ranked singles player in the world. You can read all about it at the ACO website here. However, if you decide to try your hand at professional cornhole, don’t quit your day job. Prizes are donated by sponsors and must have a minimum retail value of $15.

In a nutshell, this is cornhole. All the equipment you need can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Target and sporting goods stores. With all this information, you are ready to dominate your local cornhole game (provided your aim is good) and maybe even become a true professional and start collecting those $15 prizes.

Knowledge is Power

Click on the other great guides below.  Up Your Game!