How to Play Air Hockey like a Pro

How to Play Air Hockey

The best air hockey tables have been around for decades and they’re a great way to enjoy a challenging game with a friend and brush up on your reflexes. You’ll commonly find them in pool halls, pubs, arcades, and family fun centers. There are also models designed for home use that feature a more compact design, but they offer the same type of challenging setup.

If you’re interested in learning how to play air hockey, there are a few rules you should know, in addition to some tips on how to win and some basic strategy. Of course, the objective of the game is to score the most points, which you can do by sliding the puck into the opponent’s goal. Each player must stand at their designated end of the table. They’ll use their goalie to glide the puck across the centerline, in an attempt to reach the other player’s goal. The opponent must focus on guarding their goal in an attempt to gain back possession of the puck.

Basic Air Hockey Rules

Air hockey can provide endless hours of entertainment. Whether you play competitively or just for fun, knowing the official rules that have been established by the United States Air Hockey Association can make the game more challenging and may even add to the overall enjoyment of the game.

Of course, you can also feel free to create your own rules, since the basic idea of the game is to just have fun. However, make sure your opponent is familiar with your house rules before you face off.


The following rules have been established by the USAHA:

  • Players can stand anywhere around the table on their side of the centerline but are not allowed to stand past the centerline at any time.
  • A palming foul involves any portion of the body, arm, hand, or clothing making contact with the puck.
  • Only one puck can be in play at a time.
  • Only a single mallet can be used at one time.
  • When a puck makes it into a goal, it must drop in the goal and remain there in order to count.
  • Players will only have seven seconds to make shots that cross the centerline of the table. The countdown begins when the puck enters the player’s side of the centerline. If the time exceeds seven seconds, this is considered a foul.
  • As soon as the puck makes contact with any portion of the centerline, both players are entitled to strike.
  • The player who’s scored on gets possession of the puck for the next serve.
  • Once a player is scored on, they’ll have just ten seconds to remove the puck from the goal and place it in play.
  • Hand serving the puck is only allowed after a player has been scored on.
  • One ten second timeout is allowed per game.
  • A timeout can only be called by the player who is in possession of the puck.
  • The player to first score seven goals wins
  • Once a game has been completed the players must switch sides of the table.

Air Hockey Fouls

A foul occurs when one player violates a rule. A player can also be fouled on if they end up losing control of their goalies during a play, cross the centerline of the table, strike the puck with deliberate, unnecessary force, or they try to block their goal using their hands.

When a player receives a foul, they’ll lose the puck. In some instances, the opponent can earn a technical shot, in which they have a chance to make a goal without any interference from the other player.

Top Air Hockey Playing Tips

Air hockey takes quite a bit of skill, despite the simplicity of the game. With plenty of practice and time, a player will eventually develop the necessary skills that will allow them to control the puck like an expert and make as many goals as possible.

Just like any other sport, having a strategy going into a game will help to increase your odds of winning.

Air hockey involves plenty of patience across the defensive and offensive side of the table. When you’re on offense, you need to know the right time to make a quick shot in order to catch the other player off guard. You also need to know when to slow the game down to make a drift and execute the perfect shot. You won’t always be able to slap the puck the moment it makes it to your side, because these sloppy shots are often too easy to defend. But if you’re patient, you’ll be able to wait on the other player to shoot so you can quickly learn their style and reposition against their every move.

Unlike other types of popular arcade games, making your favorite shot won’t win every game for you.

Learning a variety of offensive shots will be important. When you head into a game with a new player, you’ll need to pay special attention to their playing style and look for any weaknesses in their defense. If you notice that they tend to play with their mallet placed too far from the goal, then you can use more banks that can easily slide in from behind.

Utilizing Trick Shots

In the beginning, you can expect to make clumsy shots, have poor judgement in regard to accuracy, and basically scramble to keep up, if you’re up against an experienced player.


Once your accuracy as a shooter progresses, you can try using some trick shots in your sequence. A typical trick shot is all about being sly and deceptive. It’s also important that you maintain a good poker face before and during a move. If you’re obvious when you’re setting up a shot, it’ll be very easy for the other player to get into the right position before you’re able to make contact with the puck. Instead, try intentionally hitting the puck off the other player’s back wall, slamming the ricochet back at them in order to keep them off balance.