HoleyBoard Rules (Columbus Version 1.5)

I just got an invite from Mike to his 11th annual HoleyBoard tournament. Thought this might be a good time to post the Columbus Rules (Version 1.5)


(Columbus Version 1.5)

HoleyBoard is a game of skill and luck and will test your debating abilities when arguments about the rules inevitability flare up. I hope that the number of incidents will be lowered by writing these rules down. Rules vary by region and you need to ensure all parties are playing by the same rules before the game begins.

Object of the Game

Two persons or two, two person teams can play HoleyBoard at one time. The object of HoleyBoard is to score exactly 21 points before your opponent does.


The HoleyBoards should be measured approximately eight feet apart or two board lengths. Competitors throw from the same side and alternate sides between rounds. During a doubles match, teammates spilt up to either side and do not switch sides between rounds. Standing on top of one HoleyBoard, each competitor has three washers that he/she pitches, one at a time, into the holes of the other HoleyBoard. The first Player up throws all three of their washers before the second Player throws their washers. The Player or Team that scores last or causes a washer to go in, goes first the next round.

Example: Player A throws first and lands a washer on the board that does not go in. Player B throws second. During her turn, Player B knocks Player A’s washer in, Player A receives the points, but Player B has to throw first the next round.

Scoring Points

Points are scored when a washer goes in and stays in a hole. Each hole has a point value: the first hole closest to the person pitching the washers is worth 1 point, the second/middle hole is worth 3, and the third hole is worth 5 points. Players score points when they throw their washer in, hits their own washer already on the board in, or when an opponent knocks one of their washers in.

Example: Player A pitches all three washers and all three land on the board without going in. Player B pitches his washers and knocks in one of Player A’s washers into the 3 hole. Player A scores 3 points.

Competitors can cancel each other out, but only during the same turn and in the same hole.

Example: If Player A pitches a 5, then Player B can cancel those points by also pitching a 5. A 5 cannot be cancelled by throwing a 3 and two 1’s. If Player B would hit a 3 and two 1’s, then the score would be 5 – 5.

Players can score points on top of a canceling throw.

Example: Player A throws two 5s. Player B throws three 5s. Player A would score 0 points. Player B would score 5 points.

Winning the Game

A Player must score exactly 21 points to win and they must win on their own third throw by either getting exactly 21 with the third throw or by Sticking the Victory with the third washer. A Player can only win with their own third throw. An opponent cannot knock an opposing Player’s washer in for a win.

When a Player has successfully scored exactly 21 points and still has one or two washer left, they must, if necessary, throw off the second washer and the last washer he/she pitches has to stick and stay on top of the board without falling off or landing in a hole (this is otherwise known as STICKING THE VICTORY or Sticking the Vic). If the Player is unsuccessful in their attempt, then they go back to the score they had at the beginning of the round.

A competitor can win without sticking the Vic if he/she reaches 21 on the last throw or causes another of their own washers to fall in giving the thrower exactly 21.

Example: Player B goes second and has 18 points On the second throw he/she leaves the washer very close to the 3 point hole. With the third throw, the third washer knocks the second washer in the 3 point hole and then the third washer goes flying off the board. Player B has 21 and wins the game because the third washer caused the win.

A competitor cannot win if an opponent causes them to have exactly 21 points. A player who is given 21 points (either by knocking points in or by being cancelled backwards to 21 points) will have their score returned to what it was at the beginning of the round.

Example: Player A goes first with 18 points. Player A lands his first washer near the 3 point hole and misses his/her last two throws. Player B knocks Player A’s washer in the 3 point hole. Player A does not get the three points and would go back to 18 points.

Voiding a Win

A player can void an opponent’s win in one of thee ways: canceling points, knocking in opponent’s washers causing them to go over or by knocking their Stick the Vic off the board.

Skunking your Opponent for the Win

11- 0 is a skunk. The Player must win the normal way by scoring exactly 11 on the third throw or by Sticking the Vic.

Example: Player A has 11 and sticks last washer. Player B misses all three throws and Player A wins the game.

Example: Player A has 11 but does not stick the last washer; he/she still has 11 and must play to 21.

Example: If Player A does not stick last washer but Player B cancels the 1, then Player A has 10 and still has a chance to skunk.

A skunk is over as soon as the opponent scores any points by the end of the round.

Example: Player A throws a five and two threes during the first round for a possible skunk. Player B throws a one and avoids the skunk. The score is now 11-1.

Can There Be a Tie?

There are no ties. A Player must cancel the opponent’s win first before attempting their own win. If Player A scores 21 on third throw or Sticks the Vic, Player B must terminate the win by canceling Players A’s points or by knocking off the Stick the Vic washer before attempting to go for their own win.

Example: Player A has 18 points; he throws in three ones for the possible win. Player B has 15 points and throws a 1; canceling A’s victory and follows it up with two 3’s for the win.

Going Over Twenty-One

The goal of HoleyBoard is to score EXACTLY 21. Inevitably, someone will score more than 21 points. If a Player does go over 21, their score is determined by taking the total number of points scored that round and subtracting that from their score at the beginning of the round.

Example: Player A has 15 points. Player A throws two 3’s and accidentally throws a 1 for a total of 7 points. Player A’s score starting score (15) would be reduced by the total points scored that round (7) giving them their new score (15-7=8.)

If Player B were to then cancel out any of Player A’s points and reduce the score of Player A below 21 then Player A receives the new, under 21 score. If Player B cancels out points and leaves Player A with exactly 21, then Player A’s score will return to the points they had at the beginning of the round. (Note: the opponent cannot win for you. You must go out on the third throw or Stick the Vic on your own turn to win.)

Example: Player A has 15 points. Player A throws two 3’s and accidentally throws a 1. Player B throws a 3 and cancels Player A’s 3. Player A’s score would be 19 (15 + 4 =19.)

Example: Player A has 15 points. Player A throws two 3’s and accidentally throws a 1. Player B throws a 1 and cancels Player A’s 1. Player A would go back to his original score from that round (15), as if he had attempted to win and missed.

If a Player goes over with the first washer, each throw after that continues to push their score backwards. In other words, once a Player goes over 21 they cannot score positive points on that same turn.

Example: Player A has 20 and hits a 5, he/she will drop to 15. He/she continues to throw on that same turn and hits another 5, knocking them back five more points to 10.


A player cannot go below 0 points.

Washers must be thrown one at a time. You may not throw two or three washers at the same time.

Remember: There is no score until all washers are thrown. Once all washers are thrown by both players, the score for that round can be tallied.

No overhand throws.

Players can stand anywhere on the board in any stance, but can not leave board surface (i.e. jumping towards other board.)

Any throw that hits the floor outside of the board first and bounces on the board does not count and should be removed from the hole or playing surface. Any action caused by an outside bounced washer should be reset to its original position.

Any throw that goes in a hole and bounces out does not count for points, but any action it caused does count. The in-hole bounced washer can be knocked back in the hole for a score. An in-hole bounced washer can also count as a Stick the Vic.

It is a very good idea to mark both sets of washers with identifying marks before playing. Both sets should be marked with the same medium to ensure an even match. (i.e. both marked with Sharpie or both painted with same type, but different color of paint.)

This is a gentleperson’s game and any washer accidentally dropped is allowed to be picked up and thrown. Any miss-throw (i.e. any washer toss while arm is in motion) does count. Tough luck.

Vocabulary Time!

THROWING OFF is when a Player intentionally throws one, two, or all three washers to the ground as to not score any points or to set themselves up for a final throw win. If you have 20 points and only need a one to win, you can THROW OFF the first two washers and aim the third for the one hole, avoiding the need for Sticking the Vic. You can also THROW OFF in strategic situations to avoid canceling an opponent’s points if they have gone over 21 or to avoid knocking in an opponent’s washer that is about fall in a hole that might give them points.

A FIRST ROUND SKUNK happens when a Player gets an 11-0 score in the first round without it being cancelled by the other Player. This is a very desirable win cause for great celebration.


Anonymous said...

sounds complicated.

Karen Booker said...

I love this game. Do you have directions for building the boards?