Quick Air Hockey Rules For Beginners

It’s the cool clinking sound that a wobbly air hockey puck makes when it drops into the goal that is the essence of what a games room or man cave is. Listening to the internal fan’s whir as it shoots puffs of air through the tiny holes to generate the low, levitating cushion adds to the excitement.

Air Hockey is one of the few table games that can be picked up and played without knowing any of the rules. But to keep the game fair and fun, it’s a good idea to have a grasp of the basics.

Now on to the rules…

How To Win

  • The first player to score seven goals is the winner

Starting The Game

  • Flip a coin to decide who starts the game
  • The opening player starts play by placing the puck on their side of the table’s centerline and hitting it with their mallet

Basic Rules

  • As long as you remain on your side of the centerline, you can stand anywhere around the table
  • Only one puck is allowed on the table
  • You can whack the puck with any part of the mallet but not with its flat surface
  • The player that didn’t score a goal is the one that restarts the game for the next serve
  • Either player is allowed to strike the puck when it is on the centerline
  • You can bring down an airborne puck with your mallet either towards the opponent’s goal or to the table, without topping a violation irrespective of which edge or side of the puck you contacted
  • For a goal to count as a goal, the puck has to drop in the goal and remain there to receive one point (If you made a foul before or during the shot then the point does not count)
  • After every completed game, the players swap sides
  • When you want a time-out during a game, you need to indicate it clearly before stopping play
  • A time-out cannot be longer than ten seconds and each player is entitled to one time-out (You cannot decide on a time-out when the puck is in play or when your opponent is in possession of the puck: The puck must be on your side of the table)
  • When your opponent has scored a goal you have only ten seconds to take the puck from the goal and place it back in play (These ten seconds start when the puck has landed inside the goal and available to the player to place it back into play)
  • A player can only touch the puck during any time of play when a goal was scored, and the puck must be removed from the goal (During this time the player that was scored upon can place the puck in front of his mallet to whack it across the table)


  • When your clothes, body, arm, or hand touches the puck, it is called a palming foul
  • When the puck enters your side of the table, you have seven seconds to whack the puck back across the table and past the centerline (The countdown starts as soon as the puck enters the player’s side and if it is not whacked within that time it is a foul as well)
  • You are only entitled to have one mallet on the air hockey table per player, if you play with two, you are in violation of the rules
  • You are not allowed to raise the mallet to stop or slow down a fast-moving puck and place it on top of the puck (You can’t do it during play or when you serve either or it constitutes a foul)

How to Implement Air Hockey Rules to your Advantage

With all the rules now spelled out, you can start using them to your advantage. From touching the puck, to taking too long before hitting the puck, you have the knowledge to enforce these rules if you so please.

If your buddies want to question these rules or you want to start playing like a pro, you can always point them in the direction of the official rules. These can be found on the Air Hockey Association website.

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Game

For a proper offense shot, avoid double banking, but aim for shots that shoot crisp off one wall and straight into the goal. A double bank strategy slows down the puck due to friction and takes more time to reach the other side of the table, giving your opponent an additional second to react and defend.

After you’ve played a few games you’ll want to take your game to the next level.

You want to whack the puck effectively to cause the maximum speed and a mistake that beginners make is to swipe the puck with a sideways movement. When you practice your shots, put some aggression into the action. Hit the puck by driving the mallet straight from behind the puck and strike it toward the position you want it to go. When you strike it straight and hard towards the position the mallet’s power transfers to the puck for the ultimate goal shot.

Air Hockey Origins

All the way back in the 60s and 70s, the table game industry boomed when foosball and pool halls were in their prime. This is when three Brunswick Billiards employees that had a passion for hockey, invented air hockey in 1969. In its basic sense, air hockey is a delightful amalgamation of ice hockey and billiards. It was a game that caught on quickly and in 1974 the first air hockey championship tournament was held in New York.

Final Thoughts

Air Hockey is fun and easy to learn, you can jump straight in with your paddles and start crashing and smashing. You might also experience that the puck doesn’t make contact with your opponent’s mallet or the goal, but ricochets back and forth between the far edge of the table and your own flailing hands. The harder you whack it, the faster and harder it comes back to you. This is something that can continue for a senseless and disturbing amount of time. 

Many players make up their own air hockey rules, but ensure they are established and agreed upon before the game starts. Air hockey, after all, is about having fun. There’s nothing worse than poor sportsmanship. One thing’s for certain, air hockey is a super-fast game (with a clean table), immensely enjoyable and simple to learn.