Air Hockey Rules

Written By Home Bar & Games

Air hockey is one of the most fun games you can play, but what many don’t realize is that it can be taken as seriously as any other sport.

If you want to level up your air hockey competitions, or even host a tournament with your own air hockey table, then having a consistent set of air hockey rules is important.

Just like in any game, air hockey does have official rules to ensure that everyone plays fair and competition is balanced. While most people will have played air hockey at some point in their life, most of them won’t know all of the rules.

Here’s a quick run down of the most important rules to air hockey…

Face Off (starting the game)

When you start a game of air hockey, it all begins with a face off. Basically, both sides start at their end of the air hockey table with their mallet in their hand and the puck is placed in the very center. The players can hold their mallet anywhere on their side of the table as long as it isn’t within 1 inch of the puck. On the count of 3 both players try to hit the puck first, so it all comes down to whoever is the fastest. This is how you start the first of the 7 games in a air hockey match, with the rest of the games being started by whoever didn’t start the previous one. So the winner of the face off will also start in games 3, 5, and 7. The other player will start on games 2, 4, and 6.


To score a point in air hockey the puck needs to go into your opponent’s goal and stay in there. It doesn’t matter whose mallet the puck went off last, but if it goes in the goal and bounces out then it doesn’t count. Every time there is a goal scored, the serve goes to the player that just conceded the point.

Air Hockey Defense Rules

When you hit, stop or block the puck, you can only use your mallet. If you use any part of your body or hand it will be a foul against you, not to mention it’s sure to hurt pretty bad. As well as that, you’re not allowed to do what is called “topping”. That means putting your mallet on top of the puck to stop or block it. 

How To Win

The player that gets to 7 points first wins the game. In tournament rules it’s best of 7 games, so the winner of the match is the first player to win 4 games.

Pro Tournament Rules

There are professional air hockey tournaments, and using all of their rules can add a new dynamic and a lot of fun to your games. Firstly they will have referees to determine controversial decisions and make sure the rules are being followed at all times. If any of the players in your game can be competitive, it might be a good idea to get a ref as well. The timing in tournaments is carefully managed as well, with 2 minute breaks between games and 15 minute breaks between sets. And if you are more than 5 minutes late, you will lose a point for every minute that passes after the deadline. The final notable tournament rule is about sportsmanship, which penalizes any excessive shouting or attempts to distract your opponent.


There is no time limit in an air hockey game, and it’ll go on as long as it takes for one of the players to score 7 points. However, when the puck crosses the center line into your half of the table you only have 7 seconds to hit it back or it is a foul against you. Air hockey is a fast game, so you can’t take your time to try and line up the perfect shot.

Penalties and Fouls

When you commit a foul the puck will be given to your opponent to restart play. The main fouls that can be given for taking longer than 7 seconds to hit the puck out of your half, for “topping” the puck with the bottom of your mallet, and for hitting the puck off the table. It is also a foul if you touch the puck with anything other than the mallet while it is in play, so you cannot use your hand to block it.

How Do You Hold an Air Hockey Mallet?

When holding a mallet most people will naturally take a hold of the center stick like it is a handle, but that is not the best way to hold it and you will never see a professional use it that way. Instead, the proper way to hold the mallet is to bend your middle finger and rest it against the center stick while placing your index and ring finger on either side of it. This will give you much more control and maneuverability of the mallet, and also make your shots much faster and more powerful. There is a reason that all the pros hold it that way, after all.

Can You Cross the Middle Line in Air Hockey?

The middle line is the divider between your side and your opponent’s, so you are not allowed to cross over it. You need to stay entirely on your side of the middle line at all times. However, if the puck is touching the center line at all then either player can hit it.

Air hockey is a lot of fun for anyone to play, but using the proper rules and techniques just adds more to it. Knowing the things that the professionals do and following them will add an entirely new dynamic to the game and can give you a real edge over your opponent as well.