How to Play Air Hockey: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re looking to learn how to play air hockey, you’re in the right place. We’ll break down what you need to play, the basic rules, and some tips to help you look like a pro. With this helpful guide, you’ll know how to play air hockey in no time.

What You Need to Play Air Hockey

Air Hockey Table with Digital Scoreboard

The Stratosphere air hockey table comes with a unique LED digital scoreboard that keeps track of the score. It also has a docking station with built-in speakers that let you play music while you play your game.

The most important thing you need to get started is the air hockey table itself. Most air hockey tables come with a digital scoreboard that keeps track of your points, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need something to track this manually. You’ll also need a puck, which is the name for the disk passed back and forth between players. Lastly, you’ll need two mallets (aka strikers), which are the pieces players use to hit the puck. Here’s an example of puck and striker sets. Equipped with all these things, you’re ready to begin.

Red air hockey striker and puck set

A red air hockey striker and puck set for only $22.95.

How to Play Air Hockey: The Rules

Air hockey is pretty straightforward: first player to score seven points wins the round. Best out of seven rounds wins the game. Still, to really know how to play air hockey, you need to know the rules. Here are the basics of how to play air hockey:

  • Flip a coin to determine who starts with possession of the puck.
  • To score a point, the puck must fully enter the goal. Rebounds or pucks that get stuck halfway in do not count as a point.
  • When a player makes a goal, the other player serves the puck next.
  • A player may only strike the puck when it is on their side of the centerline.
  • Mallets may not cross the center line when striking the puck.
  • A player may stand behind or alongside the game table, as long as they remain on their side of the centerline.
  • A puck that is touching any part of the centerline is fair play for either player.
  • No “topping” the puck—this means players cannot lift their mallet and place it over the puck to hold it in place.
  • No touching the puck with hands, arms, or other body parts.
  • Each player is allowed one 10-second time out per round.
  • A player may only call for a time out when the puck is in their possession or not in play.
  • Once a round ends, switch which player serves first.

 Tips for How to Play Air Hockey Like a Pro

Air hockey striker

Photo by Ginny under CC BY-SA 2.0


When you first start out playing air hockey, it will be tempting to just strike wildly at the puck any time it enters your side of the playfield. To avoid looking like an amateur, try out these tips to step up your game.

  • Level up your grab. Most beginners will hold the knob in the center of their mallet. However, most pro air hockey players will control the mallet with three fingers resting on the ridge, meaning your hand isn’t gripping the knob. Instead, your fingers sit in the ridge of the striker. This gives you a bit more dexterity as you strike and defend.
  • Try to keep possession of the puck. When a puck is heading straight toward you at full speed, your first instinct might be to hit it with forward momentum. This is a mistake, however, and leads to wild shots. Instead, attempt to gain control of the puck by working with its momentum to slow it down. Then, when you can aim more deliberately, strike. If the puck rebounds, use the same method to maintain possession of the puck each time it re-enters your side of the playfield.
  • Use an “out defense” method. When you don’t have control of the puck, you need to be in defense mode. Instead of holding your mallet right in front of the goal waiting for your opponent to strike, position your hand slightly forward, ideally by the first screw. To block shots from any angle, use a triangle method: drawing your hand back toward either end of your goal to catch oncoming pucks. This method gives you more flexibility, which in turn makes it easier for you to regain possession of the puck.
Professional air hockey table

Made by Gold Standard Games, the Gold Flare Elite air hockey table was designed by 2-time all World Air Hockey Champion Mark Robbins.

Now you know how to play air hockey like a pro! Shop a great collection of air hockey tables today to get started.

Related Content:

  1. Air Hockey Table Buyer’s Guide
  2. How Air Hockey Tables Work
  3. The Best Air Hockey Glossary
  4. Air Hockey Table Troubleshooting Guide