Last Updated on May 5, 2021.

Air hockey is an enjoyable and sociable game, loved by many for decades. If you’re new to this game and are looking for tips and tricks to improve your skill set, you need to start with the basics of the game. 

Understanding the rules and what gear you’ll need to play can help you accelerate your skills and have you playing great games of air hockey in no time.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your puck, some water for hydration, and your competitive streak. You’re about to become immersed in the world of air hockey, and you’re going to love it. 

What You’ll Need

The most important piece of equipment you’ll need to get started is a high-quality air hockey table.

With many high-end models and designs coming ready-made with a digital scoreboard, you’ll be able to keep track of your points as you’re learning. You’ll even be able to compare your previous scores as you progress and develop your skills. If your air hockey table doesn’t have this feature, you’ll just have to keep the score manually. 

You’ll also need a puck. This is the name of the disk that is hit back and forth between players. It’s worth investing in a few, as they can easily be misplaced. The puck should have a slick dual-sided surface and lightweight design to easily skim across the table. 

You’ll also need two mallets. Also called strikers, these are the pieces the players use to hit the puck with. The mallets should feature a rounded, ergonomic central handle over which you place your palm. They should also have a lipped edge that provides a greater surface area for striking the puck and protects your fingers from injury.

Once you’ve sourced all this equipment, you’re ready to begin your awesome air hockey journey.

What Are the Rules of Air Hockey?

The rules of air hockey are simple. The first player to score seven points is the round winner, with the best out of seven rounds winning the game. Here are the basic rules of how to play the game. 

  • Flip a coin to see who begins the game in possession of the puck. 
  • For a score to be valid, the puck must fully enter the goal. Any rebounds or pucks that get stuck halfway will not be counted.
  • If you make a goal, you must allow your opposing player to serve next.
  • You can only strike the puck when it is on your side of the centerline. 
  • If your mallet crosses over the centreline, your shot doesn’t count.
  • You are only allowed to stand on your side of the air hockey table, and you must remain on your side of the centreline.
  • If your or your opponent’s puck touches any part of the centerline, it is fair play. This means neither you nor your opponent is in the wrong.
  • “Topping” the puck is not allowed. This means you cannot lift your mallet and place it over the puck to hold it in place.
  • You are not allowed to touch the puck with any part of your body.
  • Each player is granted one 10-second timeout per round.
  • You may only call time if the puck is not in play or your possession. 
  • Every time a round ends, you should switch between each player to give them a chance to serve first.

Tips and Tricks For Playing Like a Pro

U.S. Air Force 65th Civil Engineering Squadron Airman 1st Class Kenneth Nadel and Airman 1st Class David Lugo, play a game of air hockey at the Sun and Sand Hut, Lajes Field, Azores, on Dec. 10, 2004. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Michaud) (Released)

Naturally, when you first start playing air hockey, you’ll want to be as forceful and fast-paced as possible. While this shows enthusiasm and eagerness for the game, it can also give away to your opponent that you’re an amateur player. These tips and tricks ensure you have the knowledge and skill to play like a pro.

  • Try and keep possession of the puck

While it may seem enticing to strike the puck back and forth between your opponent, keeping possession of it is a much better strategy. This is because striking back with full force can cause wide shots, ultimately reducing your chances of scoring. 

If it is speeding toward you, instead try and gain control of the puck. Do this by working with the momentum to try and slow it down. When you’ve gained more control, you’ll have the power to strike back with an aligned and precise shot. If you miss and the puck rebounds, simply apply this method again and again until you score.

  • Be aware of penalties and fouls

If you’re not a pro or have only been playing air hockey for a short while, you probably won’t be aware of these fouls. For example, a standard penalty is the forfeiture of the puck. There are also fouls called distraction penalties; things such as talking, creating loud noises, screaming, or being generally distracting can cause you to forfeit points, lose a first strike, or be disqualified. 

  • Work on your grip technique

Most beginners hold the knob in the center of the mallet. Most pro players, however, control their mallet with three fingers and rest them on the ridge. This stops their hands from gripping the knob of the mallet too tightly. Instead of this technique, your fingers will sit on the ridge of the mallet, giving you more proficiency and agility when you strike and defend the puck.

  • Use “Out Defense” Techniques

When your opponent has the puck, it is tempting to protect your goal by placing your mallet directly in front; however, this limits your mobility and leaves entire sections of your goal vulnerable. A better choice is commonly known as “out defense.”This technique involves placing your mallet further out from your goal, approximately 4”, and using a triangular defensive movement that sweeps the hand back to either corner of your goal, catching incoming pucks and allowing you to retake possession. 

Air Hockey for Beginners: Practice Makes Perfect

When it comes to developing your air hockey skills, it is essential you practice regularly, especially when it comes to beginners.

Just like any game, practice makes perfect, and if you are serious about improving your game, it is imperative you take the steps needed to improve.

Now that you’re equipped with all the information you need to know about how to play air hockey as a beginner, from the gear you’ll need to the basic rules, you’ll be playing air hockey with ease, grace, and skill in no time.