How to Play Air Hockey | Blatt Billiards

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How to Play Air Hockey

by David Roeder |

Air hockey is a fun and fast-paced game that people of all ages enjoy playing. Learning how to play air hockey is not too difficult, which makes it great for family gatherings, get-togethers, parties, and friendly competitions. 

What Is Air Hockey?

Zoomed in shot of air hockey table with person holding red paddle.

Air hockey is an arcade game where players use paddles to hit a light plastic puck across a smooth, low-friction table. The goal of the game is for players to score points by sliding their puck into their opponent’s goal. Air hockey tables are powered by air from fans and require no physical contact between the players’ paddles.

What Equipment Is Needed to Play?

Two red air hockey pucks and paddles.

The equipment needed to play air hockey includes the following:

  • An Air Hockey Table
  • At Least Two Paddles
  • A Set of Pucks

The table should be large enough for players to move around comfortably without hitting walls or furniture. The paddles come in various sizes and materials, so you may want to experiment with different ones until you find the ones you like best.

How Many Air Hockey Players Can There Be?

Hands of young people holding striker on air hockey table

Air hockey is typically a two-player game but can also be played with three or four players. When playing air hockey with multiple players, the table is divided into sections so that each player has their own space to move around and shoot the puck. For instance, in a four-person game, each player would defend their part of the table and work with their partner to get their puck into their goal.

Official Air Hockey Rules

Air hockey referee.

Learning the official air hockey rules to play the game is not overwhelming. This is why it is such a fast-paced game that everyone enjoys. The rules of air hockey you need to know include the following:

  • The puck must be returned to the center of the table after each goal.
  • The player that scored last must serve first.
  • Players are only allowed to use their paddle to hit or block the puck.
  • No physical contact is allowed between players or between the player’s paddles.
  • Each player has five seconds to make a shot before play stops and a face-off occurs in the center of the table.
  • If an illegal shot is made such that it does not cross over into your opponent’s side of the table, then possession changes immediately.
  • A game ends when one person or team scores seven goals unless otherwise specified by the players or tournament rules.
  • If time runs out, then the player with the most goals wins.

Scoring Air Hockey Games

Red and blue air hockey paddles.

In air hockey, points are scored when a player successfully strikes the puck and shoots it into their opponent’s goal. The first player to reach seven goals wins the game. In tournaments and competitive play, games may be played up to 10 or 11 points instead of seven. Games can also end in a tie if both players have equal scores at the end of regulation time, which is usually five minutes.

How Many Periods Are There in Air Hockey?

Air hockey table close up.

Air hockey is usually played in one five-minute period. However, the length of the game depends on the players, who may choose to play up to three periods and go into sudden death if tied, as in NHL hockey. In addition, certain tournament rules may include playing several periods to determine a winner, such as the best two out of three.

Air Hockey Game Walkthrough

Madison Square Air Hockey Table.

A typical air hockey game begins with both players standing on either side of the table, each holding a paddle. Next, the puck is placed in the center of the table, and players take turns hitting it back and forth.


When a goal is scored, play stops, and the puck is returned to the center of the table before play resumes. Play continues until someone reaches seven goals or until time runs out, in which case, whichever player has more goals wins.

Air Hockey Terminology You Need to Know

  • Puck: The plastic disc used in air hockey.
  • Paddle: The hand-held device used to hit the puck across the table.
  • Face-Off: When play is started, or after a goal has been scored or the puck has gone off the table, the player who did not score most recently serves by hitting the puck into their opponent’s side of the table.
  • Bank Shot/Bounce Shot: Hitting the puck off of one side, or more, of the table before it goes into your opponent’s goal, thus increasing its speed and making it harder for them to block.
  • Goalie Blocker/Stopshot: A defensive move where you hold your paddle sideways in front of your goal to stop incoming shots from scoring.

Tips for Playing Air Hockey

  • Keep your paddle close to the table and move quickly when trying to block shots.
  • Practice bank shots by hitting the puck off one side or more of the table before it goes into your opponent’s goal.
  • When attempting a stopshot, use an open stance with your body facing toward your goal to react quickly if needed.
  • Use short, quick strokes for maximum control over the puck and shooting accuracy.
  • Focus on movement around the table rather than just shooting.
  • Look for openings in your opponent’s defense that you can exploit with passes or creative shot angles.

Quality Air Hockey Tables

The Premier Air Hockey Table by Brunswick.

It is easy to find quality air hockey tables to bring the excitement of air hockey home from the arcade or pub at Blatt Billiards. We offer several different designs with plenty of features and customization options. Shop online or contact us at 212-674-8855 today.

How to Play Air Hockey Infographic