Shuffleboard Buyers' Guide

Posted by Josh 20 JULY 2016

What is shuffleboard? There are many different variations of the game, but what we will focus on is the most popular variation of the game - Table Shuffleboard or, as it's more commonly known, American Shuffleboard.

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The object of the game is to push metal weighted pucks (also known as weights or quoits) down a long, smooth wooden table into a scoring area at the opposite end of the table. This is all done by hand.

Shuffleboard tables range from 9-22 feet, but when found in bars, most commonly range from 18-22 feet. 

Here in the UK we play the ‘European version’ where instead of a flat surface, the table is actually concave. This adds an extra dynamic to play, as the curve of the table adds extra spin to the puck and makes the game more competitive and fun.

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Before and during the game, the shuffleboard table is sprinkled with shuffleboard wax, also known as shuffleboard sand (or shuffleboard cheese, due to it looking a little like grated cheese!). Although known as wax, it is actually composed of salt-like silicone beads. These beads act like ball bearings, letting the puck slide down the table a great distance with very little force. There is a wide range of different speeds of wax available to match a player's skill level.

Each end of the table is divided into three scoring sections (at least usually; it can go up to five sections if requested). The section labelled with a ‘1’ is the largest scoring zone, covering the majority of the table from the foul line - located at the centre of the table - up to the 2-point scoring section. Any puck that does not cross the foul line is discarded and does not score.

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The 2-point scoring zone measures six inches from the end of the 1-point zone to the start of the 3-point zone, and the 3-point zone measures six inches from the end of the 2-point zone to the end of the table. The table is surrounded by a gutter, or ‘alley’. Any puck that is knocked off by an opponent or accidentally falls off is out of play for the rest of the round.  


The Basics

I have outlined the main rules below. However, the game can be very informal and spontaneous, so rules may vary in different countries or clubs.

Each player has four pucks, and the object of the game is to slide your pucks into positions to score points, knock an opponent's puck off the board, or set up a protective shot (to defend an existing puck in play that is scoring highly). The game can be played either one-on-one or two-on-two in teams. If it’s a one-on-one match, then the the game is played until a player reaches 15 points, while team games are played to 21 points.

Each frame allows four pucks per player, with only one player/team able to score points within a round. The player with the highest scoring puck gets those points, along with any pucks that are in front of his opponent's (as you can see in the below image).

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Why is it so popular?

So, that’s the science of the game out of the way. Now, why is it so popular?

To find this out for myself, some colleagues and I recently travelled to Norway and Sweden, where the game is very popular.

Our first surprise was just how many bars are embracing the game of shuffleboard, with over 300 tables installed in Oslo alone.

It's quite usual to find a minimum of two to four tables per bar, with some even braving the Scandinavian weather outside.

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The majority of bars have taken their cue from the amazing barcades found across the US (see my blog here), with retro classics such as pinballs, table tennis and arcade machines accompanying the shuffleboard tables.

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Our second surprise was the player mix. Coming from the UK, I am used to male-dominated pool halls and sports bars, where you rarely see women.

Things seemed to be done very differently here; the player mix was approximately 50/50, all the bars were set up to provide fresh food, enticing cocktails and craft beer, and (as a result of this) all of the bars and tables were extremely busy. All tables are rented by the hour and most bars adopted an unusual delicatessen-style ticket queuing system. You grab a ticket at the bar and wait for your number to come up on the big screen, which is a bit of fun and a great way for the bars to increase the time customers stay.

It’s a very social game, so when you do play, teams of both friends and strangers normally all get involved together. It has the perfect mix of being easy to pick up - so anyone can play - but hard to master, so you'll want to come back again and again to hone your "shuffle-skills".  

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What makes a great shuffleboard table?

It is a common misconception that in order to be smart with your money you have to spend less of it. The opposite also applies - it's not true that if you want to get great quality, you have to spend the most money. It’s a thin line you have to walk to get ‘great value’. When it comes to buying a shuffleboard table there are three things you should look for:


1. Solid Wood Construction

Firstly, solid woods look much nicer than manufactured wood, and MDF laminate with laminate covering will become damaged a lot more easily, and is harder to cover up. It can't be painted over, whereas solid wood can be sanded or refinished if necessary. Again, the look is very important and a solid wood table beats laminate every time.

2. Climate Adjusters 

Any piece of wood - manufactured or otherwise - is susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Moisture causes wood to swell, and dryness causes it to shrink. The playfield on a shuffleboard table is everything. In order to keep it true, climatic adjusters help to compensate for Mother Nature. These are made from metal and bolted to the underside of the board. There is a screw thread which allows adjustment as required, which is best completed by an experienced engineer. Environmental changes will have a long term impact, which makes shuffleboard tables with this feature the smart choice, especially in Europe.

3. Lifetime Warranty on the Play Surface

The play surface is probably the most important part of the table, and buying from a manufacturer that offers a lifetime warranty on the play surface is a smart move. With a big investment such as this, you'll want to make sure you are buying from a trusted reliable manufacturer.

In our quest to find the best shuffleboard table to play we met many manufacturers and bar owners; when speaking to the owners they universally agreed that you should never go for the cheapest option. Some of the owners we spoke to had originally bought Chinese import tables, which unfortunately just did not stand the test of time and were quite literally falling apart.  

When visiting a few of the O’Learys sports restaurants, the largest chain in Scandinavia, the staff mentioned to us that they are in the process of refitting a number of their bars with Hudson Shuffleboard tables. Hudson are widely regarded as the best tables on the market, backed up with independent reviews by people in the know such as shuffleboard.net and even 27-time world champion shuffleboard player Billy Mays. 


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Hudson pride themselves on all of their tables being made 100% in-house, in the USA. The tables are first and foremost designed around the proper specification of a shuffleboard, to ensure they not only look great but will adjust and play like the best tables on the market should.

A few exclusive features to Hudson tables include:

- Theirs are the only tables to feature finger-jointed boards. These are far superior to the butt-joints that you would see on other tables.

- Hudson have the only planks on the market that are reinforced with maple inlays on the bottom, particularly at the bottom of each climatic adjuster.

- Hudson tables are the only ones to have a true 90-degree edge (not beveled) along the rails. This allows pucks to ‘hang’ off the rails as opposed to falling.

- Theirs are the only boards to have a UV addictive in their epoxy, which prevents it from ‘yellowing’ over time like other epoxies do.

- Hudson are the only manufacturer in the world that pours the finish with the climatic adjusters attached to the plank, which allows the boards to be levelled not only length-wise but also side-to-side. This ensures a perfect pour, and a perfect playing surface.

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Shuffleboard in the UK

The home market for shuffleboard has been thriving in the UK for the last few years, with American staples in all things gamesroom-related Brunswick taking care of the smaller models, while the people at Hurricane cater for the more extreme customer.

Commercially, the tables of choice for the best players and bars in the world are Hudson tables, for their design, durability and playability.

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Shuffleboard is expected to explode into the UK this winter, with bars such as BrewDog retrofitting a lot of their bars to incorporate the tables, and even campaigning for it to be inducted into the Olympics! The BBC even got in on the action in a recent television interview, which you can view here.

Shuffleboard is ideal for pubs, bars and hotels alike, and I can't wait for it to be readily available so that I can hone my skills in the hopes of an Olympic gold medal. If you feel the same, then please visit our showrooms to try out our showroom model.

Hudson, Brunswick & Hurricane Shuffleboards are exclusive to Home Leisure Direct.

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