Rules for Bean Bag Toss Game

By Shawn Candela
Rules for Bean Bag Toss Game
Creative Commons

Bean bag toss (or cornhole or corn toss, as it is often called) might seem like a simple game when you see it being played in someone's back yard: toss a bean bag at a hole in a piece of wood. But it's actually fairly serious business in the game world, so much so that there's even an American Cornhole Association.

Set Up

Each of the two platforms you need for bean bag toss should be 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. The front end of the platforms should be raised between 2-1/2 to 4 inches, while the back end should be raised 12 inches. The platforms are located 33 feet apart, measured from the closest edge of their holes. Players can toss their bean bags from either side of the platforms and anywhere within their boundaries (their 4-foot lengths). There must also be at least 12 feet of clear space above the entire field of play.

Number of Players

Bean bag toss can be played one-on-one or as doubles. When one player plays against another, they both stand at one platform and toss their beanbags at the other. When playing doubles, one member of a team stands at one platform, and his partner stands at the other. Everything else about the game rules is the same.

The Play

Players take turns tossing four bean bags toward the far platform. For instance, a player from one team tosses his bags, then his opponent (standing at the same platform) tosses his four bags. This is known as a half-inning in doubles play but a full inning in singles. Players may toss their bean bags from either side of the platform, but cannot change their sides once they have started tossing. Tossing is timed. A player must toss all four of his bean bags within 20 seconds. Bean bags must not touch anything (the ground, for instance) before landing on the platform or going through the hole.

What Counts

There are two ways to score: IN: A bean bag that goes into the hole of the platform earns the tosser three points. It doesn't matter whether the bag goes in on the toss or if it lands on the platform and then, perhaps by wind or by being nudged by another tossed bean bag, subsequently goes in. ON: A bag that lands anywhere on the platform and remains after all bags are thrown is worth one point -- however, no part of the bag may touch the ground. If a bag touches the ground at any point, either during the toss or after it lands, it must be removed from the platform before play continues. Bean bag toss uses cancellation scoring, which means only "unique" scores count. In other words, if one player tosses two bags into the hole and one onto the platform, and his opponent also tosses two bags into the hole but none on the platform, the first player receives one point. Neither player scores for the bags in the hole because they were "matched" by his opponent.

Winning

One player or team must get at least 21 points to win. However, each inning must be completed before a winner can be decided. In other words, if one team scores 21 points during an inning, but the opposing player has yet to throw, the game goes on. During doubles, even if one team scores 21 points in the top half of an inning, the entire inning must be played out. Thus scoring 21 points is not necessarily a guarantee of winning until the entire inning is over. In the event of a tie at 21 (or more) at the end of an inning, more innings are played until one team outscores the other when an inning is completed. According to the American Cornhole Association, there is a skunk rule (although many backyard players don't use this). This rule says that if a player (in singles) or a team scores seven or more points by the end of the inning while the opposing player or team scores none, the game is over.

History

Prior to 2003, there were no official rules for bean bag toss, or cornholing. It was simply a game passed down through generations and played anywhere there was space, from festivals to someone's back yard. But that year, Mike Whitton and his sons went to a family reunion, saw the game being played, and realized there were no consistent rules. So he formed the American Cornhole Association in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The ACA now serves as the official sanctioning body of the game, setting rules and offering a national ranking system for players in ACA-sanctioned events. As of 2008, it had 25,000 members across the United States.