How to Play Marbles

There must be at least 101 ways to play marbles. The single most important thing you need to know is this - have fun! Check out the links to ringer on the left, or the video. It is important to agree on the rules when you play marbles, so nobody accuses you of cheating. If you want to "play for keeps", then you should talk about it at first and agree that the winner gets to keep some marbles. Playing keepsies is fun until you loose your favorite marble!

Keepsies - you keep marbles that you win.

Friendlies - you get all of your marbles back at the end of the game.

Any kid who ever had a collection of marbles has favorite marbles. If you are willing to risk your marbles in a game of keepsies, you had better either be a good shooter, or be a good sport.

Shooting Marbles

When playing marbles on the ground, you'll want to "knuckle down" to shoot. Pinch the marble in your index finger and the flick if with your thumb. This video will show you how to do it. In other marbles games, you might want to just roll it on the ground, or drop it like a bomb between your thumb and finger.

Collecting Marbles

Marbles are fascinating and the can be found in very many different styles. You might have some ordinary marbles, but if you watch you can collect some really cool ones. One of the funnest things about marbles is looking through your marbles collection. Every marble has a story. Maybe you won it in a game, or bought it on vacation, or found it buried in the playground at the school yard. Building a collection of marbles is fun because you can remember things about the marbles and imagine them in the game. Marbles like those below can be found on ebay or at yard sales. There are also some great marbles stores, like this one in Kansas - Moon Marbles.

Where do you play?

Marbles is a great game because you can play it anywhere. All you need is a flat place to play, such as a sidewalk, floor, table, or rug. The surface you play on will affect your game because a smooth surface will make marbles roll far and fast. Playing on a rough surface like a baseball infield will make the marble bounce off course. If you will draw a circle for your game, you can use chalk or string. Chalk works best for outdoors because it washes off. If you are playing in the dirt, you can just draw a line with a stick. Where ever you play, keep track of your marbles and have fun!

The Circle Games

Traditional marble games are played around a circle. In fact, at the National Marbles Tournament held every year in Wildwood, New Jersey over 1200 marbles games will be played around large circles in a park. The game played around these circles is called ringer.

Dropsies or Bombsies

When you want to play marbles the game can be as simple as tossing your marbles at the opponent's marbles. This is a good game for outdoors fun because you can put marbles in a circle in the dirt and try to knock them out by dropping or tossing the shooters. In this video you will get the idea.

Trading Marbles

Did you ever have a friend with a cool steelie? A steelie is a marble made of steel. They are hard to find because you usually needed to know a truck mechanic to take one from the wheel of a truck for you. If you had a friend with a steelie or another marble that you really want, you'd start asking, "how many marbles would i have to give you before you gave me that cool steelie?"

If your friend was like mine, he would say, "I want a whole coffee can of your marbles for this one!" You might even trade your whole collection to get that coolest marble. Trading marbles is a lot of fun. Check out these old marbles with a John Deere logo printed on them - an american icon. How many marbles would you trade for one of these?

Shooting Games

Although circle games are the most common, there are other ways to play marbles that are just as fun.

Lagging - Players draw a chalk line on cement, or a line in the dirt. Then they draw a taw line about ten feet away and stand behind it. They take turns rolling their marbles at the other line. After every player has a turn, the winner is determined. The player who's marble is closest to the line without going over is the winner and collects all of the opponents' marbles.

Marble Words

Kids often adopt and share specialized vocabularies for playing games. There is a complex and enormous set of jargon that have used by kids for playing marbles. The vocabulary of marble playing is different in different regions and times. Marble playing used to be common for school aged children. To become an expert requires rigorous practice, hours of patience, and dirty knees. Kids who play marbles learn and share many of these special words. You will find those words in use throughout this web site.
("The Vocabulary of Marble Playing" The American Dialext Society, 1955.)

aggie (bull's-eye)
an aggate marble that looks like a bulle's eye. White marlbe with circular rings
aggie (cat's eye)
an agate marble that looks like a cat's eye
the area marked out to play marlbes
alley taw
the offensive marble set aside for shooting
the wager in a marble game of chance
baby up
to slily approach the marle ring in order to get the best angle
back to taw
when a player needs to return to where he shot last
bombing or bombies
dropping your marble onto another marble.
a large playing marble
bull ring
a large round ring for playing marbles
a call by a player which allows him to roll his marble again after his shooter has hit some object that deflected it from the desired direction
china alley
a marble made from china ware with rings painted in different colors
a shooter that remains in the ring after being rolled towards marles in the ring
clears, clearies
a call that gives permission to clear obstacles from the ground before the defensive marble
the act of hitting a marble
a cheap, common marble
a large marble
a call demanding that the shooter keep his knuckles on the ground when shooting
when two or more marbles are knocked out of the ring with one shot.
an expert marble player
dubbed up
a player has dubbed up when he claims that he has lost all his marbles while he still has some marbles in his possession
a call that gives the player right to take all marbles, or no dubs to revoke the right
a game in which players keepthe marbles they knock from the ring
a marble or taw that is near the edge of the ring or shooting line
for fair, or fairsies
rules of playing in which each player gets back his or her marbles at the end of the game.
moving your hand foward while shooting.
to allow the marlbe to slip from the hand when shooting
hand span
the width of your hand
shooting your marble in such a way that it jumps into the air and hits the target marbleon landing without hitting the ground first.
rules that any marbles that a player looses are not returned at the end of the game, but kept by whoever won them.
last in order of shooting
in marbles you don't flip a coin to see who goes first. you shoot or bowl a marble from the pitch line to another parallel line called the lag line.
lag line
the line you throw toward when lagging.
target marbles, the ones you shoot at.
a marble player.
pee wee
a small marble, not always round
pitch line
the line you stand behind to lag.
collection of marbles that every player adds to for playing a game.
toshoot at a marble from a long distance
the marble you shoot with. it may be slightly larger than a regular marble. some players have favorite or lucky shooters.
shooting line
the line behind which you stand and shoot in a game.
when a marble slips out of a player's hand accidentally.
term used in ringer to describe a terget marble that is near the rim of the ring
to roll pitch, or move a marble in the direction of a target
shooter or taw
the offensive marble
to grab all the marbles and run when some action might break up the game
target marble
the marble you want to hit
marble you are shooting with, the shooter.
taw line
line behind which you shoot.

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