How to Play Washer Toss

Hillbilly horseshoes. Sewers and washers. Tailgate toss. Washer toss has many names, but whatever you call it, the popular yard game is perfect for passing the time at outdoor gatherings. Discover how to play.

December 18, 2017
Picture of washer toss game on the ground.

The origins of washer toss, a game most commonly seen at backyard get-togethers or tailgate parties, are clouded in mystery. Some believe that roots of this simple, fun game can be found in ancient civilizations, others think that its ancestry can be traced to the travel breaks of early American pioneers who used spare washers from their wagon wheels. The most common theory is that the game began with 20th century Texas oil field workers who assuaged boredom by tossing around washers from the oil derricks.

You don’t have to take apart your method of transportation or explore oil wells to find equipment to play washer toss today, but there are some things you do need.

  • Washers – As the name suggests, the main hardware you need to play washer toss is a piece of hardware itself. Usually metal or plastic, washers are thin, disk-shaped plates that have a hole in the middle. The size varies, but game pieces are typically two to two-and-a-half inches in diameter with a one inch hole in the middle. Most games use four washers per team – although some variations use three – for a total of eight.
  • Targets – There are a few different types of targets that can be used to create the field of play in washer toss. The two most common are washer boards and washer boxes. A washer board is a slanted board that can vary in dimension with a hole cut in the middle — think a cornhole board with a smaller hole. Meanwhile, washer boxes are usually an open-top wood box with a 4" cylinder cup placed in the middle as the target. These boxes tend to have dimensions of either 14"x14" or 16"x16".


Before you start tossing, you have to set up the field. Washer boards and boxes are typically positioned on flat surfaces about 20 feet apart. If you would like to give yourself and your friends more of a challenge, you can space them out even farther.

Washer toss can be played in teams of one or two players. If you are playing one-on-one, both players throw in the same direction and rotate sides after each round. For two-on-two games, one player from each team stands on either end of the play area.

To determine playing order, participants will engage in what is known as a “diddle.” During the diddle, each player tosses a washer at the opposite cup. The player with the washer closest to the cup goes first. In the case of a tie, a second diddle is conducted.

Now that setup is complete, it is time to start tossing washers. Players can toss from either side of the board and are allowed to have one foot go past the front of the board or box.

The starting team will throw all four of their washers one at a time — if playing two-on-two each teammate will toss twice — toward the washer box or board. After all eight washers are thrown, scores are determined and players switch sides before moving on to the next round. Whichever team won the previous round throws first in the next.


While washer toss scoring can vary between different types of board play and different regions, there is a basic system that is easy to remember for those new to the game.

Similar to cornhole, the game is played in rounds until one team reaches 21 points. Points are scored based on how close to the cup or hole the washers are thrown.

  • Washer in the cup or hole = three points
  • Washer in the box or on the board = one point

Once all eight washers are tossed, the points from the round are added together. However, only one team will finish with points in each round because of cancellation scoring. The total number of points given to the winning team is determined by the difference of the two scores. For example, if Team A scores three points and Team B scores two points, Team A receives one point.

For an advanced style of game play, you can set the rules so that a team can only win if exactly 21 points are earned. If a team scores over the winning threshold, their score is deducted by the number of points 21 was exceeded by until someone hits the magic number.


Even games created for backyard fun and friendly competition have some strategy to them. Here are a couple areas to focus on to help you become a washer toss boss:

  • The Throw - Using an underhand motion or pitch is best for most people. For superior tossing accuracy, have the washer rest on your middle finger with your index finger curled around the edge. Let your thumb rest gently on top. This will help you get the washer to spin off your index finger at a trajectory parallel to the ground.
  • The Stance – Like batters in baseball, different stances work best for different people. Some players find it helpful to take a step forward with their legs apart, while others keep their feet planted together in an anchored position. If you’re a washer toss beginner, try out different stances to see which works best for you. It is helpful to throw from the same location each time to build consistency.


Want to really impress at your next outdoor gathering? Now that you know the basics of the game, here are a few terms that will make you sound like a washer toss expert.

  • Cupper – When a washer lands inside the cup, scoring three points.
  • Hanger – A washer that lands on the lip of the cup, but does not fall into the cup itself.
  • On The Fly – The “nothing but net” of washer toss. This is when a washer lands directly in the middle of the cup without first striking anything else.
  • Hammer – A toss that results in covering the previous player’s washer inside of the cup.
  • Skunk – If a team scores 11 points before the other team scores one, the result is a “skunk.”

Now that you’re familiar with the rules, scoring and verbiage of washer toss, you are ready to clean up at your next backyard gathering.