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Like most classic, popular bar games – dice, darts and pool – shuffleboard is ancient and its origin is debatable.
In fact, the full history of the game is unknown; therefore, multiple countries claim it as their creation. It is known, however, that the game was popular in Europe as far back at 500 years ago. King Henry VIII was a big fan of the game in the mid-1500s.
Ancient shuffleboard was played on the ground, and continues to be played that way on cruise ships and in retirement homes because it requires minimal physical fitness levels. Modern shuffleboard is also commonly played on tables and is popular with younger people in bars and pubs.
In table shuffleboard, the play area is usually a wooden or laminated surface covered with silicone beads – sometimes called "shuffleboard wax" – to reduce friction. The tables are long and narrow and, in the United States, are usually 16-22 feet long. They can, however, be as short as 9 feet long.
The game is played by sliding pucks – made from metal and plastic and sometimes called "weights" or "shuckles" – from one side of the table to the other. There are scoring zones at the end of each table and points are awarded for the closer one gets a puck to the edge of the table without it falling into the gutter.
Players take turns sliding the pucks and trying to score points. They can bump opposing pucks off the board, and / or protect their own pucks from bump-offs.
Shuffleboard can be played either one-on-one or by two teams of two. There are many variations of the game, but it's usually played up to 15 points when there are two players or 21 points for a game of doubles.
Stubby's Gastrogrub and Beer Bar, 2060 N. Humboldt Blvd., has an electric shuffleboard table that costs $2 per game. Co-owner Bradley Todd says it's very popular with customers.
"It takes up a lot of space, but it's worth it," says Todd.
Stubby's has the ideal location for it: a long entryway to the bar and eatery that would otherwise be unusable space.
Champion's Pub, 2417 N. Bartlett Ave., has a free shuffleboard table that's non-electric, 16 feet long and made entirely of wood. Champion's has hosted multiple shuffleboard tournaments in the past and will offer a shuffleboard league on Wednesday nights very soon.
Owner Bobby Greenya received it from a friend when he took over the bar from his uncle in 2000.
"I didn't know if it would go over, but it's been a godsend," says Greenya.
The extremely heavy table was moved from the second floor of a Downtown building and loaded into a U-Haul before finding its permanent home against the south wall of the pub. It was worth the effort because the table gets a lot of use, especially on weekends.
Greenya also points out it's a great "date night" game because couples stand on the same side of the table even though they are competing against each other.
Other local bars with shuffleboard tables include Burnhearts, 2599 S. Logan Ave., where it's free to play (they hold your ID until you return the pucks). Shuffleboard is also free and available at Thurman's 15, 1731 N. Arlington Pl., and Turner Restaurant, 1034 N. 4th St.
Miss Katie's Diner, 1900 W. Clybourn St., charges 50 cents per game and at Steny's Tavern and Grill, 800 S. 2nd St., the cost is $1 per game. Steny's also has shuffeboard leagues on Tuesdays.
"It's an addictive game, especially once you start learning the nuances of it," says Greenya.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.