Guides Cornhole Scoring Variations

Published on February 8th, 2014 | by Spencer

Cornhole Scoring Variations

Cancellation Scoring

Cancellation scoring is generally recognized as the standard method for scoring in cornhole. With cancellation scoring, the points of one player or team cancel the points of another. As a result, only one player or team can score points during a given frame. Cancellation scoring works best when combined with the traditional 21 gameplay format. Two evenly matched competitors can battle it out for quite a while using cancellation scoring. To better understand this scoring method, consider the following example: Team A puts one bag in the hole and two on the board for a total of 5 points. Team B puts two bags in the hole for 6 points. The result is that Team B earns one point.

Cumulative Scoring

With cumulative scoring, every bag-in-hole and woody counts toward the player’s score. Both players may earn points during each frame, up to a maximum of 12. In contrast, only one player or team may score during a frame when cancellation scoring is in effect. Cumulative scoring is more typical of frame games and backyard play. All of the usual foul bag rules apply during such matches. Points are always calculated at the end of frame rather than in the middle, so bags knocked off the board will count as zero.


The so-called traditional game of cornhole has an indefinite number of frames, but ends when one team or player achieves a score of 21 at the end of any frame. Depending on the skill levels of the competitors, such a game can be over quickly. If there are no mercy rules in effect, a cornhole game played to 21 can be over in as few as two frames. According to official sanctioning bodies like the ACA and ACO, the winning player or team does not have to win by at least two points. However, backyard competitions are free to add this stipulation. It’s important to note that a cornhole match never ends mid-frame. A player may reach 21 during a frame, but have their score cancelled by subsequent opponent throws.

Frame Game

A frame game in cornhole consists of 13 complete frames, with an absolute maximum score of 156 points. Unlike the scoring system of the traditional 21 format, points are never cancelled out in a frame game. Also unlike 21 format, frame games will always take about the same amount of time to complete, assuming no mercy rules are applied. Frame games may be a more suitable gameplay variation when faster play and higher scores are desired.

Q Game

Professional cornhole tournaments often feature enticing prizes, or at least bragging rights in the cornhole community. When a high-profile tournament draws more entries than slots in the bracket, then qualifying games are held to determine who is in and who is out. Qualifying games may be conducted at the tournament site or another location. All of the official tournament rules are typically in force during qualifying matches as well. Performance during the Q games often determines seeding for the tournament. In some cases, cornhole players who have earned professional status can bypass any qualifying procedures and move directly into the tournament bracket.

Breaking Ties

A cornhole match played to 21 may culminate in a tie, with both players having earned 21 points at the end of a frame. In the event of a tie, play continues until a player or team “wins” a frame. The frame does not have to be won by at least two points. In frame games, the concept is similar—the game extends for as many additional frames as necessary until one player comes out on top. When playing casually, players have been known to invent fanciful and creative means of breaking ties, although professional competitions must adhere to the official rules.

Getting Skunked or Shucked

Known as a “mercy rule” in many sports, cornhole games may end early when one player or team clearly outmatches the other. In cornhole, this is referred to as a skunk or shuck. The ACA rulebook dictates that when one team outscores another by at least seven points during the course of a single inning, the game may be called. No specific rule for skunking exists in the ACO game manual. In the interest of fair competition, backyard competitors are free to lay down their own rules on skunking. After all, an unequal match usually isn’t much fun for either party.

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