Guides How To Play Washers

Published on February 5th, 2014 | by Spencer

How To Play Washers

Washer pitching, or just washers, is a casual backyard game and the rules are not set in stone.  You could walk past five backyards and find five different “house rules” in action, but in all variants the basic rules remain the same.

One player throws three or four washers, then the second player throws the same number of washers.  Whoever is closest to the hole in the hole scores points and throws first in the next round.  On top of that, additional points are scored by throwing a “leaner” hanging off or edge of the hole or throwing the washer in the hole.

Washer Scoring Examples

How To Play Washers

In the example above, the red player has thrown two washers closer to the hole than the green player, scoring two points and leading off the next round.

How To Play Washers 2

In this example, the red player has scored a “leaner” which may be worth two or three points depending on the scoring system you choose (more on that later).

How To Play Washers 3

In this example, the red player scores for a washer in the hole.  The green player doesn’t score for the leaner.

Tie Scoring Variants

As mentioned above, there are many variants to washers scoring.  Experiment with different systems and see which one suits your backyard the best.  Here is a common tie scoring variant.

How To Play Washers 4

Example: Both players get a washer in the hole.

Push Variant: No points.  Whoever threw first that round throws first again in the next round.

Second Closest Variant: The washers in the hole cancel each other out.  Green gets one point for having the next closest washer.

Point Systems

Here are some common point systems used by washers players.  A lower scoring system will create longer matches, but make it more difficult for less skilled players to upset better players.

Point System #1
3 points – washer in the hole
2 points – leaner
1 point – washer in the box

Point System #2
5 points – washer in the hole
3 points – leaner
1 point – washer in the box

Point System #3
5 points – washer in the hole
2 points – leaner
1 point – washer in the box

How to Win

Washers is usually played to 21, with the first person to 21 winning.

A common house rule is that scoring all your washers in the hole for a round is an instant victory as well.

Winning Variants

Standard Variant: The first player to 21 (or over) wins.  Going over 21 points doesn’t matter.

Blackjack Variant: You have to win by scoring 21 exactly.  Scoring over 21 will set you back to your previous score.  For instance, say you have 20 and your opponent has 10.  If you score 2 points, you’ll “bust” and be back at 20 points for the next round.  Since you scored, you will lead off the next round as well.

Some people prefer the blackjack variant as it makes for a more strategic and exciting endgame.

Where to Stand

When playing “two-box” washers, players take turns standing in one box and throwing their washers into the other box.   There are a number of different rules used for standing in the box.

Stand Anywhere Variant:  You can stand anywhere in the box when throwing

One Foot Variant:  One foot must be on the hole when throwing

Behind the Hole Variant: You must stand behind the hole when throwing


Some people play where you can take a step while throwing, and some people play where you must keep your feet planted.


There as almost as many washers combinations as there are washers players.  Experiment with different rules combinations and find the one that you like.  Just always remember the most important rule:  have fun!

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