Traditional Pub Game Ideas

An Introduction To Pub Games

Games are great for encouraging repeat trade, attracting new customers and creating an exciting & friendly atmosphere in your pub. There are a huge number of games to choose from and you don’t need to have a darts board or pool table to have some fun in your pub.

This guide provides you with a selection of popular games and ideas to help you promote and add interest in your pub.

Not all of these games will suit your particular pub and you may well have tried some or all of them before. Hopefully they will help remind you of successful games you’ve tried in the past or encourage you to try some different ones.

Quizzes, Pool, Darts, Cards have all become ‘traditional’ pass-times in pubs and you should have a go at all of them if you can as they are an essential part of why some customers go to the pub. I have produced separate guides elsewhere on this website with more advice and tips on how to satisfy your customers’ need for these games.

A trip down memory lane to pubs long gone will remind you that there were many games before pool and quizzes. Some were played in the bar, some in separate rooms and some in the garden. Here are just a few to think about.

In some parts of the country skittles is a huge “pub sport”, usually requiring a dedicated room (for the long skittle alley) but sometimes played on portable skittle alleys in function rooms. Many areas in the country have dedicated skittles leagues and competition is fierce. It attracts a broad range of players both male and female and can be a lucrative addition to your pub’s entertainment programme. Noisy and exuberant play as the balls are thrown down the alley at the nine pins arranged in a diamond formation can become a great spectator event as well.

A version of full scale skittles can be played on the bar, sometimes known as bar top skittles or more memorably “Devil Amongst the Tailors”, instead of a ball being thrown down an alley a ball is suspended from a gibbet on a length of chain and players swing the ball in an attempt to knock all the skittles down (don’t worry it’s all done in miniature!)

Shove Ha’penny is another bar/table top game that was once very popular in pubs. Played on a special board, players attempt to “shove” or push an old fashioned halfpenny the furthest up the board scoring more points for the furthest shove.

Before pool came along, and for many pubs who still don’t have room for a full sized pool table, there is a game called Bar Billiards. Players attempt to pot balls on a small inclined table, usually on a timed basis (by the mechanics of the bar billiard table’s internal machinery) this can be hugely popular as an alternative or instead of pool.

Remember Worzel Gummage’s love interest? Yes, Aunt Sally, is a genuine by-gone garden game that is still played in many a pub garden. Players attempt to knock the “sally” (a small wooden ball) off the pole on which it sits by throwing wooden clubs. Again, in some parts of the country (for instance it is still a popular pub sport in Oxfordshire), where there are competitive leagues.

Finally try not to lose your marbles! Games with these highly decorative glass balls were once very popular in pubs, from the basic game played in the garden / yard, to bagatelle (from which pinball tables developed) to solitaire where you attempt to remove all the marbles from a circular board in sequence.

And if you feel that football fanatics aren’t catered for enough in your pub then there is always that perennial favourite of table football.

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