Rules of the game

Ninehorse game instruction with game variations.

  •  Gently throw ball clockwise around pole to knock down pins.
  • Your hand should never pass the pole line.
  • Catch the ball on its return or it will count as a throw if it goes around the pole again or falls back into the pins.
  • Players throw the ball once to determine play order.  The player with the most pins down goes first with any ties being broken with a throw off (each tying player throwing once.)
  • Each player gets three throws during their turn.  The highest score a player can earn in one turn is 27 by knocking over all 9 pins in each of their three throws.
  • In order to score you MUST KNOCK DOWN THE HEAD PIN FIRST.  If the head pin is not knocked down, stand the knocked down pins back up for your second throw.  If you knock down the head pin on your second throw do not put the knocked down pins back up unless you knocked down all 9 pins and continue with your third throw.
  • Any knocked down pins that remain on the pin platform must be removed before the players next throw (referred to as deadwood.)
  • The game ends IMMEDIATELY when a player has a score of EXACTLY 101.  If a player goes over 101 there is no score for that turn.  You can play to 51 to shorten the game time.

Variations of the game


Players have a throw off to see who goes first.  Once play order is determined, write players names on board in order of play with three vertical lines (lives) next to each name.  The object of the game is to score more than the player who comes before you.  If the first player scores a 9 in their three throws, the second player has to score a 10 to avoid losing a life.  Mark the vertical line into an X when a life is lost.  A player that loses all three lives is out and game play continues until there is only one player left.


Players throw three balls and the highest score wins.  Ties are broken by each player throwing three balls with the highest score winning.


Played the same as Highest Score but in the event of a tie everyone is back in and all players start at zero.


Players start at 91 and work their way down to zero.  Players have even turns, meaning that if the starting player hits zero the remaining players get a chance to tie him.  In the event of a tie, the players throw three balls each and the highest score wins.