1st March 2019

Playing Games down the Pub

As community social hubs, pubs have a very long tradition of hosting games and sports. From the historical association of hosting grizzly blood sports such as cock or dog fighting, to the more gentile game of marbles, pubs have offered it all at one time or another!

Once dens of gambling and violence, the public house has been a meeting places for sport, recreation and games for centuries. Although it must be said, that thankfully nowadays, you’re much more likely to find a casual frame of pool, with a game of football on the TV in the background than any cruel animal baiting.

Skittles board in a pub

A traditional English Skittle Board

Many pubs have strong associations with sports teams, and this isn’t just limited to Sunday league Football or social teams that play Pool, Darts or even Crown Green Bowls. You’re as likely to find other games and sports in and around the bar as teams using a pub as a clubhouse. Here’s our selection of games that are still popular, or have been played in Pubs, and deserve some recognition.


An instantly recognisable game that apparently has its roots in the Song Dynasty of China (960-1279). Dominoes is still regularly enjoyed in pubs up and down the country. Many players play for pennies and low-value coins, to give a game a low-risk competitive edge.

Three Men’s Morris

Three Men’s Morris is possibly the most traditional pub game on this list. An abstract strategy game it shares similarities with Naughts and Crosses. The aim of the game is to draw a line on a board using your pieces. Both players having been given 3 pieces each that resemble a right-angle triangle.

Two variants on the game include expanding the game to ‘Six’ and ‘Nine’ Men’s Morris. Contrary to popular believe the name word ‘Morris’ has nothing to do with the traditional English folk dance of the same name.

Three Men’s Morris


Darts is considered by many to be a very special game and is held dear by many. It’s extremely social, encourages good math’s skill and strong hand eye coordination. There’s several variations that you can play too, like ‘01, Killer or Round the Clock. Although maybe not as popular as it was 30 years ago, many pubs have a dart board and keep a set of ‘Ar’rrs’ behind the bar for would be players. Darts Championships are still shown on TV and pull in relatively big audiences, not to mention pub teams at a local level.

Bar Billiards

Bar Billiards is still popular and played relatively frequently particularly in the South East, where there’s pub leagues playing throughout Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Kent, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Surrey and Sussex. In fact, a Bar Billiards World Championship is held every year in Jersey.

Although some people think they are the same, Billiards and Bar Billiards are different from one another and are played on tables with different dimensions and layouts. Like other Snooker or Cue inspired games, Bar Billiards is about potting balls in holes that are in the table, as opposed to on the outside as part of the cushion.


Now there are several variants of Skittles that have taken place down the humble pub. Some pubs have a Skittle Alley, not too dissimilar to ten-pin bowling, that’s still used today. Another game is known as ‘Old English Skittles’ in which Skittles stand on a table structure in front of a net, this game is played in a similar fashion to a coconut shy.

However, Skittles can also be played on a board with loose small loose skittles that are knocked over by a weight on the end of a piece of string that is swung across the face of the skittles, a bit like a hanging conker. Original antiques of these games can reach very high prices although there are cheaper, reproductions out there.



Pool has grown into a pub classic and remains exceptionally popular. As a result, Pool tables can be found in many pubs all over the country. A quicker and ‘easier’ game than snooker, the game has found fans across all ages. Played on a much smaller table than Snooker, Pool suits the pub environment and offers fun, competitive entertainment for about 70p a frame!

Backgammon playing board with counters

Backgammon offers players a unique blend of skill, tactics and chance


Backgammon is something of a rarity in the world of pub games as it offers a perfect blend of skill, chance and tactics. Using dice, players attempt to manoeuvre their counters around and ‘off’ the board before their opponent, whilst also blocking their opponents attempts to achieve the same.

This classic might not be as popular as it once was, however, mention it to the right person and you’ll be met with great enthusiasm. And don’t worry, although it appears complicated, you don’t need to be Omar Sharif to win. It might be time to reintroduce it to your pub!

Beer Pong

A relative newcomer to the pub gaming world, beer pong was born out American College parties and drinking culture. From there it spread into bars and came over the pond with some pubs taking the initiative and introducing a beer pong playing area, often in a beer garden. The aim of the game is to get a ping pong ball into an opponent’s cup, that is part of a rack of cups, at the end of the table. Upon doing this, this leaves the table, the first to remove all the cups from their opponent’s side wins.

A further twist is that these cups often contain an alcoholic beverage that is drunk if you ‘concede’ a ball into one of your cups. This does vary however and there are ‘official rules’ and ‘house rules’ depending on where the game is played. We of course, recommend drinking responsibly, however, Beer pong can be immensely fun.

To read other Trust inns Blogs please click here.

< Back to Blog